They’re putting the brakes on this bike lane!
Southern Brooklyn cyclists are irate that the Department of Transportation will sacrifice part of its planned Fourth Avenue bike lane to accommodate parking by police outside the 72nd Precinct station house in Sunset Park. The one-block omission — on the Bay Ridge–bound side of the road between 29th and 30th streets — will force bikers to merge into car traffic, putting them at greater risk, according to the Ridgite who first confronted the city about the matter.
“They’re forcing people to go out and ride in traffic with cars,” said John Tomac. “Drivers aren’t going to be expecting to see bikers out in the middle of the road. You have this big ambitious plan for a bike lane that’s going to get hijacked by city employees.”
In January, Tomac e-mailed the transportation agency’s borough commissioner, Keith Bray, to ask how the station house would accommodate the planned five-foot-wide protected bike lane, since police park a mix of squad cars and personal vehicles on a potion of the sidewalk on one side of a guardrail in front of the building, with cars jutting out into what would be the bike lane.
Nearly two months later, Bray returned Tomac’s e-mail on March 12 and told him it was “not feasible” for the bike lane to be separated from traffic by a physical barrier as the plan outlines “due to the need to maintain parking access for NYPD vehicles.” Bray added that the entire block is “effectively a driveway” due to the police parking, and so would consequently receive painted markings to separate the bike lane from traffic instead. The parking problem was first reported by Streetsblog on March 15.
But when this paper followed up with the transportation agency, a rep said it would eliminate the bike lane entirely from the Bay Ridge–bound side of Fourth Avenue between 29th and 30th streets, in order to reserve the street space for police parking.
Another local cycling advocate said the whole purpose of the bike lane is defeated if it isn’t going to protect cyclists from traffic — even if only on one block.
“It’s a bit of a dicey situation when you’re asking cyclists to all of sudden merge into a busy, moving car lane,” said Ridgite Brian Hedden, who is also the chairman of Transportation Alternatives’ Southwest Brooklyn Activist Committee. “The whole point is to protect cyclists from moving traffic, and then you have this one block where you’re forcing them into a more dangerous, vulnerable situation.”
Hedden and Tomac said they were also concerned about the block between 28th and 29th streets, since they claimed police also use it for sidewalk parking, as well as the stretch outside the firehouse between 51st and 52nd streets, where they claimed cars are often double parked.
Hedden said the city needs to consider other solutions, including bringing the police and transportation agencies together to discuss increasing parking options for cops, but added that the real solution may require officers hopping on a subway — or even a bike — and leaving their personal cars at home.
“As far as [police officers’] personal cars, I think there really needs to be more of a good faith effort in terms of using the same transportation options most of us have to use,” he said.
Last month, transit leaders debuted a pilot program allowing cyclists to take advantage of already in place crossing signals that give pedestrians a head start over motorists moving in the same direction at certain intersections — including those at Fourth Avenue and 29th and 30th streets, on either end of the block where the agency will no longer lay a bike lane.
The Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.