East New York and Brownsville on the Cusp of Getting New Bike Lanes

A snafu at last night's Brooklyn Community Board 5 meeting delayed a vote for bike lanes on Pitkin Avenue until next month. Image: NYC DOT

After more than a year of collaboration between residents, community groups, DOT, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the first project in a new round bike lanes for Brownsville and East New York is almost in the books and ready to be installed next year. The proposal is for simple lines on the pavement — not protected bike lanes — but, along with a road diet on Pennsylvania Avenue, it would bring safer conditions to parts of eastern Brooklyn that currently have next to no bike infrastructure.

At Community Board 5′s transportation committee meeting Tuesday evening, DOT presented the proposal to bring a combination of painted bicycle lanes and sharrows to more than two miles of Pitkin Avenue. East of Pennsylvania Avenue to Fountain Avenue, DOT is proposing dedicated lanes, while the narrower road west of Pennsylvania Avenue will have shared lanes to Legion Street.

Although an exact implementation schedule has not been set, DOT will soon be developing its work program for 2013, and the Pitkin Avenue bike lanes can be included, likely in the spring, according to DOT staff at the meeting.

“We’re excited,” CB 5 District Manager Walter Campbell said after DOT’s presentation. “I think it’s terrific that we can get more people to ride their bikes,” adding, “Pitkin Avenue is a great place to start.”

The other bike route identified by DOT and local residents based on community workshops this summer is Mother Gaston Boulevard, home to the neighborhood’s only bike shop, Brownsville Bikes. DOT has not yet presented formal designs for a bike lane on Mother Gaston, which will come in future phases.

A helmet fitting at the Brownsville Recreation Center in September. Photo: Nupur Chaudhury, Brownsville Partnership

After successful bike-oriented events and rides starting at the Brownsville Recreation Center this summer and fall, more community events are on the way, including a mid-January helmet fitting and learn-to-ride workshop at an elementary school in East New York.

Meanwhile, the area’s livable streets progress isn’t limited to bike lanes. Christmas tree lightings are coming soon to two public plazas: tomorrow from 5 to 7 p.m. at Zion Triangle at East New York Avenue and Pitkin Avenue, and Saturday at 4 p.m. at New Lots Triangle.

At October’s transportation committee meeting, DOT also presented a plan for traffic calming on Pennsylvania Avenue, where DOT measured 80 percent of drivers speeding. The avenue also has more fatalities and serious injuries than 90 percent of other Brooklyn streets.

With a resurfacing already scheduled in 2013, DOT is planning to reduce the roadway south of Flatlands Avenue from three lanes to two in each direction, while adding painted median extensions and an extra-wide curb parking lane. The changes are similar to other road diets on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Harlem. The committee recommended the full board vote in favor of the proposal.

At last night’s meeting, many CB 5 members did not express opposition but were interested in learning more about both the Pitkin Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue proposals. However, because one community board member left during the meeting, the board did not have a quorum to vote on the matter. It’s likely that DOT will present both plans to the full board before it votes at the community board’s next meeting, rescheduled for December 19 at 6:30 p.m.

The Pitkin Avenue bike lane will also go before Community Board 16 at its next full board meeting on December 13 at 6:30 p.m.

This post has been updated to provide more information about Pennsylvania Avenue.