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 this newspaper’s team of bike-riding reporters).
Which do you think is the most terrifying?
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 vehicular 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 lane 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
— with Alfred Ng and Ben Lockhart
Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.