WILLIAMSBURG — A two-way bike lane is coming to the southern section of Kent Avenue this month, as part of a plan to slow traffic and allow bikers to remain on the street rather than share the sidewalk with pedestrians.
The bike lane improvements are part of a Department of Transportation plan that was introduced in December, with the goal to deter speeding on Kent Avenue from Williamsburg Street West to Clymer Street. According to DOT officials, the plan is slated to be complete at the end of May.
“Making the Kent Avenue bike lane and greenway fully protected is a really important step forward for cycling and walking and driving in that part of Brooklyn,” said Miller Nuttle, a campaign director with Transportation Alternatives.
“A really great safe bike lane will encourage people to ride their bikes more,” he added.
The DOT plan cites data from a 2013 study, which found that 82 percent of northbound and 18 percent of southbound drivers exceeded the speed limit on Kent. The study also found that weekend bike ridership more than tripled between 2008 and 2010, with a 62 percent increase on the weekdays as well.
Under the new plan, Kent Avenue will be narrowed to one lane in both directions. On the northbound side, the bike path will become two ways, with northbound bikers no longer forced to use the wide sidewalk during part of their ride.
Nuttle said this improvement is especially welcome by bikers.
“It’s not intuitive and it encourages behavior that the city discourages elsewhere, which is incongruous,” he said, referring to the policy of directing bikers to share the sidewalk with pedestrians on Kent Avenue.
Sean Rameswaram, 29, a Williamsburg resident who estimated he bikes on Kent Ave on a weekly basis, said extending the two-way bike lanes is a no-brainer.
“Hopping onto the sidewalk on Kent is always a cumbersome sharp turn at a busy intersection, and seldom safer than just biking against traffic in the bike lane,” he said. “Once you're on the sidewalk, there are major gaps and uneven surfaces to negotiate, on top of blind spots caused by parked cars.”
The plan will remove a parking lane from the southbound lanes of traffic on Kent Avenue, to make room for the two-way bike lane, as well as a protective buffer between bikers and cars. Parking will be available on both sides of the northbound part of the road instead, eliminating a lane of traffic.
In accordance with the plan to decrease speeds in the area, the DOT also installed a traffic signal at the intersection of Kent Avenue and Hooper Street in November. A light was added at Kent Avenue and Wilson Street as well, the location of the fatal hit-and-run in May 2013 that killed Nachan and Raizel Glauber, a couple expecting a child, on their way to the hospital.
Nuttle said Transportation Alternatives had been pushing to improve Kent Avenue before the tragic crash.
“We know that wider streets in general encourage speeding, especially streets that are wide and have low traffic volume,” he said.
“I think it’s one of the really great benefits of adding the protected bike lane — it will really narrow that dangerously wide part of the street that right now is enabling the drivers to speed with impunity.”