Disjointed street design changes coming to Kingston Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue illustrate how DOT’s sheepish approach to bike lane implementation interferes with the development of a connected bike network.
At Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, these north-south routes connect with Tompkins Avenue and Throop Avenue, which both have bike lanes. But for years, the bike lanes didn’t extend south of Fulton into Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
Kingston and Brooklyn, already marked on the city’s bike map as “potential future bicycle routes,” run through an area with one of the city’s higher bike-to-work commute rates. They connect with east-west bike lanes on Eastern Parkway, Empire Boulevard, East New York Avenue, and Maple Street. They are natural candidates for a bike lane extension.
The mile-and-a-half stretch crosses three community boards — CB 3 in Bed-Stuy, CB 8 in Crown Heights, and CB 9 south of Eastern Parkway. Instead of bringing a cohesive project to all three boards, DOT proposed three different designs, one for each community board.
Community Board 9 has a mixed record on bike lanes — its members pushed DOT to add them to an Empire Boulevard road diet in 2009, yet weren’t able to muster enough votes last year to support a road diet with bike lanes on Franklin Avenue.
On both Kingston and Brooklyn, DOT proposed keeping two motor vehicle lanes on the southernmost blocks near Kings County Hospital and going down to one lane north of Lefferts Avenue. Though there is plenty of room for bike lanes in CB 9, the plan doesn’t include them. Instead, parking lanes on both sides of the street would be enlarged to up to 13 feet wide [PDF].
Why didn’t DOT propose extending the bike lanes south into CB 9? I asked DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo after a press conference this morning. “There’s differences in widths and traffic flow, and those sorts of things,” he said.
Later, he cited rapid neighborhood change as a factor. “Have you read any coverage of CB 9? They are literally disintegrating because of gentrification. Literally disintegrating,” Russo said, referring to rancor over a rezoning study for Empire Boulevard.
Trouble is, ditching the bike lanes didn’t help DOT get CB 9’s support. Although its transportation committee backed the proposal in June [PDF], the full board voted it down later that month, DOT says.