Southern Brooklyn

Streetsblog: Southern Brooklynites Want Safer Biking

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.

Comment policy


  1. I am not a fan of Streetsblog. They are totally not objective. They know what they want and will not let anything get into their way of thinking. If the survey did not show what they wanted, they would just do another one until they got the results they were looking for. I’ve had numerous arguments with them on their website and no logic will convince them they are wrong. Just go on their site and try to make an anti-biking statement and dozens of people will show up to shout you down. They are not willing to have a discussion with you.

    As far as the survey they did, I will not dispute their findings. There are people who do want more bicycle lanes and I don’t not have a problem with that if they are safe and do not cause havoc by eliminating needed traffic lanes. I think that is what is causing most of the opposition, although the plans for Canarsie are for side streets and won’t intefer with traffic. It seems those people just don’t want outsiders coming through their neighborhood. That is not right. These are public streets and everyone has aright to use them.

    As far as Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach are concerned, the story is a little different. I’m not sure what Gerritsen Beach’s objection was, but in Manhattan Beach, it is not bicycle lanes that are opposed. It is the specific poorly designed lane on Oriental Boulevard that is widely opposed by the community. Both Community Groups have proposed to relocate it one block away on an existing sidewalk that actually was built many years ago, as I understand it, as a bicycle lane. That would be much safer. The community is not against bicycle lanes per se.

  2. Bike lanes are not really the answer. Not if bicycles are going to be used as a practical form of transportation. We need to teach safe riding practices and penalize drivers that engage in behaviors that make safe riding more difficult. Obviously enforcement would not be easy, but it’ll put the idea into the heads of many car owners that they HAVE to share the road with bicyclists.

    Needless to say bicyclists also need to remember that a bicycle is a vehicle. A machine that is capable of serious injuring, or even killing someone.

  3. You can have all the bike lanes you want, but the bottom line is will the people use them and obey the laws. Nothing pisses me off more than people riding bikes who go through lights, cut across traffic, go the wrong way in the streets and ride their bikes on the sidewalk. I’m also starting to see those Pedi-Cabs in NYC doing this as well. Whenever I’m in London, it’s a breath of fresh air. They strictly adhere to bike lanes there and you would never see anyone riding the wrong way or not stopping for lights. They are very strict. I guess it’s just a case of people and the police who should be enforcing the law here in NYC not giving a damn.

  4. I dare you to make that statement on Streetsblog that bike lanes are not the answer.

    You are correct in your observations. The sad fact is that the more bicycles we have on the roads, the more accidents we will have also.

    Many car owners also need to realize they also need to share the road with pedestrians who are crossing, and some pedestrians also need to realize that you just can’t cross the street anytime you feel like it without watching for cars.

    Better education is needed all around. I still think it is safer to ride your bike opposing traffic than with it, but I don’t ride my bike anymore so it doesn’t matter what I think.

  5. I post over there on occasion, and posted in the thread.

    I’m a daily bike rider in southern Brooklyn. Khan and her Master Plan are a debacle. She listens to no one, not well-meaning pols(an in this case HT to Lew Fiedler for a goo idea she ignored), nor community boards nor anyone else. If what they’ve done to Gerritsen Avenue is the Big Idea, don’t bother. I’d rather dodge cars. And as noted, there is already money budgeted to put a bike lane on the Coney Island Boardwalk, and they won’t do it.

  6. I’ve been arguing with bicycle advocates since the late 1970s, the idea of special lanes for bicycles made no sense at all to me, especially in Manhattan where they first put it on narrow, well traveled roads such as Broadway in Midtown. (On 6th Avenue, it was workable though) I was using a bicycle for recreation at that time, and it seemed to me that the organizers of advocacy groups were not considering what bicyclists needed to do themselves to be safe on the road. Many of these early advocates were bicycle messengers who showed little regard for safe riding or even the rule of law. Now that bicycles have become “hip” again the number of bicycles on the road have skyrocketed, which means that the potential for accidents caused BY bicyclists has increased. I wonder if there are available statistics on that likely occurrence.

  7. —VTL §1231: Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties as the driver of a motor vehicle.

    —VTL §1232 Cyclists must ride on a permanent seat; feet must be on pedals; and bike must carry only the number of persons for which it is designed and equipped.

    —34 RCNY 4-12(p)(3) Bicyclists may ride on either side of one-way roadways that are at least 40 feet wide.

    —34 RCNY 4-12 (e) – Cyclists must have at least one hand on handlebars at all times.

    —34 RCNY 4-12 (h) – Cyclists involved in accidents resulting in death or injury to person or damage to property must stop and make a report to the Police Department. (If you’re in an accident with a car, you should get a police report even if you don’t think you’re injured—bike accidents go underreported!)

    —34 RCNY 4-12 (o) – Bicycles are prohibited on expressways, drives, highways, interstate routes and thruways unless authorized by signs.

    —AC 19-176 – Riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited. Bicycles may be confiscated.

    Tickets for riding on the sidewalk fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Control Board (ECB). If you are given a ticket or summons that requires you to appear in criminal court instead, you should be able to get the ticket thrown out for lack of jurisdiction.

  8. I think it would make sense to allow people to ride bicycles on residential streets that don’t have a lot of walking traffic on them. Streets like East 21st, 22nd, 19th, etc… I don’t think they would cause much of a problem on these streets. However, on large Avenues where more people tend to walk on (i.e. Ocean Ave, Coney Island Ave, Gerritsen Ave) Bicycles should be prohibited.

  9. I worked for a bicycle messenger service in the early 80s. I can tell you that pedestrians have been killed by bicyclists. I’m sure that if I did the research I’d find a few recorded instances.

    A bicycle traveling at even 25 miles a hour is capable of killing someone. I think that is obvious.

  10. Except for the people who do walk down those streets, and have to pay close attention to bicyclists who speed on the sidewalks, often because they are delivery people who have to work quickly.

    I’m sorry, but that is not safe.

  11. There aren’t many people who walk down those streets. Most people tend to gravitate towards the major avenues for safety reasons (NEVER WALK ALONE BLAH BLAH). If I see a person in front of me when I am on a bike, I slow down and wait till I can safely pass them.

  12. I walk down those streets, and I am certainly not the only one. People do not gravitate towards avenues. It’s counterproductive timewise to do so much of the time.

    There’s no reason to ride on a sidewalk. It is simply not safe for pedestrians. An exception is correctly made for children under the age of 12.

  13. I saw a story last month on TV where a bicycle came roaring down the sidewalk in Manhattan and knocked a guy down. (He had a wife and family.) He fell striking his head on the ground and died. It really doesn’t take much to kill somebody.

  14. Khan and Bloomberg are dictators who just won’t listen. Today Bloomberg squashes Vallone’s idea to set up smoking areas in Parks and beaches (20%). Sound to me like a great compromise. Bloomberg said it would cost too much to enforce. Of course, if it is banned altogether, the fines will pay for the enforcement, which is all he is interested in.

    The boardwalk bike lane is actually on the sand. The City and State have been squabbling over this already for five years.

  15. It’s simple. The law should say that bike riding on the sidewalk is prohibited unless there are no pedestrians present on the block.

  16. “they’d start cycling to the subway rather than wait for the bus”.

    Fine, get rid of the buses and have more room for bikes.

  17. But that could change in an instant, as someone leaves a house and starts to walk in the direction of the bicycle.

    Those who choose to ride on sidewalks are often those who will not ride in the street unless forced to. While in some situations contingencies are logical in framing a law this one would have to be worded quite specifically. The condition of a empty sidewalk must be defined as one where there are no visible pedestrians in front of the bicyclist at any time. I could see such a construction as being the cause for a legal challenge, which would cause more confusion.

    Any idea of what the opinion of bicycling advocates is on this manner?

  18. I am too lazy to read the dialogue.
    The words registration, insurance and enforced laws come to mind.
    Delivery men in cars and car service drivers need plates and insurance so should bikers who make a living on two wheels.
    Pay up or shut up.

  19. As soon as the cyclist sees someone enter the city portion of the sidewalk, he must either walk his bike or use the nearest driveway to enter the street.

    If Long Island can have signs that say, Right Turn on Red permitted only if no Pedestrians are present, I don’t see why this couldn’t work here.

  20. Actually the best solution would be to allow bicyclists to go against traffic. I suspect its much safer that way for them, and may keep them the sidewalks. They also would get where they were going faster than they would using sidewalks.

  21. The Heathen are discouraged from committing their blasphemies on sites like that one. Only the saved may speak.I’m sure it feels like that when you post.

  22. If a bicycle is considered a vehicle, regardless of it’s use, then it should abide by all other laws set forth for every other vehicle. That includes following the rules of the road, registration, licensing, and insurance. Just think how much money the city will collect of fees alone. Then, when they break laws, they should be fined, so the city can collect even more money.

    This is all part of the Global Warming Scam to make the Earth greener. Simply get as many motor vehicles off the roads as possible, tell us what types of vehicles we can or cannot drive, tell us where we can or cannot drive,….the list will go on and on. We are losing our freedoms and liberties as every day passes, all under the guise of the government doing what is best for us. In my eyes, this is nothing more than Bovine Scatology!!

  23. Animo, Though I agree with some of what you are saying there are more worries than vehicles.
    Your cell phone, computer,cable and any transactions over the internet are all part of control issues. Cashless society, medical insurances,housing, freedom of…..This worries me.

  24. I wouldn’t be surprised that the study that showed it is safer to travel with traffic was flawed or was done in the middle of Kansas, not on city streets with parked cars.

  25. But Dictator Bloomberg does not believe New Yorkers are smart enough to use discretion, like you can’t swim at your own risk without a lifeguard as is common practice in Florida where the waters are even more dangerous. Here everything has to be allowed or disallowed. Same thing goes for not allowing moving between subway cars even when the cars are standing still at the terminal for ten minutes.

  26. As a biker I never felt uncomfortable riding wit the vehicular traffic but
    understand that may people do and therefore I am all for more bike lanes
    and enforcement of their sanctity.

    I am also strongly advocate ticketing bicycle riding on sidewalks.
    I read where there were some 15,000 tickets issued for bikes on sidewalks
    in 2009, but have NEVER seen someone stopped in Brooklyn.

    Shore Bvld. and Emmons Ave. are constantly used by biking adults –

  27. My family and I cannot ride safely through out most of our (Sheepshead Bay), or the surrounding neighborhoods. Its not safe for the kids in the street, and we adults are not legally permitted to ride on the sidewalk. That kinda sucks.

  28. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and streets are to be shared between motor vehicles and cyclists. Its just about making our streets safer cyclists and having enought bicycling infrastructure, like lanes, signs, etc. that elevate the cyclsit from a second class street user to an equal. This will save lives and increase the liveability of our city.

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