Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue bike lane is on a fast track.
City Council members were joined by DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and safe streets advocates in Sunset Park Wednesday, where they outlined plans to speed up the implementation of the delayed plan for a parking-protected bike lane on the avenue. The lane currently is only partially finished, forcing cyclists into quick-moving traffic and the dangerous area close to parked cars commonly referred to as the ‘door zone’.
“I am a proud New York cyclist, and one of the harder things for me as a cyclist is to be on a beautiful protected bike lane, and then abruptly it ends,” said City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park.
The announcement comes as the city grapples with a surge in cycling deaths. Eighteen cyclists have died on city streets in 2019 — eight more than the total cycling fatalities recorded in all of 2018. Of the bicyclists who have died this year, 13 were killed in Brooklyn. The most recent death was that of Em Samolewicz, who had been riding her bicycle on Third Avenue in Brooklyn on July 29th.
“How odd is it that the city is saying ‘get out of your cars and go on to your bikes,’ when there are people who are dying at higher rates than the year before?,” the councilman asked as MTA workers labored behind him in the sunny median of Fourth Avenue.
Ongoing surface-level construction work by the MTA often makes it impossible to get paint down, according to officials.
“And so today the city is responding, and they’re sitting down with us, and they’re trying to figure out how to solve these problems so that we can get the construction completed before the end of the year,” Menchaca added.
Commissioner Polly Trottenberg had arrived with a map detailing the expedited bike lane plan. With the stretch between 64th to 60th streets already completed, DOT crews will next wrap up the lane running from 57th to 38th streets by this fall. The three-block span between 60th to 57th streets won’t be completed until fall 2020 due to MTA construction in the area. A protected lane from 1st Street to Atlantic Avenue is still under development.
“We’re doing a lot of new work with protected cycling all over the city,” Trottenberg said. “Sunset Park is going to be a big area of focus for us."
The news of more protected lanes was welcomed by local cyclists, including Elizabeth King, 43, who was riding near Fourth Avenue.
“I would feel good about that. There’s a lot of traffic, so you want to be safe on your bike, you have to worry about car doors opening, cars whizzing by, speeding,” she said.
The bike lane currently covers 19 blocks, but DOT hopes to finish up most of the remaining sections by the fall, with a couple of trickier spots on hold until at least the fall of 2020.
“One of our sayings now is ‘we don’t leave any paint in the can at the end of the year,’” Trottenberg said.