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Call it ‘Fort Mean’: Nabe leads boro in bike crashes

The Brooklyn Paper

Fort Greene is Brooklyn’s most treacherous bicycling neighborhood, according to the city’s most-recent bike crash data.

Eight of the 21 most accident-prone Brooklyn intersections are located in Fort Greene–Clinton Hill — and residents think they know why.

“There’s no respect for bike lanes here,” said Cassidy Vare, owner of Bespoke Bicycles, who said drivers constantly speed on the narrow streets and often double-park in lanes. “It’s crazy.”

Roughly every two weeks, Vare said, a flustered cyclist limps into his Lafayette Street shop, seeking repairs on a car-crunched bicycle — often just minutes after an accident.

The data back up Vare, revealing that 25 of 62 serious bike accidents were in the neighborhood.

The statistics, compiled by the Department of Transportation, are from intersections with at least three bike crashes during 2008 and 2009, the latest available years. But the numbers confirm a simple fact of life for cyclists: the more bikers, the more crashes.

“Fort Greene is en route to Manhattan — and the more cyclists you have, in general, the more accidents you see,” said Michael Murphy, a spokesman for the cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “But, really, there are so many factors to consider.”

One factor could be the neighborhood’s historic hostility to bike lanes, which dates back to 2006, when locals rejected five miles of new bike lanes along Carlton and Willoughby avenues.

Earlier this year, residents objected to a city plan for a bike lane on Lafayette Avenue, and the plan was scrapped.

Still, it’s unclear if bike lanes help or hurt. Of the 25 “bike injury crashes” — cases in which cyclists report being physically injured during a collision with another vehicle — about half of the Fort Greene-Clinton Hill cases took place on posted cycle routes.

Indeed, the most precarious intersection in Fort Greene is Myrtle Avenue at Navy Street, with four reported bike injury cases in 2009. Both streets have bike lanes. Nearby Navy Street at Tillary Streets and DeKalb Avenue at Washington Avenue each had three cases.

That doesn’t surprise Diane Davidson, an analyst at the National Transportation Research Center, a non-profit that offers government consulting.

“Bike lanes don’t necessary improve safety at an intersection,” she said. “You still have to conduct a turning motion and the stripe doesn’t extend where streets meet. … It can provide a false sense of security.”

And it gets worse when you consider that most people don’t file a police report, said Vare.

“It happens more than you’d think,” he said.

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Reader Feedback

Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Wait, what does Tal think?
May 19, 2011, 7:31 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Is there a bike lane that has more people riding their bikes in the wrong direction than Dekalb's?
May 19, 2011, 10:47 am
sg from e. williamsburg says:
Lafayette ave is one of the most hazardous streets to ride. Cars speed and pass bikes way too close. I drive a car and I ride a bike.
Lafayette ave should have a bike lane. That would be a direct way to reach Bedford ave. So maybe people would not be riding De Kalb ave the wrong way (which in most cases delivery guys on bikes)
May 19, 2011, 11:30 am
D from Queens says:
"the more cyclists you have, in general, the more accents you see"

Eyyyy! Fixa you typos :)
May 19, 2011, 12:13 pm
sigh says:
Ironically, the Community Board shot down the proposed Lafayette Ave bike lane that would have gotten wrong-way riders off of DeKalb.
May 19, 2011, 12:55 pm
Aisha from Fort Green says:
"the more accents you see?" Fix the typo!
May 19, 2011, 3:52 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I don't think the neighborhood is hostile to bike lanes, they just see them as a waste of space most of the time. Many feel that because they are not used most of the year, they get looked as waste of taxpayer dollars that should go to something more important such as schools, hospitals, firehouses, senior centers, and other public places that need it more. However, I guess some don't care as long as they have their bike lanes. Also, some feel that because many cyclists don't follow the traffic laws, they don't deserve to have a bike lane, while others find the streets too narrow to even fit one. In other words, a bike lane on some of the streets will just make the traffic worse.
May 19, 2011, 10:21 pm
C from Clinton Hill says:
Willoughby has a bike lane running west-east -- the same direction the Lafayette lane would have run. One block from Dekalb in the other direction. It amazes me how difficult it seems to be for people to ride a single block in order to be going in the same direction as traffic.
May 20, 2011, 5:45 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
@Tal

When was the last time you were in Fort Greene?

Why do you say the bike lanes are "not used most of the year..."?
May 20, 2011, 6:42 am
NCB from Park Slope says:
I've resided in the vicinity for over 20yrs. I drive and use a bike. I know most will not like what I have to say but I'm not surprised. I believe that there will be more and more accidients. I have always maintained that it is unsafe to ride a bike on many streets in NYC. I can't tell you how many times I have almost hit cyclists and I'm one of the most careful drivers out there. It's just too dangerous! I personally would not ride my bike certain places and I think the city should reconsider this entire bike lane thing. Some streets are already too narrow to accomodate bike lanes. I think one of the worst set ups is the bike at Prospect Park West.
May 20, 2011, 9:38 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
Actually I think the pedestrian and bike safety problem in the neighborhood has to do with the amount of vehicle traffic through the area. Myrtle, Dekalb, Fulton, Lafayette, Navy/Ashland, and the whole Flatbush/Atlantic Target Pathmark clusterf-.... these streets carry very high volumes of traffic, dozens of bus routes, people going over the bridges, going to the BQE, going downtown, etc. - it's like living inside a highway interchange. The sides street are fine but I see a lot of aggressive, hurried driving and tons of cars on all the avenues. Too much traffic!
May 20, 2011, 10:13 am
marty from bklyn says:
too many cars, not enough bikes
May 20, 2011, 10:57 am
vanessa hamer from fort greene says:
If you're interested in getting involved, please join the Fort Greene Livable Streets Committee: streets[at] historicfortgreene [dot] org

We're planning on sending out a survey on these issues quite soon.

Three factors I've noticed:

- Lafayette is a death trap, and not just to cyclists. Kids, old folks, and even super healthy types are in danger when walking around the Laf - Fulton intersection. Which is too bad, it's smack in the middle of the business area in the nabe.

- A two-way, protected bike lane on DeKalb could really help move cyclists from other streets, and it would provide better park access (and prob slow down speeding, making it easier for families going to the park). Folks are right that there are a lot of salmon on DeKalb, but since it's the only E-W route with a lane, that's only natural!

- As someone else mentioned, there is a ton of through-traffic in the neighborhood, including lotsa trucks. In particular, Accessibility buses (many going to/from the Brooklyn Hospital Center) speed maniacally down the small side streets.

Of neighbors I've talked to about it, most have been supportive of traffic calming measures in the area, so I'm surprised that Fort Greene is described as hostile. Maybe the wrong people are on the CB?
May 20, 2011, 11:17 am
Mike says:
C misses the point entirely. There is no eastbound bike lane on Lafayette or Willoughby between Fort Greene Place and Carlton Ave. That is the most dangerous part of Lafayette Ave and the part where a bike lane is needed.
May 20, 2011, 11:27 am
Patrick from Fort Greene says:
@Vanessa - I agree that we should definitely have a bike lane on Lafayette. Coming into the neighborhood from points west is a mess without it and Lafayette as it currently is certainly is a death waiting to happen. A reconfiguration with a protected lane there could also help alleviate the ridiculously narrow sidewalks on the south side of Lafayette. I think this is preferable to a 2 way on DeKalb (which would quickly clog with strollers and pedestrians on weekends) and could better encourage cycling throughout Bed Stuy. However, given the resistance to just creating no parking times for vendors loading wares in and out of the flea it is unlikely this will happen unless residents aggressively campaign for it.

While we're at it, we absolutely and desperately need a stop sign on Washington Park at Willoughby. In the foreseeable future a pedestrian will die there if this is not done.

We could use a lot more policing of speeders as well. We are a crossroads of people driving into Manhattan, many at ridiculous speeds.
May 20, 2011, 12:22 pm
Station 44025 from Park slope says:
This just proves that protected bike lanes like the one on ppw and Kent ave are really the best for preventing all kinds of accidents and reducing speeding. The so-called "shared" lanes are basically a joke. They are just markings on the road indicating where cyclists should go to be doored and run over. As long as salmoning, riding on sidewalks and going through lights to avoid cars are the best ways to stay alive, people are going to keep doing those things. The only thing that will make people follow the rules will be a system that is actually designed to give cyclists safe, direct routes through the city. It doesn't have anything to do with what cyclists "deserve" or "earn," it's just good, proven public policy that benefits everyone.
May 20, 2011, 12:24 pm
J from South Slope says:
Is this really a question? It's moron drivers who feel the street belongs to cars. Bike lanes are for double parking in. I commute through FG and at times it's worse than Williamsburg, and that is saying a lot.
May 20, 2011, 1:33 pm
J from South Slope says:
Is this really a question? It's moron drivers who feel the street belongs to cars. Bike lanes are for double parking in. I commute through FG and at times it's worse than Williamsburg, and that is saying a lot.
May 20, 2011, 1:33 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
NCB says "Some streets are already too narrow to accomodate bike lanes," but that is, of course, not true at all. I bet those narrow streets could fit 2 bike lanes. It's better to say "Some streets are already too narrow for cars."
May 20, 2011, 2:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, I have been in Fort Greene numerous times within the last year, and that was mainly because of Atlantic Yards events. Therefore, you can't say I have never been there. The truth is that many outside the websites of bike zealots such as TA and Streetsblogs do see the bike lanes as a waste of website. I take it that you are not concerned about public schools, firehouses, senior centers, and other public places that can't stay up due to the lack of funds. Then again, all that matters to you as that you get your bike lanes and nothing else. I can imagine a cartoon showing all those places being closed down, and those on the bike lane saying, "Thank you for caring about us."
May 20, 2011, 7:43 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Thank you for caring , but the cost of bike lanes is tiny compared to the school budgets etc. They are a simple way of

a. giving cyclist a way to get from point a to point b
b. making is saver for people to cross the street by calming (yes slowing) auto traffic

and

c. making it easier to drive because you know where to expect a bike.
May 20, 2011, 8:55 pm
Aaron from Ft. Greene says:
Tal, I'm a biking advocate, but rest assured I care about all those other vital public services as well. Pretending that we have to make a choice between livable streets and those things is completely absurd, though. http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/02/17/one-winters-extra-pothole-costs-exceed-price-of-entire-dot-bike-program/
May 21, 2011, 4:49 am
judahspechal from bed-stuy says:
I give you that drivers are reckless, but so are bikers. I'm all for lanes, but let's get real. In FG Lafayette is one Blk from Fulton St, Bed-Stuy Bushwick, that distance is wider. So exactly where is that volume of traffic going when Lafayette is narrowed. Traffic maybe slowed, what of the volume, idling slow moving trucks. Willouby is far better for a bike lane, way less traffic. Starting from the park
May 21, 2011, 2:28 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Aaron, those public services I mentioned are used a lot more than the bike lanes ever are. Therefore, those needs are more important not to mention that many of them are the brink of closing, and Bloomberg is doing next to nothing to help. As a matter of fact, he puts his pet projects and rich buddies ahead of just about everything. Whatever is used more should be funded more, and bike lanes for the most part are on the lower part. One other thing, I don't find links from biased website such as Streetsblog especially when they have a history of twisting around information to make it work for them. BTW, even fixing potholes as a higher priority than bike lanes since many drivers use the road all times of the year unlike most cyclists.
May 21, 2011, 3:52 pm
Joe from Brooklyn says:
Yes on a Lafayette Av bike lane.
As for streets that are "too narrow" to accomodate bike lanes: that's debatable. If we didn't have free parking on both sides of our streets, up to 20 ft of road width would magically become available for widening sidewalks and adding new bike lanes.
May 21, 2011, 4:30 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Honestly, I find the sidewalks to be wide enough, but I guess that's not enough to the anti-car crowd or bike zealouts. I doubt that this has nothing to do with free parking. There are those who can afford meter parking for all day, and they do get filled once the meters are no longer in effect. Seriously, those who use bicycles to make most of their trips are still a small minority, not to mention a very small part on the recent study of the US Census Bereau. I was glad to read that letter on the Daily News today to hear from someone who agrees with me on Bloomberg's priorities on being wrong in how he can't seem to keep several Brooklyn firehouses open, but can spend so much on bike lanes. I am already starting to picture an end to the Bloomberg Dynasty already once he leaves office.
May 22, 2011, 5:34 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

The Census Bureau reports on who commutes daily to work by bike. Yes, small. But many use their bike regularly for many other reasons. You might know that if you got your information about Brooklyn from sources other than NBBL.

And Tal. you have no idea how much it costs to keep a firehouse open compared to the one time cost of a bike lane.

Lets just hope we can do both.
May 22, 2011, 8:57 pm
Truth says:
Tal doesn't live here, and doesn't know that the sidewalk on parts of Lafayette are literally 3 ft wide. You have to walk single-file. But what does he care, as long as the car lanes are unobstructed?

Everyone should seriously stop debating Tal. He's an autistic troll who has no idea what he's talking about and lives to make other people's lives less pleasant.
May 23, 2011, 1:16 pm

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