As the de Blasio administration ramps up plans to install more protected bike lanes, the city is already facing potential roadblocks from some City Council members and community boards.
Some Council members from southern Brooklyn and Staten Island voiced concern about new bike lanes in their districts — saying they feared the city Department of Transportation’s “green wave” safety plan would roll over them.
“I don’t know what to anticipate from them, but if there’s no collaboration and no partnership, I’m going to voice my opposition to the implementation of anything in my district,” Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) told THE CITY.
Mayor Bill de Blasio last month announced an ambitious effort to build 80 miles of protected bike lanes by 2021 in response to a dramatic uptick in cyclist deaths, which now sits at 18 this year. He sees the $58.4 million bike safety plan as in sync with his Vision Zero campaign to end traffic-related fatalities.
The DOT didn’t directly answer questions about how the agency would respond to opposition from elected officials in any given area. While a DOT spokesperson said local input would be taken into account, he emphasized that local speed bumps wouldn’t stop the plan.
“The city has moved ahead with street safety projects in the face of community board opposition before, because safety is our top priority,” the spokesperson, Brian Zumhagen, told THE CITY in a statement.
Some Local Opposition Looms
Deutsch told THE CITY that he’s concerned a protected bike lane proposed along Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay would boost congestion and affect parents dropping off their kids at Bay Academy.
He and Theresa Scavo, chair of Community Board 15, said the DOT sent notices to local civic groups declaring the project will move forward this fall.
Deutsch said he hadn’t heard from the DOT since he brought up his initial concerns. But agency spokesperson Alana Morales said they’re still meeting with stakeholders and that no final decision has been made.
Meanwhile, two Council members from Staten Island said they were uncertain on where they stood on the protected bike lanes proposed in the borough, saying they needed more information.
“While I am generally supportive of bike lanes and most measures that save lives on our roads, many of the proposed protected bike lanes in the mayor’s Green Wave report appear to be rough ideas for the future,” Councilmember Debi Rose (D-North Shore) said in a statement.
In the North Shore, the DOT has plotted out two bike lanes that would extend from around the Bayonne and Goethals Bridge, and converge near Willowbrook Park.
Councilmember Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island) said that he also needed more details from DOT before taking a stand. The agency proposed a protected bike in his district that would cut through parkland and a golf course to connect Arden Heights to Richmond Town.
“While DOT had not briefed me on these plans, at first glance I have some real concerns about the appropriateness of bike lanes along some of these busy corridors,” Matteo said in a statement.
The DOT said that specific streets where bike lanes will run have yet to be determined.
“This plan is a vision and shows how a network will work together,” said Zumhagen. “We will be coming to [community boards] and other stakeholders with details as plans develop.”
Collaborative Effort Urged
Lawmakers in southern Brooklyn told THE CITY that the best path forward for creating bike lane networks is by teaming with the community.
Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge) noted that DOT’s “visioning workshops” led Community Board 10 to support most bike lanes in a Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights network.
“It was a great cross-section of people from the neighborhood who came forward to talk to DOT and it was a very collaborative process,” Brannan told THE CITY. “Because sometimes what you see with DOT is they come, they make their presentations, and the next morning they start installing whatever they told you they were going to install. This was the opposite.”
Still, Community 10 ultimately opposed two bike lanes. Brannan and state Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge), nonetheless, urged DOT to move forward.
Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island) told THE CITY that he’s supportive of a protected bike lane on Shore Parkway in Brooklyn, and would buck the local community board, if there’s opposition. “You cannot drive your way out of congestion,” he said.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what exactly the city considers “protected” bike lanes. As StreetsBlogNYC last year pointed out that the DOT has used the term to describe bike lanes where the barrier between cyclists and motorists is nothing more than paint on the ground.
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