Brooklyn CB 1 Wants to Delay Metropolitan Ave Bridge Bike Lane Some More

CB 1 members cited this "extremely dangerous" left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT's proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Image: DOT
CB 1 members cited this “extremely dangerous” left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT’s plan for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Image: DOT

On Wednesday night, Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted 18 to 8 against a DOT plan to add a bike lane connecting Bushwick and Ridgewood via the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Technically, the board voted against making a recommendation on the project, but after two years of deliberation already, the decision to withhold an endorsement is tantamount to opposition.

The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is an important connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and points east, used by hundreds of cyclists each day. It’s also treacherous: Two cyclists were killed on the bridge between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. More than half of peak-hour drivers on the bridge travel above the speed limit.

DOT’s plan would remove one westbound car lane to make room for painted bike lanes. It has been in the works since 2012. Under the plan, the buffered eastbound bike lane would extend all the way to Onderdonk Avenue, while the westbound lane would give way to sharrows on the bridge [PDF].

Despite the years of back-and-forth on the minute details of the project, the board continues to withhold its support. In an unsigned email statement to Streetsblog, CB 1 said DOT’s project “failed to address” the “extremely dangerous” left turn from westbound Metropolitan Avenue onto Varick Avenue, just east of the bridge.

The motion to table the project was made by transportation chair Vincent Gangone during his committee report, according to board member Ryan Kuonen, who said board members in favor the project were “very upset” by the move.

DOT first presented the plan to CB 1’s transportation committee in June 2014. The agency returned to CB 1 about a year later, after collecting feedback from local businesses, and was told to present the plan again in the fall. At June’s full board meeting and again at a transportation committee meeting earlier this month, DOT presented an updated version of the proposal.

“They [the board’s leadership] keep couching that they’re in favor of it and it will pass, but they just want to get it perfect,” Kuonen said. “Unfortunately, there’s a very strong anti-bike thing going on with a lot of the members. A lot of the older members equate bikers with gentrification.”

One traffic injury occurred at the intersection with Varick Avenue in 2015, fewer than at all but one of the other intersections in the project area. District Manager Gerald Esposito raised concerns about the left turn there at DOT’s presentation to the transportation committee earlier this month, suggesting that it be modified or eliminated, but he and the board members present were otherwise positive about the proposal.

DOT can proceed with the project without the board’s endorsement if it chooses. Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the area, has previously cited this project as an example of the limitations of the city’s community board process, arguing that CB 1 should give input, but not have veto power on street safety projects.

Reynoso has said he is “extremely supportive” of the project. (We were unable to elicit a comment from him before we posted this story.)

“After presenting the bike lane project to the CB 1’s Transportation Committee multiple times, the full Community Board decided to table the vote on this bike lane project,” said a DOT spokesperson. “We are working diligently with the full CB 1 to address their concerns and hope to install the bike lane before this coming winter.”