Planned NYC bike lane stops short of filling South Williamsburg gap

The city’s department of transportation announced plans on Monday to install new bike lanes across the five boroughs — including one on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn that stops just short of filling a glaring hole in the city’s cycling network.

DOT officials seek to build a protected bike lane on the corridor between Dean Street and Flushing Avenue. The stretch already has an unprotected bike lane, and the plan would beef up its protections with concrete barriers. So far this year, the city has recorded at least 12 cyclists deaths, the most at this point of any calendar year since at least 2013. Officials said cycling in New York City has hit an all-time high.

But the city doesn’t intend to extend the lane into South Williamsburg, where Orthodox Jewish community leaders have for years fought against the installation of new cycling infrastructure.

“We’re against the bike lane now and we will always be against the bike lane,” said Isaac Abraham, president of the Federation of Tenants Council of Williamsburg. “If I had the capacity and was 20 years younger, not a single bike would pass on Bedford Avenue because we would physically block them. Not just interfere with them, but physically block them.”

Years ago, the area of the street between Flushing and Division Avenues had markings for a bike lane. But following pushback from local activists like Abraham, the DOT in 2009 replaced the bike lane markings with wider areas for street parking.

South Williamsburg is also the only neighborhood in north Brooklyn without any Citi Bike docks. There are none in the area bounded by Division and Flushing Avenues to the north and south, and Union Street and the Navy Yard to the east and west.

Jon Orcutt, head of the advocacy group Bike New York who was a policy director for the city DOT under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said a new protected bike lane for the area is a “no-brainer.”

“Its proximity to the BQE generates some animal sprints among drivers,” he said.

But Orcutt noted longstanding challenges have hindered the construction of cycling infrastructure in the area.

“Between the Hasidic community and Brooklyn Community Board 3, it’s been historically hostile ground for street changes and bike lanes in particular,” Orcutt said.

DOT officials said they must still conduct community outreach before moving forward with the proposed bike lane projects. The plan includes adding extra barriers to 10 miles of existing protected bike lanes across the city, as well new lanes on streets in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and areas of southeast Brooklyn. The proposal also includes a new bike lane over the Addabbo Bridge in Queens between Howard Beach and Broad Channel.

Abraham said the growth of cycling puts in South Williamsburg residents at risk — and called on the city to do more for pedestrians in the area.

“If you speed by this community and jeopardize any of the children, we will knock you off your bike,” said Abraham. “If the city wants to improve this neighborhood, let them give us a baby carriage lane.”

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