One of Brooklyn’s most car-congested thoroughfares is now being re-branded as a haven for bikes, though two-wheel advocates say they do not see an end to auto rule happening any time soon.
A stretch of Atlantic Avenue where bikes must contend with six lanes of car traffic without so much as a “Share the road” sign has been designated the borough’s first Bike-Friendly Business District, giving cyclists discounts at dozens of stores, easy access to biking info, and more places to park along the busy commercial strip. The district is the result of a collaboration between the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District, a pro-business group, and the bike advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives, which says that despite the lack of a bike right-of-way, the traffic the commercial strip gets from side street cycling routes made the choice a no-brainer.
“There was a lot of demand that came from a couple of different angles,” said Jill Guidera, a community organizer for the organization that is advocating for but has not seen concrete progress towards adding a bike lane to the 11 blocks of the business district between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Fourth Avenue. Five streets with bike lanes cross the section and three more parallel it within a couple of blocks and Guidera said there is more than enough pedal-powered traffic to justify the free-wheel-friendly label.
“There are a lot of people who are already bicycling in that district and the businesses were looking for a way to accommodate those customers,” she said.
So far, more than 60 businesses have signed up, including restaurants, clothing stores, toy shops, law firms, bakeries, salons, and delis. Participating shops will offer perks such as five to 20-percent discounts for helmet-carrying customers, free road rules pamphlets, and trainings for bike delivery workers, and some are petitioning for more bike parking.
There are currently about 140 bike racks on the blocks’ sidewalks and neighborhood leaders say that demand for the hitching posts is likely to grow.
“We need many of them,” said Josef Szende, president of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement and avid biker. “As with car parking, people do not want to have to walk too far from where they park and they do not want to have to cross the street.”
In recent weeks, business owners along the strip, including Twisted Lily, The Herb Shoppe, and Make a Frame have put in city requests for additional sidewalk racks with the help of Transportation Alternatives.
Atlantic Avenue’s Bike-Friendly Business District officially launched on Saturday with a 30-person bike ride along nearby side streets including Smith Street, Clinton Street, Hoyt Street, Henry Street, and Boerum Place.