Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 2′s Transportation and Public Safety Committee voted 8 to 1 (with one abstention) to support DOT’s proposal to install sharrows on Lafayette Avenue between Fulton Street and Classon Avenue. The vote comes after DOT abandoned a bike lane concept in 2010, spurring neighborhood residents to gather 1,400 signatures seeking a solution to improve safety on the busy one-way street.
Hilda Cohen of Make Lafayette Avenue Safer speaks at last night's CB 2 meeting. Photo: Stephen Miller
The DOT plan includes two major components. First, it would slow the timing sequence of Lafayette Avenue’s traffic signals from 25 mph to 20 mph. By doing this, DOT hopes to reduce speeding by drivers who are trying to catch lights before they turn red. Presently, 39 percent of drivers on Lafayette Avenue are exceeding the 30 mph speed limit. Signal retimings for 20 mph have already been put in place on Eighth Avenue in Park Slope and Court Street south of Atlantic Avenue. “You don’t notice it as a motorist,” explained DOT’s Preston Johnson, “but the experience for pedestrians and cyclists is much improved.”
Second, DOT will install sharrows on the left lane of Lafayette Avenue, leading cyclists to ride outside the path of B38 buses in the right lane. As on First and Second Avenues in Manhattan, the sharrows will be accompanied by signage informing motorists that passing cyclists within the lane is prohibited.
At last night’s meeting, DOT explained that Lafayette Avenue handles 769 cars per hour during the evening rush. Removing a general travel lane for a bike lane, the agency said, would affect traffic flow too much for it to consider the option.
The neighborhood group pushing for improvements, Make Lafayette Avenue Safer, welcomed the sharrows as an improvement that will clearly indicate where cyclists belong on the street. But the group also called on DOT to be more innovative with its plan to protect bike riders.
At last night’s meeting, Make Lafayette Avenue Safer’s Hilda Cohen presented sharrow enhancements in Boston, Salt Lake City, and Long Beach, California, such as painted pavement or dashed lines bracketing the bike stencil, that she said would be effective on Lafayette Avenue. Cohen also noted after the meeting that most of the route on Lafayette Avenue is uphill, making it difficult for slow-moving cyclists to assert their place in the middle of a lane.
“I will be happy for Lafayette Avenue sharrows,” said Ali Loxton, a member of Make Lafayette Avenue Safer who rides a cargo bike with her children. “And I will be aware of the cars coming behind me.” The group isn’t giving up on the goal of a bike lane on Lafayette.