Southern Brooklyn

Streetsblog: Southern Brooklynites Want Safer Biking

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Lantner-Survey-Graph
Courtesy of Murray Lantner

News about a survey popped up last week on Streetsblog that suggests Southern Brooklynites would be more likely to include bicycling in their commute if the streets were safer. The survey is admittedly flawed, but editor Ben Fried argues in the comments, “It does tell us these people exist, which is something you’d never know from listening to the local CB types and Lew.”

There’s been a lot of beating the drum about Southern Brooklyn being pro-car, anti-bike and anti-pedestrian over at Streetsblog – as if spotting a cyclist down here is like seeing a Sasquatch. But we know that’s not right; many of our readers use bicycles for commuting or recreation.

They are correct, though, in that the neighborhood is not as welcoming of bike lanes as other areas of the city – and many of the cyclists we speak to are just fine with that. So is it that our cyclists are ignored and marginalized? Or that bikers here have a more nuanced, less zealous view of bike lanes (and perhaps are less trusting of the DOT) than other communities?

Here’s an excerpt from Streetsblog:

Southern Brooklyn isn’t necessarily known as the epicenter of New York City cycling. Car-ownership rates are some of the highest in the city, and elected officials from the area tend to be particularly vocal livable streets opponents. But a recent, admittedly unscientific, survey shows that there’s a hunger for bike infrastructure from Sheepshead Bay to Mill Basin.

Murray Lantner, a livable streets activist who lives and grew up in Mill Basin, conducted the survey last fall, asking bus riders how they felt about bike lanes. About two-thirds of those who responded said that they’d like to see more bike lanes in their neighborhood. “Safety was a big concern,” said Lantner, “for them, or often for their kids.”

In these neighborhoods, relatively distant from the city’s job centers, cycling is more likely to link up with the subway system than serve as a stand-alone commute mode. Half the respondents said that if there was a network of safe bike lanes leading up to the King’s Highway B/Q station, along with bike parking, they’d start cycling to the subway rather than wait for the bus.

The survey has a small sample size and the data isn’t from a truly random group of bus riders — respondents were told the survey was about cycling. (You can see the whole thing, along with a letter Lantner wrote to the local community boards and elected officials in this PDF.) Even so, it shows that there’s a sizable pool of would-be cyclists in the area. And their voices aren’t being heard.

Instead, the elected and appointed representatives of these neighborhoods dominate the conversation and are uniformly anti-bike. A Courier-Life article from September noted that community board opposition to bike lanes has sprung up in Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, and Canarsie in recent months.

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