By Zach Campbell
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Department of Transportation last night unveiled plans for a redesign of the Plaza Street bike lane — a compromise between cyclists and motorists based on the design that was originally proposed alongside the 2010 redesign at Grand Army Plaza, but subsequently shelved amid the hysteria surrounding construction on Prospect Park West.
The proposed plan calls for a two-way lane to be installed over the street's current one-way bike lane. The Department of Transportation (DOT) noted that a substantial part of morning bike traffic ran against traffic and sought to make bike travel safer in either direction, particularly given that Plaza Street connects four arteries in Brooklyn's bike network and the Prospect Park loop.
The plan would also enhance pedestrian and driver safety, explained Josh Benson, who presented the DOT plan to the joint transportation committee meeting of community boards 6 and 8 Thursday night. It allows more space for parked cars and clearly delineates Plaza Street for only one lane of traffic. Currently the street is often used as a two-lane street.
Discourse at Thursday's meeting remained mostly civil, but the room seemed clearly divided based on preference for two wheels or four. One riled motorist complained of the air pollution coming from the Prospect Park West bike lane, arguing that slowed cars meant more exhaust and calling cyclists the "granola gestapo."
Chris Hrones, one of DOT's transportation coordinators, described the plan as an “unorthodox approach,” but one that would serve as a compromise among the interests of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
Still, some residents don't think the DOT plan is safe enough.
“No parent is going to let their kid ride in an unprotected lane,” one concerned parent said at the meeting, adding that she doesn't have to worry on Prospect Park West, where bicycle and car traffic are separated by a lane of parked cars.
While the planned lane will better accommodate cyclists moving in either direction, it significantly complicates car parking. Drivers will now have to cross two lanes of bike traffic to reach a parking spot.
“What happens when you're riding legally against the direction of automobile traffic and you find the bike lane completely blocked?” asked Doug Gordon, a cyclist and a member of the Community Board 6 (CB 6) transportation committee.
Benson conceded that, in this case, cyclists will be required to ride in the street against traffic.
“More protection is better than less, but still this isn't enough,” Gordon added. “This plan doesn't address the concerns of a mother or father who wants to ride with their kids.”
The new plan was presented alongside the 2010 plan, which called for a protected bike lane similar to the one on Prospect Park West. One of the concerns surrounding the lane was that it would have cut out close to one-third of the parking on that side of the street. Some residents also voiced concerns over the potential blocking of traffic from delivery vehicles or cars that illegally double-park.
“There's still a significant concern about cyclist safety,” said Eric McClure, a local transportation advocate and another member of CB 6's transportation community. “For anybody who spends time on Plaza Street, it's not unusual to see cars using the bike lane to pass or speed around cars.”
Both committees moved to endorse the new plan, and will send it to their respective community boards for review next month. CB 6 also included language that conditionally endorsed the proposal, provided DOT eventually transitions the Plaza Street lane to a protected bike lane.