The current set-up leaves drivers and bikers fighting for space on Franklin Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Empire Boulevard, with drivers sometimes forced to straddle two lanes to avoid bikers and bikers facing "a hostile bicycling environment," according to comments cited by the Department of Transportation in a presentation made to community boards 8 and 9.
The DOT plans to turn two combined driving and parking lanes that are each 17 feet wide into one 11-foot-wide driving lane, a 5-foot-wide bike lane and two 9-foot-wide parking lanes near the sidewalks.
The redesign would give the single lane for drivers more space and improve traffic flow, the DOT said.
Currently, a bike lane runs on Franklin Avenue from near the Brooklyn Navy Yard through Bedford-Stuyvesant, merging into traffic near Atlantic Avenue and ending at St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights. Before the bike lane extension begins, the plan must be considered by two community boards who disagree about the project.
The transportation committee of Community Board 8, which represents Prospect Heights and northern Crown Heights, voted to approve the plan last week, according to the DOT. The co-chair of the committee, Robert Witherwax, said he liked the planned changes to the avenue's signals, which will re-time traffic lights.
"One spacious lane moving more smoothly will move more cars, more rapidly and more safely, than two narrow lanes moving in a staggered fashion," he said in an email.
The full board will consider the plan on June 12.
But Community Board 9, which represents south Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, narrowly rejected the plan at a full board meeting earlier this month, with 11 votes against the plan, 10 votes in favor and 3 abstentions, according to CB9’s district manager. The vote was a surprise given the board’s history of support for bike lanes, according to the transportation publication Streetsblog, which first reported on the DOT proposal.
The DOT said CB9 plans to hold another vote on the issue later this month.
“We continue to work with CB9 on this proposal, which originated from community requests, and look forward to returning at an upcoming meeting,” DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said.
On the avenue on Monday, opinions were as mixed as the boards’ votes. Residents and drivers described the roadway as “a mess,” “dangerous” and “packed,” but were split on whether the DOT’s reconfiguration would solve the problem.
“Between the buses and the trucks and the general aggravation of this area, I wouldn’t recommend [a bike lane]," said Will Hudson, 25, a movie industry worker and resident of Crown Heights who drives on Franklin Avenue regularly. "I think Nostrand is better. Rogers has a little more room. Classon’s good. But Franklin — you just have a real high volume already.”
Some bikers had similar complaints about the crowded road but said they saw a bike lane as a solution.
"[Drivers] are always jockeying for position. It makes it precarious. I’ve seen cars come really close to bicycles," said Demir Osteen, a worker at Excelsior Bike Shop located on Franklin Avenue south of Prospect Place.
Osteen, 42, said the avenue is so unsafe he tells customers to test-ride bicycles on side streets.
The DOT's project can move forward without the approval (or lack thereof) from the community boards, though the agency will take their recommendations into account.