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Heated Town Hall on Clinton Hill Bike Lane Spills Over Into Second Day

By Alexandra Leon | May 18, 2016 8:58am | Updated on May 18, 2016 10:01am
 Hundreds of Clinton Hill residents showed up for Community Board 2's transportation committee meeting Tuesday to discuss a proposed two-way bike lane that would turn Clinton Avenue into a one-way street. The meeting will resume on Thursday, when the committee will vote on the proposal.
Hundreds of Clinton Hill residents showed up for Community Board 2's transportation committee meeting Tuesday to discuss a proposed two-way bike lane that would turn Clinton Avenue into a one-way street. The meeting will resume on Thursday, when the committee will vote on the proposal.
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DNAinfo/Alexandra Leon

CLINTON HILL — A heated town hall-style meeting on a controversial Clinton Hill bike lane spilled over into two days after 90 people signed up to speak Tuesday night — but less than 22 of them had time to step up to the mic.

Community Board 2’s transportation committee meeting on the Department of Transportation’s proposal to add a two-way, parking-protected bike lane to Clinton Avenue will resume Thursday at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, at 52 Gates Ave.

Although CB 2’s transportation committee normally votes on agenda items before hearing public comment, the committee moved its meeting to a larger location and opened the floor to residents after receiving sharp backlash from critics of the proposal.

Many longtime residents are fiercely opposed to the project, saying it would limit street access for the elderly, block trucks from making deliveries and increase traffic on nearby streets.

“We have many elderly in the area and their needs must come first, they have fewer options than the young and healthy,” Lafayette Avenue resident Lucy Koteen said.

And despite ramped up community outreach by the DOT, those in opposition have criticized the agency saying it did not consult community members while drafting the proposal.

“I feel like settlers have tried to come into the community and tell the neighborhood what to do,” Vanderbilt Avenue resident Esther Blount said.

READ MORE: You Told Us: Should the DOT Add a Protected Bike Lane to Clinton Avenue?

Meanwhile, cyclists are defending the project, citing safety concerns in the wake of two recent cyclist fatalities in Clinton Hill and nearby Park Slope.

Shawn Onsgard, a resident who bikes daily with his wife and two children, said he would use the protected bike lane every day.

“I think motorists would all enjoy having cyclists separated from them by a row of parked cars,” Onsgard said. “They don’t see it as an opportunity to help us share the road even better together.”

Onsgard said he worries those who oppose the bike lane do so because they don’t identify personally with cyclists.

“I feel like people oppose this stuff because they don’t like bicyclists, because there’s an image problem that bicyclists have,” Onsgard said.

Council Member Laurie Cumbo and Public Advocate Tish James, who both spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, acknowledged the need for safer routes for cyclists, but ultimately shot down the project, calling for greater community involvement in the planning process and a compromise that could satisfy both sides of the community.

► READ MORE: Longtime Residents Fear Bike Lane Will 'Trap' Them in Clinton Hill

The proposal, presented by DOT before the town hall session, would turn Clinton Avenue, now a two-way street, into a one-way northbound street, with one travel lane, two parking lanes, a pedestrian island and the bike lane.

The proposed bike lane would be the city’s first two-way, protected bike lane along a residential street, according to the DOT, which said that this type of lane is typically seen along a park or a greenway.

The DOT says the project would calm traffic on the residential street, on which 24 percent of cars going northbound speed during off-peak hours.

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“This isn’t all about bikes, it’s about pedestrians as well, and about making it safer for everyone in the neighborhood,” DOT’s Director of Greenways Ted Wright said.

Since 2009, 25 cyclists and 30 pedestrians have been injured in crashes along Clinton Avenue between Atlantic and Flushing avenues, according to city data. No fatalities were reported in that time.

While the DOT says it considered alternatives like the adjacent Vanderbilt Avenue — which currently sees 1,900 daily cyclists on shared traffic lanes between Gates and Flushing avenues — that street is too narrow and too heavily trafficked to accommodate a two-way bike lane. 

READ MORE: Proposed Bike Lane Would Make Clinton Avenue a One-Way Street

By adding the bike lane to Clinton Avenue, which sees relatively low vehicular traffic, fewer cars would have to be diverted to neighboring streets with a switch to a one-way travel lane, the DOT said.

Models suggest neighboring streets like Waverly, Vanderbilt and Washington avenues would be able to absorb southbound traffic from Clinton Avenue without causing backups, the DOT said.

Clinton Avenue is also wider than Vanderbilt Avenue, meaning more space to build out a bike lane and a smaller loss in parking, the DOT said.

While the proposed bike lane would take away about 35 parking spots from Clinton Avenue, the DOT would have to remove an entire parking lane from Vanderbilt Avenue if the bike lane were created there, Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Sean Quinn said.

The new bike lane would adopt cyclists who currently use the more dangerous shared lanes on Vanderbilt Avenue to travel north-south, according to the DOT.

As of 2009, 94 cyclists have been injured riding along Vanderbilt Avenue between Atlantic and Flushing avenues, city data shows. No fatalities were reported in that time period.

The proposal also includes safer pedestrian crosswalks, a curved bike lane on intersections to slow cyclist traffic, potential loading zones for Access-a-Ride vans and delivery trucks, a shared bike lane on one block of Gates Avenue connecting Vanderbilt and Clinton avenues, and a potential new crossing for pedestrians and vehicles over Atlantic Avenue on Waverly Avenue and St. James Place.

The DOT says new loading zones could result in the loss of additional parking spaces, but that the agency would be working with community members to decide where those spots should go.

CB 2’s transportation committee will vote on the proposal on Thursday, May 19 following the remainder of the public comment session. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Brown Memorial Baptist Church at 52 Gates Ave.

The full board will vote on the proposed bike lane at 6 p.m. on June 8 at St. Ann’s Warehouse at 45 Water St.