New Coalition Aims for a More Bike-Friendly Flatbush

Last month, Council Member Mathieu Eugene hosted a forum to address traffic calming needs along Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn. While the event generated a lot of ideas and suggestions from neighborhood residents and business owners, many participants have been discouraged by the lack of follow-up from Eugene. Now, some are turning their desire for safer streets into action.

The Flatbush Bicycle Coalition is aiming for rides like these to become safer, more convenient and more frequent. Photo: Sustainable Flatbush/Flickr

The neighborhood’s busiest commercial street is at the top of their list, but “it’s not just Cortelyou Road,” said Flatbush resident Julie May, who has teamed up with fellow resident Rene Netter to start the Flatbush Bicycle Coalition.

Netter, who has a young daughter, has been biking in the neighborhood for a while. In 2010, he started leading group bike rides under the banner Ditmas Rides. “I wanted to show people how you could get around with kids on bicycles,” he said. Over time, the event has evolved into a regular neighborhood leisure ride, mostly for adults.

“People in the neighborhood  – who bike, at least — say, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that,’” Netter said. Although there are now more bikes on the streets of Flatbush and Ditmas Park, the area could become even more bike-friendly. “It’s time for a new wave,” he said.

So far, the coalition has worked with local businesses to sign them up for Transportation Alternatives’ Bicycle Friendly Business program. Today, there are 14 participating businesses on Cortelyou Road.

When it comes to businesses, May said, the “first step there is to talk about a bike corral.” The coalition is working with Flatbush Food Co-Op to build support for a corral at Cortelyou Road and Marlborough Road, and with Natural Frontier Market for a corral at Cortelyou Road and Stratford Road.

In addition, the group is looking for DOT to move forward with more bike lanes in the neighborhood on Argyle Road, Dorchester Road and Westminster Road. In the future, Netter said, he’d like to have visioning sessions, “so we can get people to start thinking about what could be.”

“It’s an opportunity to make everyone’s voices heard,” May said. “The more cyclists represented, the better.”

May emphasized that many of the improvements that would make the neighborhood a better place to bike aren’t things that exclusively benefit bicyclists. “While of course I’m a cyclist and I want bike parking, bike-share, and all these things, there’s a really big problem on Cortelyou Road that has nothing to do with cycling,” she said, referring to the dangerous traffic conditions.

A comprehensive agenda for neighborhood-wide traffic calming could go a long way to encourage more people to ride, May said, noting that moving forward with such a plan requires a committed, positive relationship with other neighborhood groups, including the community board.

The next meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 14′s transportation committee is coming up this Thursday at 7 p.m. at the district office, located at 810 East 16th Street. Although issues related to the Flatbush Bicycle Coalition are not up for discussion, May and Netter said they hope to get on the agenda for future meetings and begin a dialogue with community board members. ”I look at it as the start of a long and hopefully friendly relationship with this committee,” May said.

The Flatbush Bicycle Coalition will be meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Qathra Cafe, 1112 Cortelyou Road. People interested in joining the coalition are invited to participate in its e-mail listserv.