Fidler Wants Public Hearings Before New Bike Lanes

Source: Jaszek Photography via Flickr

City Councilman Lew Fidler is questioning the decision-making behind bike lane implementation in his district and across the boroughs, leading the city to re-evaluate proposed lanes in Canarsie and opening the door for challenges elsewhere.

In a letter to Department of Transportation Brooklyn Commissioner Joseph Palmieri, Fidler said it was “imperative that community feedback be factored into any proposed changes.”

The request came following months of outcry from Canarsie residents to the city’s plan to install bike lanes from Avenue D on East 95th Street to the Canarsie Pier, and from the pier to Ditmas Avenue on East 94th Street. The lanes would connect bicyclists to the Shore Parkway Greenway, which extends from Sheepshead Bay to Queens. Neighbors in Canarsie say the city is bike crazy and it doesn’t suit residents’ needs.

Fidler agrees that the plans, devised more than 10 years ago, are flawed and outdated.

“The ‘Master Plan’ for bike lanes was drawn up way too long ago for implementation without current review and input,” Fidler told Sheepshead Bites. “Neighborhoods change. Attitudes change. Demographics change. And I don’t particularly recall the public input from way back when.” He echoed similar concerns to Courier-Life.

In response to the letter, Palmieri promised that the city’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs will “investigate this location and recommend appropriate actions.”

But Fidler isn’t yet dropping the issue. He said that a better review process – including community input – needs to be implemented before the installation of any new bike lanes. And he’s considering legislation to ensure that’s part of the process.

The councilman told Sheepshead Bites that he has suggested a bill to require public hearings before any new bike lanes are implemented anywhere in the five boroughs. The process aims to give residents some control over if and where new bike lanes in the neighborhood should go.

Fidler said he tried to arrange this sort of collaboration in the face of a proposed bike lane on Gerritsen Avenue last year.

“I would apply the same rule to any planned implementation of bike lanes,” he said. Back then, the DOT was moving to reconstruct traffic patterns on the avenue, and would include a bike lane. He gathered community leaders for a presentation for the DOT. “Unanimously, the bike lane on Gerritsen was thought to be inappropriate and there was unanimous support for having a bike lane running along Marine Park itself where most bikers want to bike.”

The process was only half-effective, though. Residents got the DOT to eliminate the installation of a Gerritsen Avenue bike lane, but the city never installed the one the community wanted.