New 2-way bike lane signals a reimagined Downtown Brooklyn
After years of advocacy, biking down Schermerhorn will be safer
“This is the future of New York City,” NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said at Monday’s ribbon cutting to celebrate the transformation of Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The event, part of the city’s “Biketober,” was attended by a crowd of officials and bicycle advocates who gathered at Hoyt and Schermerhorn streets.
The heavily-trafficked two-lane road has been substantially converted into a two-way protected bike lane, with one-way vehicle traffic and new pedestrian space. The new street design will save lives, and also complement a plan to create a greener, “people-focused” business district in Downtown Brooklyn, officials said.
“What we’ve done with Schermerhorn Street represents a complete transformation in the look and feel of the corridor,” Rodriguez told the crowd. “This used to be a chaotic two-way street with rampant double parking. The standard bike lane was often blocked, forcing cyclists to enter into vehicular traffic.”
Under the “shared streets” concept, “We are reimagining our use of public space in Downtown Brooklyn,” he said. “A disproportionate amount of street space is dedicated to cars and other vehicles. Shared streets use design that naturally slow vehicle traffic to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, who are the majority in our city. These shared streets are being built with amenities like bike parking, and they represent a critical step in elevating safe, sustainable and efficient alternate transportation, while creating more vibrant public space that supports the local economy.”
“All roads lead to Downtown Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Lincoln Restler, who represents the district. “This is personal for me. I bike through these streets every single day. As a candidate for office, I said making Schermerhorn Street safe was one of my top priorities and I’m fortunate that we have such a receptive partner in DOT who is committed to make it happen.”
Restler said that when his team came into office at the beginning of this year, “We participated in something called the Schermerhorn Challenge. We did our best to try to stay in the bike lane and bike down Schermerhorn Street on a February day. It took us 45 minutes to bike five blocks, because there were cars parked in the bike lane at every step of the way. It was wildly dangerous. And it was wildly dangerous for the thousands of people that come by Schermerhorn Street every day. That has changed overnight.”
The two-way bike lane “will connect folks coming in from all over Manhattan into Brooklyn, and from so many neighborhoods that go through Downtown Brooklyn over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges,” he added.
Restler gave a shout-out to his predecessor Stephen Levin, who also worked on getting the bike lane built, and to the leadership of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which aims to reclaim Downtown Brooklyn’s public streets for pedestrians, as mapped out in its Downtown Brooklyn Open Realm Plan.
“The Downtown Brooklyn Public Realm Action Plan is a really visionary approach,” Restler said.
Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and a force behind the Action Plan, said she was thrilled with the Schermerhorn Street transformation. Other streets in the area are also in the process of becoming shared streets.
“This is really our vision for Downtown Brooklyn … What we are doing here today is showing that Downtown Brooklyn — which we all know is the center of our borough — needs accessible, connected streets,” she said. “Everybody comes through Downtown Brooklyn to live, to work, to go to school, to shop.
“Generationally, everybody was focused on getting across the bridges to get into Manhattan,” Myer added. “Well this is not about that. This is about connecting our neighborhoods, connecting the people who work here and who live here, and letting everybody be connected safely and in a way that really keeps them coming back and loving our neighborhood.”
A moment of silence was held for an unnamed cyclist who was killed Monday morning, hit by a tractor-trailer on a non-truck route.
“This is the 15th cyclist and 192nd person killed this year so far by traffic violence,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Elizabeth Adams. “It is a direct result of not having enough protected space to bike on our streets.”
She added, “It is clear that New Yorkers are calling for a more bike-accessible city. This year, thanks to the mayor and the city council, they committed over $900 million to fund and implement the New York City Streets plan.” The plan aims to build 30 miles of new protected bike lanes this year.
“The new Schermerhorn bike lane is an incredible step forward in making our streets safer, cleaner, accessible and reaching that 30 miles,” she said.
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