Cycling Advocate Makes Case For Emmons Ave Bike Lane, Community Stands Opposed

Source: Jaszek Photography via Flickr

A local advocate is proposing a marked bike lane on Emmons Avenue to make cycling on the busy stretch safer. The only problem is community leaders don’t care one iota for the plan.

The bike lane proposal was made public by City Councilman Lew Fidler after receiving the suggestion earlier in the year from constituent Lenny M. (Lenny asked to not have his last name published, fearing harassment from ferocious bike lane opponents). The plan pushes a marked lane on Emmons Avenue’s eastbound side, from Sheepshead Bay Road to Brigham Street where it would connect to the Plumb Beach bike path. In addition to perilous angled parking, the double-wide lane lends itself to impatient drivers who illegally pass double parked or turning cars.

According to Lenny, the plan offers more than just a safer road for cyclists: a narrower road would curb speeding and double parking, as well as keep bicyclists off the sidewalk.

“It would create a visible buffer between bicycle traffic and motorists. Seeing a bike lane, at minimum, would make drivers more aware of riders like myself who do not have the benefit of a few thousand pounds of steel and safety systems,” he said. “Without a safe place on the road some riders resort to riding on the sidewalk which puts children, mothers with strollers, and the elderly at risk. Bicyclists need a lane of our own.”

Lenny points out that the plan would cause no reduction in parking or usable roadway, and that the road is already deemed a bicycling route by New York City, though it’s currently unmarked.

But the arguments don’t seem to be persuading locals. Fidler brought the issue to stakeholders at the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, Bay Improvement Group and Community Board 15, all of which balked at the suggestion.

“I sent a letter to all of our local civic associations and, surprise, surprise, got the unanimous response I expected, which is that Emmons Avenue is too congested for a bike lane,” Fidler reported back to the SBPB Civic last week.

Fidler himself thought it was a bad idea, but, in the spirit of legislation he sponsored and was recently passed, felt that the community as a whole should weigh in before it was dismissed outright.

For the SBPB Civic, the proposal came dead-on-arrival for the same reasons Lenny believes it’s a good idea.

“There’s too much congestion and anybody who goes down Emmons Avenue knows that,” stated SBPB Civic President Kathy Flynn. “Between the parking trying to back up into those parking spaces, blocking out the cars, the cars trying to save those extra two seconds by squeezing around them, the unloading and loading at the piers and businesses along Emmons Avenue – we don’t feel that it would be a safe aspect to have a bike lane on Emmons Avenue.”

Community Board 15 Chaiperson Theresa Scavo said the board’s opposition is based on logistics: the roadway just can’t fit both angled parking and a bike lane.

Scavo said she took her car down there herself after finding out about the proposal, and tried to park her car. What she found is that angled parking forces her to pull within inches of the curb, blocking off all of the traffic. With cars already stopped in the road, bicyclists would face additional risk.

“How do I park? I don’t care about the bikers on the sidewalk or cars passing – how do I park without the front tires of my car going into the bike lane?” she said. “There’s no way to park there without going to that curb, and you’re going to run over a person on a bike.”

Lenny, though, thinks the community is missing out on an opportunity.

“Whether we like it or not, New York City is becoming a bicycle city,” he said. “[Sheepshead Bay’s] lack of infrastructure also makes us poor candidates for locations of NYC’s bike share program, despite our proximity to one of the best and most popular bike paths – and I may be reaching here, but I think of the lost commerce for local businesses because of that.”

What do you think of a bike path on Emmons Avenue?