They’re not the lanes bicyclists wheely need.
The city’s plan to make a pair of bike lanes safer for cyclists who use them to cut across Fort Greene and Clinton Hill falls short because the paths lack solid barriers that separate drivers from bike riders, according to a local transit guru.
“It can be bolder in terms of pursuing protected bike infrastructure, given ridership,” said Brian Howald, a self-proclaimed cyclist who sits on Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee.
Department of Transportation reps last week revealed the agency’s plan to the community board, which calls for reconfiguring two current Vanderbilt Avenue bike lanes that run between Flushing and Atlantic Avenues.
The scheme suggests nixing the current shared lane for East River–bound cyclists and motorists on Vanderbilt Avenue — where chevrons of death also known as sharrows are now the only infrastructure indicating riders’ presence to motorists — and creating a separate 5-foot, dedicated bicycle path sandwiched between moving vehicles and parked cars.
Prospect Park–bound cyclists will get their own dedicated 5-foot bike lane wedged between parked cars and traffic moving in the same direction on nearby Clermont Avenue between Flushing Avenue and Fulton Street — the first pedaler’s path to come to Clermont Avenue, according to a Transportation Department rep, who said the infrastructure won’t require forfeiting any on-street parking spaces.
And the current East River- and Prospect Park–bound dedicated bike lanes on Vanderbilt Avenue between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue — which run along the curb and are separated from traffic by a line of white paint — will get a fresh coat of green paint on their pavement to better distinguish them from the lanes for cars.
City transit officials redesigned the bike paths to better serve what they said is a growing ridership in the area.
“We see a lot of use on the weekends, and during the week, when people head to the bridges to get to Manhattan,” Transportation Department employee Kimberly Rancourt said while announcing the plan on June 21.
But without barriers in the form of parked cars or other objects that protect cyclists from moving vehicles, the new infrastructure will do little to prevent deadly crashes, Howald and other critics charged.
The city isn’t ruling out the possibility of future parking-protected bike paths on the streets, but first wants to do what it can to improve them for all commuters — whether they ride buses, cars, or bicycles — without dramatically altering the roads, according to Rancourt.
“We’re open to conversations about higher-level facilities,” she said. “It’s not that anything else is off the table forever, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Most of the civic gurus applauded the proposal, but suggested transportation officials conduct more outreach among locals — who they noted are likely to be less hostile to this scheme than they were towards a pair of controversial Clinton Avenue bike lanes the city proposed in 2016. The board, however, could not formally weigh in on the plan because there were not enough members present to reach the quorum required to hold a vote.
Transportation Department bigwigs expect to start installing the lanes on Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues later this summer or in the fall, and their Flushing Avenue ends will eventually connect with the long-delayed stretch of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway bike path on that road, officials said.
And construction on the Flushing Avenue section of greenway, which is part of a proposed 14-mile Greenpoint-to-Bay Ridge bicycle thoroughfare, is expected to wrap by next spring — nearly 10 years after the city announced the path — now that utility company National Grid is winding down on a conflicting project in the area, according to an official overseeing the project.
“There are still ongoing issues with National Grid facilities in the project zone, even while construction is ongoing in other areas,” said Department of Design and Construction spokesman Ian Michaels. “But we anticipate National Grid will resolve those issues, and construction will be complete by spring 2019.”