After a lively debate last night, Community Board 7’s transportation committee members voted to approve a Department of Transportation proposal for painted-on bike lanes on 10th and 11th Avenues, pushing the approval process forward.
The proposal was pitched as a safety measure, with narrower streets and clear lane markings intended to slow down speeding drivers and increase visibility.
“There are two safety agents on 11th Avenue, I routinely hear them yelling at cars to slow down,” said P.S. 154 Principal Eric Havlik, noting that requests for stop signs, speed bumps, and traffic lights were rejected because intersections failed to meet federal guidelines for installation.
In response to the community’s increasing calls for safety, DOT reps presented their ‘safety improvement bike lane’ proposal to a packed house on Monday night. But the emotional debate that followed revealed deeper fears over the future of these two small, residential streets between the expressway and Prospect Park — streets that neighbors called “the Wild West.”
The buffered lanes would be painted on one side of the street on 10th Avenue between Prospect Park Southwest and 18th Street, and on 11th Avenue/Terrace Place from McDonald Avenue to Prospect Park SW, said DOT rep. Quinn Kelly. Hundreds of kids use these streets, between residents and students at P.S. 154 and the Brooklyn Urban Garden charter school.
“It’s terrifying raising kids in this neighborhood,” said one mother whose been attending traffic meetings for a decade in the name of getting a traffic light or signal. “Are the bike lanes perfect? No. But a simple solution is probably the best solution we have.”
The painted lanes would narrow the driving lane to 10 feet (or one visible lane) to reduce speeding, with a 10-foot bike lane and 11-foot parking lanes on either side of the street, said the Kelly. The lane would be sandwiched between a row of parked cars and a lane of moving traffic, according to slides.
This proposal is being tacked onto another safety proposal that includes an enhanced high-visibility crosswalk and pedestrian ramps at 18th Street and 10th Avenue, which locals say is a troubled spot. (The DOT notes that this site doesn’t meet federal guidelines for a stop sign or traffic signal, which inspired disbelieving groans from the crowd).
Another previously-approved safety proposal includes adding a concrete island, left turn lane, and parking spots on the 11th Avenue bridge, according to slides. The bike lane would be added to those changes, in the center of the roadway along with a ‘quick curb’ to discourage illegal left turns.
“It’s terrifying raising kids in this neighborhood”
The markings would solve the general confusion on the avenues, where even residents at the meeting didn’t know if the wide road was meant to be one-lane or two. Narrowing the road is intended to slow drivers, who often barrel down the hill from the expressway to catch a green light.
On 10th, 11th, Terrace, and Seely, we counted 143 injuries from car collisions since 2009, according to city data.
Many community members identified themselves as pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and parents, and when asked for a show of hands there overwhelmingly more supporters of the lanes. Representatives from Brad Lander and Assembly Member Robert Carroll said both politicians support the plan.
Parent and activist Anne Lanier, who lives on 11th Avenue, has spent the past five years organizing neighbors and parents to fight for every traffic calming measure under the sun but was hit with a ‘no’ from the DOT every time. She came to the meeting with a 500-signiture petition supporting bikes lanes as a safety measure.
“Street guards say it’s a matter of when one of our kids is going to be killed, not if,” Lanier told BKLYNER. “This is our only solution — it’s just paint on the road and it may save our kids’ lives.”
But not everyone in the room equated cycling with safety, some — including two who walked with canes — called cyclists reckless and irresponsible, citing cases where bikers have hit people and sped off. “Bike lanes upset me,” said one concerned resident referring to the recent 7th Avenue bike lane. “I don’t see how they’re making anyone safer.”
“We need a light, not a bike lane!” shouted a neighbor, to a burst of applause.
But for parents, exhausted by the fight and constant worry about their kids safety, it’s the only option. “There’s no data to show that bike lanes are going to be worse than speeding and chaotic traffic,” countered Lanier. “It’s a win-win for drivers [who will get more parking spaces on the 11th Avenue bridge], bikers, and most especially our kids.”
The times, they are a’changin
If passed, the new lanes would connect Windsor Terrace cyclists to Prospect Park and the boro-wide network of existing bike lanes. The neighborhood currently looks like a blank spot on the cycling map, right near a path through Prospect Park.
There has been a lot of bike lane activity in the district, which includes Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, and parts of South Slope. In March, the DOT initially failed to sell all Community Board 7 members on a 7th Avenue bike lane extension (the vote totaled a majority of abstentions, but they eventually voted yes). And reps met with the community to get feedback in May for feedback on the proposed 4th Avenue bike lane from Boerum Hill to Bay Ridge.
Opposition to bike lanes has diverse roots, District Manager Jeremy Laufer told BKLYNER. “Either people don’t like change, or the change doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “It’s tough to ask people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for 30 years to accept change. But we listen to every constituent and take it on a case-by-case basis.”
The board got a recent influx of new members, one of whom told BKLYNER that her interest in community politics spiked after the presidential election, reflecting a larger NYC trend toward Community Board participation.
“Looking toward the future, this is what the city wants and needs,” said Rich, a local parent. “Rather than taking a side, pro-bike or anti-bike, in a world trying to reduce its environmental impact, this is a simple solution.”
At the June 19 meeting, the Transportation Committee voted 5 to 1 in favor of supporting the DOT’s proposal. The process continues with a General Board vote, which will take place on Wednesday, June 21. If approved, the low-cost lanes would appear soon, said DOT reps (for context, the 7th Avenue lanes were voted on in April and they are already on the road).