The south will ride again: Grass-roots group of Southern Brooklyn cyclists push local leaders for new bike lanes

Road’s in-the-works bike lanes dump cyclists into traffic near construction sites
Photo by Maya Harrison

They’d wheely like more bike lanes!

Southern Brooklyn civic leaders must advocate for more dedicated bike paths in the area, according to local cyclists, who claimed the leaders of local community boards routinely thwart their efforts to promote the form of alternative transportation in traditionally car-heavy neighborhoods.

“The community boards are skewed toward preserving car culture, so we don’t have a lot of sensible bike access,” said Bay Ridge–based bicyclist Ed Yoo. “They think status quo is fine. I think it is absolutely not.”

Yoo recently moved from Greenpoint to the Ridge, where he quickly noticed a dearth of the dedicated pedaler’s paths common in the northern neighborhood, prompting him to join local cycling-advocacy group Bike South Brooklyn, which since 2018 has pushed for more lanes across the area.

“When I moved, I noticed a huge difference in the biking and pedestrian infrastructure between the neighborhoods, and I was interested in getting more involved,” he said. “The great thing about the group is we’re providing a voice to cyclists in the community. We’re providing the part of the conversation that’s been missing for a long time.”

But getting the city to significantly expand that infrastructure will require the support of civic gurus, some of whom show a partiality toward drivers, according to Bike South Brooklyn’s founder, who said his growing coalition of local cyclists — which now includes more than 100 members — helps to turn the wheels of change at the grass-roots level.

“We’re able to get organized, and focus our advertising and PR on local issues in Southern Brooklyn, doing things like getting more people to show up to community board meetings,” said Dan Hetteix,. “We’re fighting against the general car culture. They’re not organized but their coddled. They expect things to be given to them. They have traditionally been getting things handed to them.”

One of the group’s major goals is to revive a plan to lay bike lane from Bay Ridge through Southern Brooklyn to Queens along parts of the Bay Ridge Parkway, Avenue P, and Flatlands Avenue — a scheme the city considered back in 2011, before abandoning it after getting pushback from locals and pols, including Mayor DeBlasio, who then served as the city’s public advocate.

“I commend the city for responding to community concerns by halting its plans,” DeBlasio said at the time. “This was an important step forward that shows a willingness to respect the input of residents and community leaders.”

City transit chiefs understand the need for such a cross-borough bike lane, according to a Department of Transportation spokesman, who claimed the agency is working on new plans for that infrastructure.

“Our planners are aware of concerns about the need to improve east-west connections across South Brooklyn, an issue that came up during two public bike workshops we have held in Bay Ridge,” the rep said. “We look forward to presenting proposals for potential projects soon.”

Bike South Brooklyn also hopes to convince shot callers to install a Ridge-to-Rock bike lane across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which cyclists can now only cross aboard Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses equipped with bike racks. The city previously considered a plan to add suspended bike lanes to each side of the bridge, before scrapping the idea due to its $300–$400 million price tag — a cost Hetteix claimed officials dramatically inflated.

“Even when the bridge was built, people were complaining about a lack of a pedestrian path,” he said. “Much of that cost was due to huge, ridiculous ramps that ran down the big anchorage towers, rather than just using the existing on and off ramps.”

Other cycling infrastructure the group wants includes a bike lane over the Marine Parkway Bridge linking Marine Park and Queens, and an extension of the in-the-works Fourth Avenue bike lanes, which when complete will run from Atlantic Avenue to 65th Street in Bay Ridge, but should go further south, according to Bike South Brooklyn members.

The group’s efforts will only be amplified by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes’s (D–Bay Ridge) recently formed pedestrian-safety task force — whose ranks include Bike South Brooklyn member Brian Hedden — according to Hetteix, who noted an upcoming meeting of the task force and officials including Gounardes, Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge), Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D–Coney Island), and Transportation Department Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, will be an important step toward making the desired new bike lanes a reality.

“I’m happy to see a wider, cross-community-board coalition to focus on possible district-wide solutions,” Hetteix said. “Lots of times, transit issues stop at each community board’s boundary, and this could get good, local, cross-neighborhood feedback to act on.”

Share your thoughts on Southern Brooklyn bike lanes at the meeting of state Sen. Andrew Gounardes’s pedestrian-safety task force at PS 264 (371 89th St. between Third and Fourth avenues) on March 27 at 6 pm.