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Residents of East Flatbush and Canarsie want the just-installed Rockaway Parkway bike lane removed before someone gets hurt.
The city installed the cycle route on the dangerous strip between East New York and Ditmas avenues a month ago — but Community Board 17, which was not consulted beforehand, think the new lane is a disaster waiting to happen.
“You’d have to be out of your mind to ride a bike on Rockaway Parkway, the way those cars move down that avenue,” said CB17 Chairman Terry Hinds at Wednesday night’s board meeting at Brookdale Hospital Center.
East Flatbush activist Burchell Marcus directly called for the city to reverse course.
“The bike lanes should be removed,” he said. “Hardly any bikes travel down Rockaway Parkway because it’s dangerous.”
Others slammed Department of Transportation officials for a bike lane that is unsafe for drivers, too.
“You’ve got to see the racing that goes on now since you put in the bike lanes,” said Porra Hope.
A representative of the hospital specifically complained that the cycle path at the medical center is a shared lane rather than a dedicated bike lane, making it unsafe because the hospital gets regular deliveries and handles emergency vehicles.
“Ambulettes parking to let people off at the nursing home have to park in the bike lane,” said hospital executive Phoebe Layne. “Deliveries are going to impede the bike lane. It was an ill-thought-out process to even look at putting bike lanes by a hospital.”
Actually, it was, said city officials, who said that the bike lane would enhanced safety along the strip, where three pedestrian were killed, and 81 severely injured, in crashes since 2005 — stats that indicate that this stretch of Rockaway Parkway is one of the most dangerous in the city.
“The impetus for this project was pedestrian safety, to further slow down traffic,” said agency planner Gary Washinsky. “The general policy the city has now is to make the streets better for all users.”
In addition to the bike lane, the cicy installed left turn lanes and striped pedestrian refuge areas in the middle of the street.
The roadwork is part of the city’s controverisial “Bicycle Master Plan,” which calls for 200 miles of new lanes over a three-year period, with 50 miles of bike lane each year after that until 2030, when the bike network is expected to be finished.
Around Brooklyn, the bike lanes are seen as boon or bane, depending on how popular bikes are as a means of transport and relaxation in each community.
Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods tend to favor the installations, while communities further afield which rely more on cars tend to look askance at them. Indeed, at the Community Board 17 meeting, most thumbs were down on the city’s Rockaway Parkway effort.
“Since the bike lane, traffic has really built up,” said Moreen King, a member of CB17. “I think what you guys want to see is people die faster.”
But Murray Lantner, who rides his bike out to Canarsie and the Rockaways from Midwood, said he applauds the new bike lanes, including the one on Rockaway Parkway, because they provide safe passage to him and his fellow cyclists.
“I’ve ridden on Rockaway Parkway before the bike lanes, and it was definitely a harrowing experience,” Lantner said.
The lack of large numbers of cyclists in areas such as East Flatbush and Canarsie shouldn’t stop the city from putting in bike lanes in those neighborhoods, Lantner added.
“I think it’s important to give people the opportunity to cycle safely,” he said.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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