The scariest bike lanes in Brooklyn

VOTE: What is the scariest bike lane in Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn is quickly becoming America’s cycling capital thanks to growing number top-notch bike lanes — but then there are the ones that strike fear in the hearts of riders on a daily basis.

Some bike lanes are blocked by dozens of double parked cars. Others end without warning. One shoots bikers into oncoming traffic. Several have potholes big enough to make a morning cruise feel like a blindfolded tractor ride on the moon.

What follows is a list of seven of the most frightening bike lanes in Brooklyn, based on transportation studies, interviews with bike advocates, and testimony from dozens of cyclists (including The Brooklyn Paper’s team of bike-riding reporters).

Which do you think is the most terrifying?

Jay Street

Rule-breaking motorists — including cabbies, van drivers, and even cops — park so frequently in this Downtown-to-Manhattan link-up lane, that the path regularly looks more like a parking lot than a safe haven for cyclists. The double-parkers force bikers to swerve around cars and into the car lanes, where jay-walking pedestrians are one more obstacle to dodge.

And the stats are dramatic, too: an average of 49 vehicles park in the bike lane between Willoughby and Johnson streets during morning and evening rush hours, according to a four-day traffic survey conducted by the bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

It’s only a matter of time, cycling advocates say, before someone gets hurt.

“Luckily I haven’t ended up on the pavement yet,” said cyclist Lucas Sanchez.

S. Fifth Street

South Williamsburg’s most confusing eastbound terminates and dumps riders into a westbound-only path on S. Fourth Street near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

But many eastbound riders wind up riding in the wrong direction on a block-long stretch without a bike lane — then find themselves pedaling directly into fast-moving, oncoming traffic under a poorly-lit Brooklyn–Queens Expressway overpass.

The whole thing could be avoided with a sign directing cyclists to a safer, but less intuitive alternative route, bikers say.

“If you’re in a hurry, it’s a death trap,” said cyclist Marc Seidenstein.

Navy Street

Rock-tossing teenagers last year turned this pedaling path into a bone-chilling landmark by launching objects — including bricks and golf balls — at cyclists from a footbridge near Tillary Street, injuring or terrorizing at least six bikers. The city erected a tall fence atop the bridge to protect cyclists from projectiles, but the lane is still plagued with potholes and other obstructions, like a stack of wooden crates that blocked the way last week, cyclists say.

“We don’t expect to ride on a red carpet — but we want our space to be treated with respect,” said Stephen Arthur, who was hit with a brick on the lane last year.

Fifth Avenue

Shoppers and restaurant-goers entering and leaving cars on this popular-but-narrow corridor in Park Slope make the shared lane tricky for cyclists, some of whom have been squished between vehicles, “car-doored,” or hit by motorists trying to park.

“I’ve seen some close calls,” said cycling advocate Mitch Sonies.

Ninth Street

Busted concrete, deep potholes, and double-parked cars make riding this well-used route frightening. And then there are the motorists who drive fast on the popular thoroughfare, especially near speeding-prone Fourth Avenue, cyclists say.

“The street’s plenty wide, so those lanes could really benefit from being physically separated,” said cycling advocate Eric McClure.

The Brooklyn Bridge

Bikers are forced to squeeze between oblivious tourists snapping photos and a silver wall the city installed last year as part of bridge repairs. The new wall shrunk the width of the already narrow corridor — and the extra squeeze may have contributed to several crashes, including one that landed a tourist in the hospital with a busted chin last year, according to the New York Post.

“It’s bad,” said Sonies. “Sometimes you have to just hop off and walk.”

Bedford Avenue

The borough’s longest avenue was once a safe street for cyclists, but bikers say that all changed after the city removed a 15-block portion of the lane between Flushing and Division avenues following a long-brewing war between motorists and two-wheelers in South Williamsburg.

The lane-less area created a whole new set of problems, cyclist say. The northbound route stops right before a chaotic section of the roadway, where parked school busses and heavy traffic can obscure cyclists’ vision.

Making it 15 blocks until the lane restarts is a challenge mainly because of the attitude of drivers in the area, bikers say.

“People in this neighborhood don’t respect the bike lanes,” said cyclist Mateo Bijoux.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said her agency will “take a look at” the seven scary lanes and see if any changes can be made.

Did we miss a bike lane that makes your blood run cold? Let us know in the comments.

— with Alfred Ng and Ben Lockhart

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

Reader Feedback

terrified from Fort Greene says:
I'd vote for Vanderbilt Avenue. It's not really a lane, more a suggestion.
July 27, 2012, 7:14 am
mike from GP says:
My vote is for Jay Street. You write "even cops", yet it's my experience that they are always among the worst violators of traffic/parking laws. And at Jay St, it's not just the cops -- it's the DAs, the Court Officers, Clerks, etc. They park in bike lanes, on the sidewalk, everywhere. Many illegal, many with bogus parking placards.

And these are supposedly the enforcers of our laws. Pathetic.
July 27, 2012, 7:35 am
Jacob from Clinton Hill says:
The S 5th Street lane in Williamsburg is indeed confusing. What you are supposed to do is use the sidewalk on Borinquen for one block to get over to Marcy, and use can get onto the Borinquen/Grand lanes from there. It's not well-marked at all, though, and DOT could certainly improve that location a lot.
July 27, 2012, 8:11 am
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Jay street is always full of double parked cars it true. It's also one of the single most likely places for a cyclist to run a red light. so Jay street gets my vote as most dangerous bikes lane....FOR PEDESTRIANS! Come on Brooklyn paper. This is right in front of your building. Go downstairs and watch how many cyclist blow the light right in from of you office. There are 2 nice big bikes lanes one single block over that are rarely obstructed by traffic.
July 27, 2012, 8:15 am
S from PPW says:
Jay St. NYPD is worthless there.
July 27, 2012, 8:27 am
Brian Van from Gramercy says:
I'm going to go with "other", since I have been south of Ninth Street, east of the park, and beyond the boundaries of Williamsburg, and I've seen plenty worse than the examples posed here. The mere inconveniences that these lanes sometimes pose are inconsequential when compared to the danger of road conditions in the non-gentrified neighborhoods where poor driver behavior, lax police enforcement, and subpar road conditions combine to form deadly conditions. It is sad that this city, and this goes well back before Mayor Mike, does not consider its non-wealthy suburban and outlying neighborhoods to be important enough to care for.
July 27, 2012, 8:32 am
D from Queens says:
As far as confusing Williamsburg bike lanes, I'm able to figure out getting from South 5th to South 4th to South 3rd, but getting across to the east side of the BQE has often confused me.
July 27, 2012, 8:45 am
bill from glendale says:
do away with bike lanes just let it go back to ride with traffic bikes lanes dont work because bikers dont follow no rules they take red lanes go the wrong way in the lane and never yield to people trying to cross bikers suck thats the bottom line i drive from queens into brooklyn then into lower manattan and as god as my wittness i never see one bike obey no traffic rules also the poor trucks got to make deliveries so he has to block a ,lane and the meter maids run right in front of the truck while the poor guy is unloading the ticket people put on the ticket was not actively unloading bull---- what we dont relaize is the company making delivers just raises there price on the product we all pay for it the people the city pay millions to come up with bike lanes is a waste of tax paying dollars the city is going down hill shame
July 27, 2012, 8:46 am
ch from bh says:
Jay St is bad - especially because of the cops! They're the worst offenders of parking in the bike lane and doing mid-block U-turns.

But Navy St - that's the scariest. I won't ride there. Who wants to get killed with a brick?

Cops I can ride around. Bricks, not so much.
July 27, 2012, 8:55 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
I'll put in a vote for Greenpoint Ave near the bridge over Newtown Creek. Basically all the markings are gone and huge trucks are zooming around fast and aggressive. Definitely putting your life in your hands there
July 27, 2012, 8:56 am
Albert from former BH resident says:
The Brooklyn bridge path is the one place in the city where I believe bicycles and pedestrians should *not* be forced to co-exist. It's too narrow and too popular of a place for it to be fair or practical to expect work-bound cyclists to "Go slow" or for camera-toting tourists to have to "Stay in your lane."

I know I won't be the first to suggest that one Brooklyn-bound motor vehicle lane in the morning and one Manhattan-bound vehicle lane in the evening be blocked off with cones and dedicated to 2-way cycling. And I also know that it'll never happen because it forces drivers across this free bridge to give up the least little thing.
July 27, 2012, 9:22 am
T from Brooklyn says:
What precinct is in charge of enforcing traffic rules on Jay Street? They are falling down on the job. I see illegal u-turns, speeding, drivers running red lights, almost hitting pedestrians and cyclists, driving in the bike lane, parking in the bike lane, blocking bus stops...and most of the time it's police cars that are the worst offenders?

This precinct needs to get its act together.
July 27, 2012, 9:23 am
Peter from Brooklyn Heights says:
That's the 84th Precinct. At a community meeting a bunch of months ago, Eric McClure presented a video of just how bad Jay Street is.

During it, I saw Cmdr. DiPaolo whisper something to an aide.. my hope was that he was saying "Fix this."

I guess not.
July 27, 2012, 9:33 am
ken from Greenpoint says:
scariest are must of the bikers by not following rules and regulation... they need to take a five hour class like vehicles,special licenses plats and insurance than the streets will be much safer!!!!
July 27, 2012, 9:47 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Cars double-parking in the bike lane is endemic. Cops never, ever ticket drivers who do that. They do do it themselves. So for those cyclists intrepid enough to bike, even so, it's par for the course. For that reason I'd say that all the candidates above don't fill the bill as the "most dangerous" except for the Brooklyn Bridge. When you're on the downhill slope in either direction, your speed as a cyclist is much higher than the speed you have on a normal street, where you tend to blend. When you throw clueless tourists into the mix, who dart into the bike lane in front of a bike doing 25mph, you have a recipe for disaster.
July 27, 2012, 9:48 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
FWIW, shared bike lanes are exactly the reason why protected bike lanes like the one on PPW are so necessary. Drivers take shared bike lanes as a license to double-park, no matter what risk that action poses to people biking. Shared bike lanes create confusion and set up dangerous encounters for everyone.

Protected bike lanes make that dangerous interaction impossible, and travelling simultaneously safer for everyone--drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians--alike.

I drive, bike, and walk, so I can see the issue from each angle. When I'm driving, I am often so focused on other cars and pedestrians that even I can miss the bikers on the shared lane on 5th Avenue. But that never happens on PPW now. It's not possible for me to interact with those bikers, nor they with me.

So this is my humble vote for more, better protected bike lanes. If we had a better network of such, I know many people who don't now bike because of safety fears, who would if they could ride on a dedicated lane.
July 27, 2012, 9:56 am
DG from Bklyn says:
Scott, I ride the Brooklyn Bridge all the time. It's annoying, but not dangerous or scary. And you can use your brakes to slow down so you don't do 25 mph on the hill. Anything faster than 10 - 12 mph is irresponsible there.

My vote is for Jay St. The bike lane is faded and what remains is a double parking lane anyway, with the police among the worst offenders.
July 27, 2012, 9:57 am
Steve from PLG says:
Smith Street, which feeds into Jay, is plenty sketchy during rush hour, too.
July 27, 2012, 10:11 am
wkgreen from Park Slope says:
Worst lane? Tough call. So many to choose from! There are one or two pretty good ones, but woefully few that would vie for anything like the title of "top notch".

My vote: Fifth Ave. There's simply not enough room for two way traffic with parked cars and double parked delivery trucks on both sides.
July 27, 2012, 10:20 am
ElDerecho from Park Slope says:
Whoever created "bill" and "Ken" as a creative writing exercise - I love the stream of consciousness style! Very reminiscent of Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. I can almost picture the two of them together in a Bensonhurst basement, rocking back and forth in unison, cursed by their obsessions. Out of curiosity, is it just a crippling fear of bicycles or part of an overall inability to make logical assessments of safety risks? Either way, it's a funny and touching look into the troubled existence of the mentally ill.
July 27, 2012, 11:30 am
Keith from Clinton Hill says:
EIDecho .. you must be psychic !!i should say psycho i hope you charge $9.99 a minute??
July 27, 2012, 11:45 am
U from Brooklyn says:
They should eliminate the car parking on Jay Street, create loading zones/drop-off zones, and install real bus lanes and bike lanes.
July 27, 2012, 12:15 pm
DNA from Brooklyn says:
It is bizarre but not at all surprising that Natalie O'Neill and the Rupert Murdoch-owned Brooklyn Paper would frame this as a "worst bike lane" story.

The real question is this:

Which popular local bike route has the worst double-parking, the most aggressive and inconsiderate drivers and the poorest police enforcement of motor vehicle violations?

There is nothing wrong with the bike lanes on these streets.
July 27, 2012, 12:35 pm
Crusty from Ditmas Park says:
I would add Clinton St. The road is so narrow that a cyclist could easily be forced to choice between avoiding a dooring or swerving into traffic. There's no 3rd choice.
July 27, 2012, 12:42 pm
Mike Bloomberg's pet from Nyc says:
Bike lanes... waste of taxpayers money
July 27, 2012, 12:43 pm
Adam from Park Slope says:
Jay St is really bad. The pedestrians are the worst crossing any which way, the pavement is cratered so it is like riding on the moon, and there are always cars in the bike lane. I will say the buses (which are big, hot, and noisy) are very courteous.

I just recently changed my route to Park > Vanderbilt > GAP. I added about a mile to my commute but I reduced 5 miles of anxiety and danger
July 27, 2012, 12:52 pm
Jay from Downtown says:
Jay street by a long shot. It's cops, ADA's, court officers who are 'above the law'...
July 27, 2012, 1:10 pm
Katie from Brighton Beach says:
Neptune Avenue in Brighton Beach is really really bad. I don't think the drivers even know what a bike lane is there. At least none of them act like they do. Plus its a really crowded street. There are at least three cars in the bike lane per block and its very difficult to get around them on that street.
July 27, 2012, 1:52 pm
VFBirkin from Ditmas Park says:
ElDerecho – Thanks for reading!

Yes, “Ken” and “bill” are actually part of a larger book I’m working on that deals with the ways in which online discourse fuses concepts of identity and fact while simultaneously questioning “identity” and “fact” as axiomatic truths. By injecting into discourse a handful of fictional characters defined by their seemingly-absurd interpretations of news stories, I’m hoping to create an epistolary narrative structure that isn’t just a lame attempt to hide authorial control (“ignore that man behind the curtain!”).

In the case of “Tal Barzilai,” I had no idea how much of a hit he’d be! At first I was nervous that people wouldn’t really believe that some guy in Pleasantville would be obsessed with trying to stop traffic safety improvements in Brooklyn. Kind of far-fetched, right? At one point I thought I had gone too far by comparing bike safety advocates to Hamas, but people seemed to believe that he was for real. And the fact that other people are now imitating him is fantastic – talk about postmodern!

In case you were wondering, “Tal Barzilai” is actually an anagram for “A Blatz Lair 1,” the name of the party boat I had as a freshman at Pace University in Pleasantville. A former friend of mine ran her aground after a day of too many cans of her namesake brew. Even though “A Blatz Lair II” is way more reliable, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the original.
July 27, 2012, 2:13 pm
tom from sunset park says:
Natalie O'Nonsense, I thought this was to be a survey of the bike lanes with the SCARIEST bikers! I'm disappointed with you. Next time?
July 27, 2012, 2:44 pm
Gerriet from Carroll Gardens says:
Jay Street also has the court officers that literally park in the turning lane on the corner of Tillary and Jay. All along Jay Street from Atlantic to the Manhattan bridge is a free-for-all for all government workers. In my mind all placards should be abolished for private cars, unless no public transporaation is within a mile. You want to work in the city, take public transportation like everyone else or get there early enough to find parking. Or even better, ride a bike!
July 27, 2012, 3:37 pm
bkdude64 says:
lets see whats tal has to say
July 27, 2012, 6:38 pm
bkdude64 from midwood says:
lets see what my man tal has to say
July 27, 2012, 6:38 pm
Mat from Marine Park says:
Absolutely Neptune Avenue. No competition.
July 27, 2012, 8:04 pm
Lauren from Williamsburg says:
KENT avenue. Pedestrians, cars, trucks, and strollers all seem to use the bike lane. Do away with the lane and let it go back to bikes riding with traffic.
July 28, 2012, 1:23 am
Victor from Bushwick says:
I'm going to have to say Dekalb isn't too pleasant of a ride after you pass the police station on Classon. The whole bike lane is just uneven tar. I also have to say when you're coming from Allen St and going onto Delancey, it could definitely be a pain in the ass just to get to the bridge.
July 28, 2012, 8:41 am
Kalahari Dessert from Brooklyn says:
DNA makes a fantastic point. Thanks.
July 28, 2012, 11:56 am
T from PPW says:
tom murphy, if you weren't such a reflexive bike lane hater, you'd be hilarious.

please stay in your car in sunset park, where you've done a heck of a lot to keep it dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.
July 28, 2012, 2:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off all, I take offense on VFBirkin for making an anagram of my name that is really insulting. Getting to which lane is the scariest, I would sort of say all of them. Many of the cyclists use them as their get out of rules free card. As I have stated numerous times, nobody is against those that like to use bicycles, it's the attitude that is being opposed here. Of course the usual bike zealots will make the same claim that because they don't contribute to the carbon footprint, they have a blank check to constantly flout the traffic laws when they are supposed to follow them. A better poll would be which ones do cyclists disobey the laws the most.
July 28, 2012, 5:13 pm
bkdude64 from midwood says:
Tal Barzilai, hello
July 28, 2012, 10 pm
tom from sunset park says:
shoot all the bikers.
July 29, 2012, 7:06 am
DNA from Brooklyn says:
Give VFBirkin his or her own column and just shut down the rest of the Brooklyn Paper.
July 29, 2012, 1:40 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
VFBirkin, others, please don't taunt Tal unnecessarily. He's mentally ill. He lives in his mother's basement and intermittently takes his meds. Sometimes his encounter group's leader succeeds with him, sometimes not. But he really can't help what he says or does. SwampYankee, Or, and Pat, are fully cognisant of the trolling they do, but Tal isn't. The best way to respond to Tal is not to rise to his incitements, but to send him images of women bicycling while fully covered in burkas, so that they don't incite him to violate his various oaths.
July 29, 2012, 4:15 pm
AnnoyedDriver from Brooklynbeforeitwasdestroyedbyhipsters says:
The streets are no place for bike lanes. This is the big city not small town USA. So many law breaking cyclist, the mayor and the DOT nut have destroyed this once great city. Cars aren't going anywhere. We pay for the privilege to drive. We are bombarded with constant bs construction and outrageous insurance cost. Many cyclist just ignore the rules of the road. You are the ones that should be getting tickets, thrown in jail and have your bikes towed away for being reckless maniacs.
July 29, 2012, 4:29 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
@ AnnoyedDriver

Bikes aren't going anywhere either and I drive my car a lot more than I ride my bike.

Bike lanes don't bother me. Driving is better (and safer) when I know where the bikes are supposed to be.
July 29, 2012, 8:36 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I will agree to having more bicycles once they are licensed and this letter to the editor on the NY Times says it all.
July 30, 2012, 1:48 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- What else should we run by you first? I wouldn't want to do anything you haven't agreed to.
July 30, 2012, 9:14 pm
Nellie from Sunset Park says:
So ... I guess Jay Street wins?
July 30, 2012, 10:04 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
When cyclists actually start following the rules of the road as they required to be law, they will start winning my respect. The more you guys act as if the rules don't apply to you, the more enemies you will make just like Streetsblog with all of their black listing of anyone who doesn't share their views. If all other vehicles have to pay for licensing to use the road, I don't see why cyclists should be allowed a free ride. The only reason the bike zealots oppose it is not because of the cost, but because of the fact that they can actually be tracked.
Aug. 1, 2012, 7:20 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

I actually follow the rules of the road, but I don't want your respect. I want you to go away.
Aug. 2, 2012, 7:29 am
JC from Cobble Hill says:
Motorists can complain all they want about the (minimal) costs of bike lanes. Just remember, the construction and maintenance of those streets you drive on and that gas you pump is paid for and subsidized by taxpayers. Taxpayers that include those whose sole transportation is either their feet, transit, or a bicycle. You don't own the road. We all do.
Aug. 2, 2012, 8:38 am
JC from Cobble Hill says:
Boy would I love some improvements made to Court Street. We've got sharrows until maybe 2nd place, which disappear and then reappear on the other side of the street a bit before W 9th St. Potholes galore. Motorists are hostile, dangerous, and speedy. So tired of my neighborhood being used as a thru-street.
Aug. 2, 2012, 8:47 am
Kevin Walsh says:
"Bikers are forced to squeeze between oblivious tourists snapping photos"

The Brooklyn Bridge for decades was a place where you could go, relax and BE A TOURIST even if you were a resident. No more. With the speeding bicyclists dictating the pace, you're not allowed to be "oblivious," as you put it.

The boardwalk on the Brooklyn Bridge is way to narrow for bicyclists and "oblivious" tourists to share. Bikes should be prohibited from the Brooklyn Bridge and allowed on the Manhattan only.
Aug. 4, 2012, 6:48 pm
BB from Carroll Gardens says:
Bikes lanes have been a stupid idea from the beginning. They give a false sense of safety to bikers. as an avid biker I avoid the bike lanes because Bloomberg put them in the busiest and narrowest streets. Why would I want to ride my bike where the most trucks and buses are ? and get killed??Bike lanes are always blocked by cars trucks and buses and police cars. Plus the bike markings are very confusing and not maintained. I bike on the less travelled broader streets where it is safer. I will live longer. Bloomberg this bike lane idea is just to get federal money in the NYC bank account. Bloomie ride your bike on Jay St in the morning.. Oh I forgot you have a limo.............
Aug. 6, 2012, 12:45 pm
Visitors from Greenpoint says:
Imagine. It is dark. You come from Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. You are not known. You want go to the Brooklyn North. You are looking for for the road only by the direction. The first you meet after the bridge is the major streets, heavy traffic. How to navigate, find the bike lane? It will be tough. We tried yesterday. We did not feel well before we reached Williamburg.

I know this is another side of the discussion. We have to read the map. Some time you are without map, or out of direction. Its problematic in the darknes, to see how to continue. Probably could main directions for bike lane be marked better at darkness. The Area around Tillary and Jay is very tough.
Aug. 14, 2012, 10:38 pm

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