Third Avenue Merchants raise concerns over DOT bike lane plan

A plan by the Department of Transportation to install a network of bike lanes on Bay Ridge streets will cause major headaches for store owners on Third Avenue, the leader of a business group predicted.

Robert Howe, president of the Merchants of Third Avenue, said putting a bike lane on the avenue 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 alike.

It could also increase the potential for accidents, Howe said.

“There is always a lot of activity on Third Avenue. Our main concern is deliveries to our stores as well as the already existing double parking situation on the avenue. And now you’re adding a bike lane. If you squeeze too much activity onto a narrow avenue, it could be a problem,” he told the Home Reporter.

Howe wrote a letter to Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann outlining his concerns.

Board 10 is scheduled to hold a forum to give local residents a chance to weigh in on DOT’s plan. The forum will take place Thursday, June 6, at Saint Anselm’s Meletia Hall, 365 83rd St., starting at 6:30 p.m. Third Avenue is just one of many thoroughfares DOT is eyeing for bike lanes.

“The installation of bike lanes on Third would require a delivery truck to park in the traffic lane in order to respect the bike lane space. The confusion this might cause to merchants, cars, delivery people, cyclists and pedestrians could lead to frustration, stress and maybe accidents,” Howe, a lawyer, wrote in his letter.

Under the DOT plan, which the agency unveiled on May 9, a bike lane would be created along Third Avenue from 68th Street to 79th Street (northbound) and from 79th Street to Shore Road (northbound and southbound).

Most of the stores on Third Avenue are fronted on the avenue and do not have entrances on side streets where deliveries could be made, according to Howe. As a result, shopkeepers “can only receive deliveries through the front of the stores,” he said, adding that the majority of deliveries are made by Fed Ex, UPS and large food and beverage trucks.

“We know that bike lanes are valuable and that the city should provide safe streets for bike riders. But we have some concerns about the effect on our store owners,” Howe said.

Beckmann said there are possible solutions DOT could consider to help alleviate any potential problems on Third Avenue, including installing additional loading zones for delivery trucks and altering parking meter rules to foster a quicker turnover of parked cars.

“There are a lot of tools in the tool box,” she told the Home Reporter.

It’s not just the store owners who receive deliveries, Beckmann said. “There are apartments above the stores on our commercial avenues. With the rise in e-commerce, more people are ordering merchandise online and getting it delivered,” she said.

Joe Cutrufo, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, an organization that favors bike lanes, agreed that there are solutions.

“A curb lined with parked cars is a policy choice, not a fact of life,” he told the Home Reporter in an email. “If we convert some parking spaces to loading zones, then we can have easy deliveries and a safe right-of-way for people on bikes.”  

Cutrufo also said that bike riders and delivery truck drivers should not be pitted against each other when it comes to navigating the streets of New York City.

The other streets in Board 10 where DOT is planning to put bike lanes are 64th Street from Seventh to 14th Avenue; 66th Street from Seventh to 14th Avenue; Bay Ridge Parkway from Shore Road to Seventh Avenue; Ovington Avenue across from Seventh Avenue to connect to the recently reviewed Seventh Avenue protected bike lane; 84th Street from Colonial Road to 14th Avenue (westbound); and 85th Street from Narrows Avenue to 14th Avenue (eastbound).

The network of bike lanes would also include 11th Avenue southbound from 64th Street to 85th Street; 10th Avenue (northbound) from 64th Street to 85th Street; and Ridge Boulevard from 66th Street to Marine Avenue

The installation of bike lanes is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, an effort by the city to reduce the number of traffic accidents on city streets and to make streets safe for bike riders and pedestrians.

ebrooklyn media/Photo by Paula Katinas
DOT released its bike lane plan for Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights on May 9. The plan calls for bike lanes to be installed along several major roadways.

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