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Two wheels good, four wheels bad

The Brooklyn Paper

Red Hook — haven for big box shoppers or the most bicycle friendly neighborhood in the city? Well, why not both?

One day before thousands of consumers were expected to drive through the neighborhood to the city’s first Ikea, an urban planning group announced a $10,000 contest to design bicycle parking and bike routes around Red Hook to help pedalists and motorists co-exist.

From one perspective, Red Hook is ideal for velocipedes because “there are a lot of one-way streets, and it’s relatively flat and compact,” said Lisa Chamberlain, executive director of the Forum for Urban Design, the architecture group overseeing the winner-take-all contest.

But on the other hand, the neighborhood is bracing for an increase in traffic to Ikea’s 1,400-space parking lot on Beard Street and a neighboring 1,200-car lot that will remain in service through Labor Day.

Entrants will be judged on three areas. First, they need to design a bike garage, like the ones in famous in peddle-pusher paradise, Amsterdam, with space for at least 100 penny-farthings. The garage would sit beneath the elevated Smith-Ninth subway station — the closest one to Red Hook.

New York does not have even one such place where cyclists can lock up their bikes, sheltered from the harsh elements.

Second, the brainstormers will also have to link the parking lot with lanes weaving riders through Red Hook — and, perhaps most important, contestants will also be judged on the feasibility and cost of their proposal.

“Some des ign competitions are very pie in the sky, but we had a goal of not being so imaginary,” said Chamberlain.

There are signs that Mayor Bloomberg, who has promised hundreds of miles of new bike lanes as part of his PlaNYC agenda, might support the winning submission. The competition’s judges include representatives from the Department of Transportation and the branch of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that oversees buses and subways.

For more information, visit www.forumforurbandesign.org/bikecomp.html. The deadline for submissions is July 18.

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