Bike lane to the danger zone: Hundreds support Flatbush Ave. plan, but predict uphill battle against drivers

Trail of fear: A petition calling on the city to create a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue to protect cyclists from speeding dollar van drivers has garnered hundreds of signatures.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’ll be the new Prospect Park West bike lane — for more reasons than one!

Hundreds of cyclists are demanding the city build a bike lane along Flatbush Avenue through Prospect Park in a new petition — but locals predict longtime residents and motorists in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods nearby will fight the plan, just as they did in the years-long battle over the park-adjacent bike lane in Park Slope.

“It’s a great proposal,” said Community Board 9 member and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident Tim Thomas, who signed the petition. “[But] I think it will create a lot of negative feelings from longtime residents and drivers, not unlike the ‘fight’ on the other side of the park,”

Since the petition went online three weeks ago, some 900 people have added their digital John Hancocks, telling the city to build a two-way pedaling path protected by a line of parked cars between Grand Army Plaza and Empire Boulevard — which would likely end up taking space from vehicle traffic.

The “affluent” side of the park already has its lane on Prospect Park West — powerful locals sued to nix it, but proponents finally won the six-year court battle in September — and Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights riders who use Flatbush Avenue to get to and from their homes are sick of dodging drivers who treat the park-spanning roadway like it is the Indy 500, said the petition author.

“You have to worry about speeding cars, MTA buses, and dollar vans … I’ve come close to being swiped a few times,” said Prospect Lefferts Gardener Cal DeJesus. “Some cyclists still ride in the street on that stretch, but I started riding on the sidewalk, and I notice other cyclists riding on the sidewalk as well.”

But some longtime residents already think the bike lane proposal will only serve new, more affluent locals, and that the money could go to better uses, according to a local activist.

“This petition started out of a Facebook page geared to newer residents and in a lot of ways it promotes gentrifica­tion,” said Imani Henry, the lead organizer of the anti-gentrification group Equality for Flatbush. “We can talk about hospitals, about subway fares going up, but it’s interesting that they want to talk about spending money on a bike lane.”

The Department of Transportation has previously kowtowed to community boards opposing bike lanes. It spiked a planned lane on Clinton Avenue in June after angry residents flooded meetings complaining that it was just catering to a minority of yuppy “settlers”. And it also exempted Bedford-Stuyvesant from a new pedaling path on Lafayette Avenue this year that the nabe’s community board objected to it.

Still, proponents have a powerful advocate on their side — Borough President Adams has been pushing for a bike lane along the stretch since April, when he reached out to borough transit commissioner Keith Bray requesting a feasibility study.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman refused to say whether such a study was in the works, but said the agency is working with the Beep and other local leaders to discuss “possible options” regarding the proposal.

Those talks began shortly after the letter was sent, but have yet to evolve into a real project, according to Adams’s chief communications honcho.

“We’re at the moment open to where the conversation goes,” said spokesman Stefan Ringel. “We’re not specific on this is the exact design and form and infrastructure, other than we’re looking for a good conversati­on.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Brooklynite from Flabtush says:
So, Imani, let me see if I've got this straight:

Poor and disadvantaged Brooklynites own and drive lots of cars and a bike lane on Flatbush Ave. will prevent NYC from properly funding its hospitals.

Keep up the great work, bro!
Dec. 14, 2016, 9:10 am
ItsEasyBeingGreen from Sunset Park says:
Imani Henry should look at the people riding in Flatbush and along this stretch today, the people who would be much safer if this idea happens.

Guess what? They look just like everyone else in the neighborhood. They've been there just as long. Some of them are new residents, some of them are old residents. Some of them are black, some of them are white, some of them are other races who live in the area. These ridiculous assumptions he's making about cycling kill and severely injure people just like him every day.

Guess what? The gentrifiers are at probably more likely to have health insurance and sick leave and not end up totally screwed by being hit and run by a driver on Flatbush. It's the people he thinks he's helping who will be physically and financially ruined by his ideas.
Dec. 14, 2016, 9:23 am
D from Crown Heights says:
ItsEasyBeingGreen is right on. A lot of times you hear the old trope that bikes = gentrification, but anybody that actually lives, works, or even just walks around in Crown Heights / Lefferts Gardens / Flatbush can clearly see that the people using bicycles to get around are as diverse as the community itself.
Dec. 14, 2016, 9:29 am
Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
I bike so I don't have to spend money on rising subway fares. This bike lane will help me.
Dec. 14, 2016, 9:44 am
Robert from PLG says:
Anyone who claims bike lanes are for only a certain kind of people should get off their couch and go look at who is riding Flatbush now w/out the lane: all types of New Yorkers. Go meet your neighbors and maybe you'll care more about keeping them safe.
Dec. 14, 2016, 9:54 am
Cal from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
I started this petition because of the safety concerns as well as the fact that cycling is a cheaper form of transportation and we could use the infrastructure to support those riding tneighborhoods east of the park. (Refer to the petition for details)

I did not direct tgis petition to one particular group but to everyone in the neighborhood. I am a longtime resident and have been living in the area since I was a teenager. Its more affordable for me to bike to work then to take the train where the MTA fares are set to increase yet again in 2017.

I find it interesting that Imani and others who claim to be fighting gentrification would associate a bike lane with rising rent and displacement. Bike lanes have NOTHING to do with gentrification. I can see why people assume this because many neighborhoods dont receive bike infrastructure or street safety changes until it becomes hot. A broader issue is that the City should make street safety changes a priority for all neighborhoods so all New Yorkers can get to their destinations without getting injured or killed by someone driving recklessly.

If Imani really wishes to fight gentrification as he claims, he should try focusing his energies on the real estate industry, zoning policies, corrupt landlords etc. The neighborhood is already gentrifying whether we get a bike lane or not. Plus Citibike is coming so we will need the infrastructure to support increased ridership.

Also, I notice that nobody ever complains about the additional cars that newcomers bring to a neighborhood (and city) that is already congested and limited parking with traffic but yet people wish to complain about bikes and bike lanes.

Think of the big picture. Regardless of who you are or how long you have lived in an area, traffic safety is a real issue especially in a city where the majority of residents are not car owners. Most New Yorkers take the bus, train, walk, or bike.
Everyone deserves to reach their destination safely and in one piece.
Dec. 14, 2016, 10:23 am
JV from BK says:
900 signatures? There are 2.6 million residents in Brooklyn. That's a very, very tiny minority.

And I'll bet that most of those signers don't even live anywhere nearby, they're just responding to a call from TA, like all the outside "activists" that flood every local CB meeting when bikes are on the agenda.

And, the last time I checked, it completely legal to ride a bicycle on the public streets, so no one's stopping you if that's what you want to do.
Dec. 14, 2016, 10:54 am
Trollerskates from Moving Target says:
Good post Cal. The only thing I disagree with is that people do complain about additional cars. In fact, they complain about everything. Bike lanes are just in the rotation of complaints.
Dec. 14, 2016, 11:01 am
Brooklynite from Flabtush says:
STFU, JV from BK. My god. Ignorant. The neighborhoods around Prospect Park have some of the highest levels of bike commuting and bike activism in the entire f*cking city. Of course the people who signed the petition live nearby. Of course thousands of people want to be able to bike safely on Flatbush. Do you live nearby? Because if you did then you'd know these facts. Or are you bunking with Tal Barzilai in his mom's basement in Westchester?
Dec. 14, 2016, 11:59 am
R from NY says:
The hysteria-inducing tone of the Brooklyn Paper coverage may have something to do with getting people worked up about keeping people on bicycles alive.

And can reporters stop printing unsubstantiated quotes about how only white yuppies ride bicycles? People of color are on the forefront of the trend towards active transportation.
Dec. 14, 2016, 12:51 pm
Tyler from pps says:
R -- Why do you think this "community newspaper" would want to do anything that, I dunno, supports the community? It just wants to spew it's click-bait. Every now and again, there's a little surge of journalistic integrity... probably during periods when the editor and/or business manager is on vacation.
Dec. 14, 2016, 12:59 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
Its time to make much of Flatbush and Atlantic avenue as pedestrian and cyclist friendly. These
roads should not be some Formula One/NASCAR raceway.
Bring it on!
Dec. 14, 2016, 1:20 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Like the dollar vans will care -mow em down for the next fare

Man I wish I had such poblems
Dec. 14, 2016, 1:39 pm
Bob Scott from Brooklyn says:
Riding a bicycle on Flatbush Avenue, especially after the neckdown north of the park, is insane.
Dec. 14, 2016, 1:53 pm
Jim from Greenpoint says:
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn; how about implementing a baby carriage lane ?....
Dec. 14, 2016, 3:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I still think placing a bike lane on a major thoroughfare such as Flatbush Avenue is a bad idea. Looking at that picture, it does show how much it's being used by commercial vehicles like the ones that are shown there. Personally, I wouldn't place a bike lane there. As for Imani Henry, he does have a point considering that the petition is by newer residents when he has been living there long before they were. The reason he states about hospitals and transit fares is because those needs serve more of a community than bike lanes ever do. Another thing is that he might also be right if many of the supporters are just some flash mobs of bike zealots over at TA and/or Streetsblog that were told to sign that said petition over on Facebook.
Dec. 14, 2016, 4:29 pm
PLGer from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
I don't ride my bike as much as I used to, but when I did Flatbush Ave. was always avoided. Riding on the sidewalk is just as bad considering how cracked up it is. If I'm riding home on a bike, I would still would rather go the wrong way on the park loop (downhill, I might add) then take that dangerous, desolate stretch of street.

Thing is, I've taken the bus in the morning when that stretch of Flatbush is jam packed with traffic. It can eat a lot of time. Eliminating another lane of traffic would make it an even more hellish experience.

I'm kinda torn since I can see both sides, but I think a rational compromise would be to turn the sidewalk on one side of Flatbush into a bike lane, and repair the other side so pedestrian traffic can safely use it. (While they're at it, they should fix the fences along Prospect Park, as well.)
Dec. 14, 2016, 10:02 pm
Samir Kabir from downtown says:
If bicyclists obeyed traffic rules, maybe they would meet with more sympathy. Cyclists endanger everybody, They ride the wrong way on sidewalks, they ride the wrong way on city streets, they round street corners at extreme angles AND in the wrong direction, they do whatever they want. In addition, they have a snotty, noblesse oblige attitude when they are shown to be wrong. Nothing new about that. New bike lanes? Forget about it.
Dec. 15, 2016, 5:33 am
Kamir Sabir from Plush Bucket Seatville says:
If motorists obeyed traffic rules, maybe they would meet with more sympathy. Motorists endanger everybody, They kill hundreds of NYC residents annually and injure tens of thousands and there is zero accountability or penalty. They clog up our streets and make transportation dysfunctional. They honk their f*cking horns endlessly and drive distracted and with minimal skill constantly. They pollute our neighborhood air and are broiling the planet with their polluting tailpipe emissions. They cost NYC tens of millions of dollars annually in unaccounted for externalities. In addition, they have a snotty, noblesse oblige attitude when they are shown to be wrong. There is no group on the planet more self-entitled and obnoxious than NYC motorists. Nothing new about that. Allowing people to own private cars and drive and park them for free on NYC streets? Forget about it. Dumbest thing ever.
Dec. 15, 2016, 9:42 am
Paco from PLG says:
Hey Tal, the person who made the petition has been living in this neighborhood nearly 15 years. Get your facts straight before you spout your illogical snark.
Dec. 15, 2016, 10:17 am
Tyler from pps says:
I love how Tal criticizes someone being a "newer resident," but has absolutely no problem CONSTANTLY spewing his ill-informed opinions (and periodically showing up and whining at Community Board meetings) when HE LIVES IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY in his mom's house, on a golf course, 40 miles from Flatbush.
Dec. 15, 2016, 10:47 am
Rob from Williamsburg says:
I have lived in Brooklyn for 28 years, strongly support this idea, and signed the petition.
Dec. 15, 2016, 11:34 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I suggest you all read what Alan Dershowitz had to say about cyclists when he wrote his latest column on the Daily News.
Dec. 15, 2016, 5:05 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Thanks Tal in Westchester.
Dec. 15, 2016, 5:27 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
tyler form flatbush - did you read it?
Dec. 16, 2016, 12:18 am
Tyler from pps says:
I read it when it was first published. Alan Dershowitz is certainly an expert in constitutional law and civil liberties... so, I'm not sure why I'm expected to listed to his public musings on something he's no more enlightened about than Tal Barzilai. Just because he's slightly famous?

Maybe Jay-Z can write an opinion piece about why dedicated bus lanes are a bad idea.
Dec. 16, 2016, 10:07 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
tyler from flatbush - great idea old chap - knowing you look to jay-z fro legal expertise only elevates my opinion of you :)

mmm I think Dershowitz is more than qualified and not just slightly famous unlike the tyler of flatbush working at that pinnacle of higher education in Flatbush

Merry Christmas :)
Dec. 16, 2016, 2:22 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Tyler, how exactly was Dershowitz's column on talking about bicycles biased against them? I can easily say how Paul Steely White, Jr, who is the head of TA, is very biased against motor vehicles. What he wrote was on his personal experience with them. Meanwhile, I have never heard White talk about such cyclists once, and I have read his latest Daily News columns where he always talks about how motorists are constantly flouting the law while turning a blind eye to the cyclists showing that he does have an anti-car bias. Then again, it's probably because White knows that those cyclists are his brothers in arms, so calling them out will most likely make them turn against him. On a side note, I was surprised at first to see Dershowitz write a column about this, because normally he talks politics that mostly involves anti-Semitism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One other thing, at least I bother to show my face at hearings involving important issues unlike Tyler here who just hides behind his computer screen and is nowhere to be found.
Dec. 16, 2016, 5:05 pm
jerry krase from park slope says:
lots of errors in the article as well as the photo but as a regular cyclist i can say that reducing a major highway from 4 to 2 lanes will not make it safer for anyone-- pedestrians, drivers, and or cyclists. but, air pollution will get much better. however, parallel bike routs on quieter local streets would. when i bike downtownward i use bond st for example. but then again, bike lanes are secretly supported by putin so given the new trumpster gov't there is no hope for a rational discussion about transportation.
Dec. 17, 2016, 9:21 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I tend to see the opposite of your statement, jerry. Reducing lanes especially on a major thoroughfare like Flatbush Avenue, which runs from Ft Greene all the way to Marine Park, will actually increase traffic hence cause more air pollution. In all honesty, I could never understand why cyclists need a special infrastructure such as bike lanes to get around when they can easily do it just by simply following the traffic laws, which so many of them tend to oppose and defy. Then again, I won't be surprised if trying to reduce travel and parking lanes is the new way to promote congestion pricing just by creating the very congestion, which I like to call the Bloomberg Way. Perhaps another reason why Imani Henry opposes these lanes is because he feels that what he claims the spending should be used for is actually needed all days of the year when that's hardly the case for bike lanes when they tend to go empty most of the time only to be used when weather permitting.
Dec. 17, 2016, 4:19 pm
Boeingsandbikes from Park Slope says:
"Everyone seems to like kittens, but Brooklyn Paper predicts locals really want to slaughter them. Click to read more."
Dec. 20, 2016, 3:40 pm

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