Even if you can’t pronounce the name, cyclists can breathe a sigh of relief on the newly fortified Schermerhorn Street bike lane following a major overhaul of the Downtown Brooklyn thoroughfare.
Officials cut the ribbon on the new, two-way protected bike lane along Schermerhorn Street Wednesday morning following several months of work. The new bike lane is painted green and features east-and-westbound lanes for cyclists; for motor vehicles, the street has been converted from a two-way thoroughfare into a one-way street going east between Smith Street and Third Avenue.
“This redesign of Schermerhorn St represents a complete transformation of the look and feel of the corridor,” said city Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “This used to be a chaotic two way street with rampant double parking. The standard bike lanes were often blocked, forcing cyclists to mix with vehicles in traffic. So DOT converted this street to one way, creating safe, parking protected bicycle lanes that separate cyclists from traffic.”
The old street design featured bike lanes in both directions that were often derided as dysfunctional, as they were unpainted and unprotected, and the roadway was constantly backed up by double-parked cars and trucks. The new bike lane is separated much further from the vehicle lane, and is protected from traffic by a parking lane.
Given its proximity to Downtown Brooklyn, the bike lane is heavily trafficked by cyclists, around 1,200 per day according to DOT data. But historically, the lane was skimpily maintained, leaving riders in for a slow, rough, and dangerous trek. 29 cyclists have been injured in collisions along the stretch of Schermerhorn between Smith and Third since 2012, according to NYC Crash Mapper. In 2013, a cyclist was killed after being struck by a pickup truck driver at Smith and Schermerhorn.
The city intends to build 30 miles of new protected bike lanes this year. Rodriguez noted that 20 miles of these intended bike lanes are already under construction.
The cause of improving the lane was championed by local City Councilmember Lincoln Restler, who earlier this year attempted the doomed-to-fail “Schermerhorn Challenge,” wherein any cyclist who could ride the whole stretch of Schermerhorn without ever leaving the bike lane, even if blocked, would win $100. Despite spending 41 minutes attempting to bike four blocks, Restler ultimately failed the challenge due to the prevalence of illegally-parked cars, often with city-issued placards on the dash.
“This is a great friggin day for Brooklyn,” said Restler. “Finally, finally, with a two way protected bike lane on Schermerhorn St, we have real safety in downtown Brooklyn.”
After fielding constituent complaints about how the conversion of Schermerhorn had impacted Downtown Brooklyn’s street grid, Restler joined State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon to write a letter to DOT requesting the city convert a block of Bond Street to northbound traffic only.
The ribbon-cutting on Schermerhorn is the start of what DOT promises to be a spooktacular “Biketober” with events promoting cycling all over the city, including bike light and bell giveaways, helmet fittings, and workshops to help children and adults learn to ride a two-wheeler.