Since 2016, members of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group Tansalt have been petitioning for a new bike lane along Flatbush Avenue between Grand Army Plaza and Empire Boulevard.

The proposal for a two-way protected bike lane has garnered over 1200 signatures as well as support from the Prospect Park Alliance and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. But new bike lanes in the city have historically been contentious, and not all residents are getting behind the campaign.

The section of Flatbush Avenue in question is bordered by Prospect Park to the west and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to the east, and features a stretch of road with no cross streets or intersections to slow traffic. According to the petition, many drivers speed through this wide roadway. As a result, cyclists have started riding along the sidewalks to avoid speeding drivers, which puts pedestrians at risk.

Transalt released this illustration of the proposed Bike Lane along with the petition in 2016. Image courtesy of Transalt

Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident Nora, who was biking along Flatbush near Empire Boulevard with her two children on September 20, is one such cyclist.

“I’m nervous every time I ride through here,” she said. “We ride on the sidewalk by the park, because I can’t let the kids ride on the street.”

Cyclist Will, who moved to the area four months ago, also liked the idea of a new bike lane. “I think the more bike lanes, the better,” he said.

A cyclist at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard. Photo credit: Alex Williamson for BK Reader.

Lifelong Crown Heights resident Raymond, who was parking along the botanic garden on September 24, didn’t agree. “They can already ride through the park,” he said. “To me, it’s just not needed.”

“It’s nice to go for a leisurely ride through the park,” said Keegan, who has lived in the neighborhood for a little over a year and enjoys riding his bike. “But a bike lane would be nice for people commuting. It would be a little more expeditious.”

The rapid gentrification of Crown Heights, Flatbush and Prospect Heights is also a concern for bike lane opponents, who often view them as harbingers of shifting neighborhood character, Transalt activist Cal de Jesus knows.

Cal DeJesus with fellow Transalt member. Photo credit: Cal DeJeus/ Twitter.

“You have some people who link bike lanes to gentrification,” she said. “As if only white people ride bikes.”

Unlike the campaign for a bike lane along the west side of the park, a battle which garnered heated criticism and even a lawsuit, the Flatbush Avenue proposal has stirred up less controversy – so far.

“The community response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said DeJesus. “Most of the backlash has been online from comments to news stories about the petition, or in the neighborhood Facebook group.”

The Department of Transportation is currently in the designing stage, and they will present the bike lane proposal to local community boards once it’s complete.

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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

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