By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In what would be a major transformation of one of the city’s “Great Streets,” the Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to add eight miles of protected bike lanes to Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue, from Dean Street in Boerum Hill to 65th Street in Sunset Park.
Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a release on Thursday that the dramatic surge in cycling plus recent safety improvements have transformed thinking about the avenue, long one of the deadliest thoroughfares in the city.
Temporary measures that have already reduced serious pedestrian crashes on the avenue by 68 percent were expected to be made permanent this year. These include changed signal timing, narrowed travel lanes, some left turn restrictions, more visible crosswalks and speed cameras in several school zones. Citywide Vision Zero rules have also reduced the speed limit to 25 mph.
The demand for more and safer bike routes, however, prompted DOT to consider changing the plan, originally approved by three different community boards in 2011. Brooklyn experienced an 83 percent growth in daily cycling between 2010 and 2015, according to a DOT study, “Cycling in the City.”
The major change would be the addition of new parking-protected bike lanes on both sides of the street.
“The chance to redesign one of New York City’s ‘Great Streets’ may only come about every fifty years, and so it’s critical we get it right,” Trottenberg said.
While some drivers and pedestrians complain about the increasing number of cyclists on city streets, a DOT study found that streets with protected bike lanes provide safety benefits for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, with total injuries on those streets down by an average of 20 percent.
DOT said the proposed Fourth Avenue bike lane would be a “critical north-south thoroughfare” from 65th Street to Dean Street, connecting Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Park Slope to Downtown Brooklyn, and adding eight protected lane-miles to the city’s 1,100-mile bike-lane network.
DOT said that any proposed changes would maintain the safety benefits and esthetics of the earlier plan, including pedestrian refuge islands, greenery and art installations.
Many of the improvements, including the new bike lanes, could be installed on portions of the corridor as soon as this year, with major capital construction to follow, DOT said.
DOT plans to hold a workshop on the idea, with follow-up presentations to be scheduled with Community Boards 2, 6 and 7 and local stakeholders starting this month.
Elected officials representing communities along the Fourth Avenue corridor applauded DOT’s reconsideration of the avenue’s improvements.
“Sunset Park deserved better and we got it!” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca in a release. “New safety ideas for Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue came directly from residents who’ve seen dramatic improvements since its 2011 reconfiguration. Crashes are down, pedestrians are safer, and a once-intimidating speedway has shown its potential to better serve everyone.”
Menchaca thanked DOT and Sunset Park’s Community Board 7 “for accomplishing something government seldom does; pausing a large construction project, listening to the people, and considering additional options like pedestrian safety islands and protected bike lanes.”
Borough President Eric Adams, State Sen. Kevin Parker, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Councilmember Stephen Levin and Assemblymember Jo Ann Simon were also positive about DOT’s responsiveness to the communities involved.
“We will be living with these design changes for generations to come so it’s important that we get it right,” Simon said.