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Activists pow-wow for safer streets

As the debates over traffic islands, bike lanes, speed camerasand other transportation-related issues intensify in Bay Ridge,Sunset Park, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, some residents areseeking to make sure that those who support changes to existingstreet infrastructure have a voice.

Ten people attended the inaugural meeting of the South BrooklynVolunteer Subcommittee within Transportation Alternatives (TA), anonprofit public and alternative transit advocacy group. Trekkingacross the lower half of the borough by bicycle, by city bus and byfoot, the group met at Saint Ephrem’s Rectory earlier this month todiscuss the status of traffic and bicycle infrastructure in thearea and what to do about it.

TA has a group of very active people involved in considering theneed for changes in safe streets infrastructure, [but is focused]in the northern part of the borough, said Gene Aronowitz, a SunsetPark resident and vice-chair of TA’s Brooklyn Volunteer Committee.So what we’re trying to do is expand the network of interest inthe southwestern part of Brooklyn, where there are a lot ofissues.

According to local residents who came to the July 14 meeting, thoseissues include bike-friendly initiatives – such as when and whereto put new bike lanes and bike paths, and bike accessibility on theVerrazano Bridge as well as on buses between Bay Ridge and StatenIsland – and general public safety efforts like clean streets,fixed potholes, the need for traffic and data on speeding.

However, many of their efforts face opposition from communityleaders who have said that bike paths are good ideas, but not onthe streets proposed by the Department of Transportation(DOT).

This past April, the DOT killed their plan to install a bike laneon Bay Ridge Parkway between Shore Road and Bay Parkway afteropposition from Community Boards 10 and 11, as well as localelected officials.

However, after the issue was brought up in May by then-CB 10 boardmember Bob Cassara, a bike lane advocate, the board unanimouslyvoted to look into the placement of bike lanes for the purpose ofdeveloping a list of streets [within the board area] where bikelanes could function safely.

Cassara hopes that bike lanes will indeed come to the area, oncepeople start speaking up in support of it.

[At the CB meetings], it seemed like we were the only ones for it.People said lanes were dangerous, for no rhyme or reason, saidCassara, who maintains that the physical lines of a bike lanedeter, not increase, speeding. I think bike supporters probablydidn’t know this [debate] was even going on and gettingsquashed.

Ultimately, though, the hard work and effort to get people to worktogether is just part of the process, said Aronowitz.

I certainly am optimistic, he said. There are a lot of issuesabout keeping streets safe for pedestrians, bikers, drivers, thatwe need to focus on. So the more people can come together todiscuss this civilly, the better it’ll be.

The next meeting of the TA South Brooklyn Subcommittee will be onThursday, August 11. The time and place have yet to be determined,but each month will see the meeting move to a different part ofsouthwest Brooklyn. For more information, contact Alanna Feinsod,TA’s Volunteer Coordinator, at Alanna@transalt.org.

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