A southern Brooklyn board is asking the Department of Transportation to draw up new plans to expand the local bike network for the second time, despite a round of revisions that resulted from previous board requests and a broader town hall.
At its last general meeting before breaking for the summer, Community Board 10 voted on Monday to reject significant parts of a bike network expansion that, if implemented in full, would bring 10 new bike lanes to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. In all, five stretches were approved, and five were rejected or sent back to the agency for “further study.”
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Councilmember Justin Brannan and Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus wrote to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray Tuesday to express their disapproval.
“While we applaud the bike lane proposals that were approved by Community Board 10, we do not agree with their rejection of the proposals for Bay Ridge Parkway as well as 84th Street, and 85th Street,” the letter reads. “We believe that the proposals offered by DOT reflected the best will of the community.”
Some board members said the plan as proposed would increase congestion and put cyclists and pedestrians in danger. Merchants on Third Avenue have also expressed that a lane on the strip would likely interfere with deliveries to stores on the busy commercial corridor and could lead to mass confusion for merchants, delivery workers, bike riders and pedestrians.
The community board’s rejection comes at a deadly time for city cyclists – 11 have been killed citywide so far this year. That number matches the whole-year total of all 2018. Four of those deaths have taken place in southern Brooklyn alone.
Bike lanes were first installed in CB10’s area in 2003, and expanded upon in 2015, said Traffic and Transportation Committee Chairperson Jayne Capetenakis. In 2018, DOT made a recommendation to bring a north-south connector to 92nd Street — a proposal panned by both cyclists and board members, the chair said.
More than 70 residents, cyclists and local stakeholders attended a DOT workshop in January to give the agency feedback, which led to the development of the new plan presented to the board in May.
“This proposal we will be voting on tonight came from several months of working with DOT, cyclists, residents and other stakeholders,” Capetenakis said. “No plan is ever going to be perfect, but we have to start somewhere.”
DOT presented 10 suggested lanes:
- 64th Street from Seventh to 14th Avenue
- 66th Street from Seventh to 14th Avenue
- Bay Ridge Parkway from Shore Road to 14th Avenue
- Ovington Avenue across the Seventh Avenue overpass to connect with Seventh Avenue
- 84th Street from Colonial Road to 14th Avenue westbound
- 85th Street from Narrows Avenue to 14th Avenue eastbound
- 11th Avenue southbound from 64th to 85th Street
- 10th Avenue northbound from 64th to 86th Street
- 3rd Avenue from 68th Street to 79th Street northbound and 3rd Avenue from 79th Street to Shore Road north and southbound
- Ridge Boulevard from 66th Street to Marine Avenue
The board proceeded to vote section-by-section, choosing to approve lanes for 10th and 11th avenues as well as Ovington Avenue, 64th and 66th streets. They voted to disapprove lanes for Bay Ridge Parkway and Third Avenue. It also voted to send the 84th and 85th street routes to DOT for further study and to await completion of traffic studies in progress on Ridge Boulevard before making a decision.
The board is no stranger to criticism for its history with bike lanes. CB10 has come under fire from local cyclists who’ve alleged the group doesn’t care about their safety.
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who represents Bushwick and Williamsburg, has proposed limiting the back-and-forth between community boards and DOT to expedite the bike lane approval process.
“We know the money’s in the budget for the construction of new bike safety and pedestrian safety upgrades and infrastructure,” Reynoso told the Eagle in May. “So our problem is that the DOT is extending the process by returning to the community boards.”
Brian Hedden of Bike South Brooklyn told the Eagle that the decks are stacked against cycling advocates.
“One frustrating thing from our standpoint is that … it always seems like the forces that want to keep things the same — either out of some negative attitude toward bike lanes or something else — have multiple opportunities to veto it,” he said Tuesday. “Meanwhile, cyclists who have been involved going back to last December … it almost feels like they’re in some sort of NCAA tournament where they’re 6-0.”
Even those stretches approved by the board, like 64th and 66th streets, aren’t quite bike “lanes” as they aren’t linked to other routes, Hedden said.
“Those aren’t even full links so, flat out, they aren’t bike lanes,” he said, adding that he’s heard a lot of “bad faith” arguments and “misinformation” from those against the extension.
“[CB10 says] that they aren’t against bike lanes, but then they shoot down every conceivable location where bike lanes could exist,” Hedder said. “That’s not pro-bike lanes.”
Capetenakis stressed that the board’s vote is advisory only. The agency may still go ahead with the project, she said, but in the end, it’s not up to the community board to come up with alternative routes. “It is our job to make recommendations keeping in mind the safety of everyone in our community,” she said.
Gounardes, Brannan and Frontus ended their letter to DOT with a call to see nine of the 10 routes – all but the Third Avenue one – implemented “preferably no later than this summer.”
DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.