Bicycling and Transportation Justice


In advance of the bike-sharing roll out, a Gotham Gazette article looks into how and where the city installs bike lanes, and cites a study by Hunter students: “The Hunter students warn that we could be developing an even more segregated system of transportation: bicycle lanes, public plazas, and a safe and healthier environment in the wealthiest parts of the city – Manhattan below 96th Street and Brooklyn’s upscale neighborhoods – where bike lanes are concentrated and heavily used, while the rest of the city gets congested roadways, declining bus service, and unsafe conditions. Some people mistakenly think that bike lanes cause gentrification; this is clearly not true since cyclists in New York are truly a diverse population, representative of the majority which is Latino, African American, and Asian. But the myth is perpetuated by many real estate developers anxious to sell their new condos. Though bike lanes don’t cause racial, ethnic and class divisions, if they are perceived as only for the affluent young newcomers in spandex , and everyone else is invisible, the bike network won’t serve the majority of the population.” The article suggests that in some cases anti-bike community board members have too much of a say and have impeded the installation of bike lanes.
Making Bikes a Part of the Neighborhood [Gotham Gazette]

18 Comment

  • If Sadik-Khan had put an indentical bikepath on Flatbush from GAP to Parkside, it would have not only been a non-issue, but would have sent a positively magnanimous message to the communities south of the park, most of which are minority-majority. instead, Sadik-khan felt the need for a pep rally. too bad she listened to her triumvirate of white boys (orcutt, white & russo). i know those fellas don’t live, spend a lot of time in or know anyone from East Flatbush or Central Brooklyn.

    • Why is the use of the phrase “white boys” not at all troubling to you considering you are suggesting that transportation solutions be race-neutral?

      • that is precisely the problem! TA (and its ilk) is super white and super educated and super hipster-black glasses wearing! As such, they have zero chance of connecting with people outside their comfort zone. That is a real problem in a place like Brooklyn where close to a million people are black and Latino. As long as the messengers are overwhelming white and male, it is not much of movement, but rather an echo chamber.

    • Yeah, I’m sure traffic and parking were not considerations on Flatbush. Only race.

  • Maura’s comment doesn’t really make sense. Between GAP and Parkside there aren’t many cross streets and there are virtually no pedestrians. Calming traffic in a dense neighborhood with lots of people and cross streets (and sociopathic drivers who went way too fast for conditions) was part of the point of the PPW project. Also, if there are no cross streets then it really is viable to just ride through the park, as opposed to on PPW where tons of people are making local trips around the neighborhood.

    The most important issue, perhaps, is that tons of Park Slope locals, including their Community Board, were clamoring for these improvements for years and years. There was no — NO — comparable movement on Flatbush. So you expected DOT to ignore the communities requesting traffic calming and bike facilities and instead put the improvements somewhere else out of a misplaced sense of racial justice?

    • so bike lanes shouldn’t be ubiquitous, but fetishized in certain communities where TA has a stronghold? Other places should go without because TA too scared or maybe it doesn’t make sense from a fundraising perspective to organize in black neighborhoods. wow, maybe all public infrastructure should be delivered akin to voting for the homecoming queen?

      • one more thing. the good folks in sunset park have been fighting for a greenway along the waterfront for over 15 years with the full support of all the local stakeholders. where is their bikepath?? how come Sadik-Khan didn’t wave her magic wand on 2nd Avenue?

      • I’ll bet any amount of money Maura never showed up at a TA meeting and tried to recruit people to join her in organizing in a black neighborhood. But I suppose Maura is busy and the TA volunteers aren’t.

        Of course if TA did do more of such organizing, and faced any opposition, Maura would accuse them of being whites who thought they knew what was best for blacks.

        • I actually do go to meetings in my neighborhood regarding biking all the time. Huge portions of the most popular bikepaths in NYC, the Belt Parkway Bike Path, have been underwater for the past five years!!! All the relevant agencies (DOT, NPS & Parks) say it’s not their job to fix it. While there’s been much public outcry from residents of Canersie, Spring Creek and East New York, the matter never made it on the bike advocates’ radar screen. Ironically, the heros in here are two so-called motorheads – Filder and Weiner – which forced the Army Corp to take over the restoration. I’m sure those TA freedom fighters were too busy with the Ralph Lauren Tweed ride to schlep out to Marine Park for the public meetings.

  • Maura’s comment doesn’t really make sense. Between GAP and Parkside there aren’t many cross streets and there are virtually no pedestrians. Calming traffic in a dense neighborhood with lots of people and cross streets (and sociopathic drivers who went way too fast for conditions) was part of the point of the PPW project. Also, if there are no cross streets then it really is viable to just ride through the park, as opposed to on PPW where tons of people are making local trips around the neighborhood.

    The most important issue, perhaps, is that tons of Park Slope locals, including their Community Board, were clamoring for these improvements for years and years. There was no — NO — comparable movement on Flatbush. So you expected DOT to ignore the communities requesting traffic calming and bike facilities and instead put the improvements somewhere else out of a misplaced sense of racial justice?

  • Actually, there aren’t a lot of pedestrians on Flatbush between GAP and Empire, but there are tons from Empire to Parkside and each of the cross streets gets way more traffic because there are fewer of them. In fact, I’d argue that there was more of a fit for a protected bike lane as DOT took the street down from 6 lanes (2 parking, 4 travel) to 4 lanes (2 parking, two travel), as a traffic calming measure. Not to mention that the area close to Empire is extremly pedestrian heavy at certain times of day as groups going into BBG and the Zoo use the Flatbush entrances regularly.

    I don’t understand had creating facilities equally for wealthy and less wealthy communities is misplaced racial justice. On the PPW side of the park, you can now ride north or south on a protected bike lane. On the Flatbush side, you have to contend with two-way traffic with no bike lanes, and can only use the loop inside the park to go south. Everyone knows that the east side of the park gets less in the way of attention and amenities, and now, stating that fact is misplaced racial justice? Wow…

    • Actually, traffic is horrendous on Flatbush from Empire, but speeding traffic is not the problem there, so a bike path for traffic calming would not make a lot of sense in that way. Bicycles have an OK path on Bedford, plus to and from routes to the park on Lincoln and Maple. I would support making the existing lanes on Bedford separated.

      Also- can you go southbound inside the Park? I didn’t think so, so I would look at creating additional bike lanes next to the park on Ocean to permit bike traffic to easily go southward toward the parade ground. However, Ocean there is 2 lanes each way, so removing one lane for bike traffic would involve either converting the rest of Ocean to one way auto traffic or else something weird. I don’t think they can easily convert the sidewalk here for bicycle lanes because the park is landmarked.

    • Actually, traffic is horrendous on Flatbush from Empire, but speeding traffic is not the problem there, so a bike path for traffic calming would not make a lot of sense in that way. Bicycles have an OK path on Bedford, plus to and from routes to the park on Lincoln and Maple. I would support making the existing lanes on Bedford separated.

      Also- can you go southbound inside the Park? I didn’t think so, so I would look at creating additional bike lanes next to the park on Ocean to permit bike traffic to easily go southward toward the parade ground. However, Ocean there is 2 lanes each way, so removing one lane for bike traffic would involve either converting the rest of Ocean to one way auto traffic or else something weird. I don’t think they can easily convert the sidewalk here for bicycle lanes because the park is landmarked.

  • The problem is that the Community Boards and City Council members in some areas of Brownstone Brooklyn are far friendlier to traffic calming and bike lanes than their counterparts in neighborhoods such as Sunset Park, Flatbush, Midwood, and elsewhere. Even if a concerned group of community members lobbied for bike lanes out there, their efforts might fall on deaf ears. There’s an entrenched car culture in many Brooklyn neighborhoods that makes change an uphill battle.

    The PPW bike lane was the perfect storm of active civic engagement, a responsive Community Board, and intelligent political leaders such as Brad Lander who don’t have a knee-jerk opposition to anything that changes the street in a way that doesn’t favor cars. Compare him to DOT haters like Recchia or Hikind and you’ll understand why even the most active civic organization in some neighborhoods can’t get simple traffic calming measures installed.

    Economics are definitely a factor — sometimes it takes money to have the luxury to organize around these causes — but politics is a bigger one. If the political leaders could stand up and demand more equality in this area, it would get done. So far, only Letitia James has done much in this regard.

    • in the case of sunset park, there is huge support from the local electeds and even big $$$, but building there doesn’t get Sadik-Khan & Co the adoration of their fanbase or the keynote at the bike geek conference. silly me, she’s not a public servant, she’s a celebrity! maybe she’ll get her own Bravo reality show.

  • DOT has full-time staff working on the Brooklyn Greenway, including the Sunset Park section. It is moving forward. Slowly, maybe, but it is moving forward. I agree that it needs to get done ASAP.