Biking in Brooklyn shouldn’t be fatal.
That’s why newly-elected Councilmember Chi Ossé has set one of his primary goals as installing a protected bike lane on Bedford Avenue, one of Brooklyn’s most dicey streets for cyclists.
Ossé, who represents Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights’ District 36, told BK Reader he also planned on establishing a new crosswalk on Atlantic and Nostrand Avenues and said he was in the process of getting speed bumps approved for Lefferts Avenue between Grand and Classon Avenues. The speed bumps and the crosswalk will likely be installed in the spring, given issues posed by snow and ice in the winter, Ossé said.
He expects the protected bike lane on Bedford Ave. to be finalized by the end of his first two-year term in office, which began a mere six weeks ago.
“I don’t see there to be a reason that in one of the most walkable cities in the world, we are still living in communities where people feel unsafe because of vehicles,” Ossé said.
Despite the fact that the city was in lockdown for most of 2020, there were 2,366 crashes between motor vehicles and bicycles in Brooklyn. Of those crashes, there were eight cyclists were killed, 2,005 were injured and 25 vehicle-occupants were injured, according to the DOT. Between cyclists and pedestrians, Brooklyn saw 76 crashes, resulting in 73 pedestrian injuries and 16 bicyclist injuries.
“Bed-Stuy and Central Brooklyn have the third-most crashes out of the entirety of New York City in the past year. This is very concerning to me and my neighbors,” Ossé said.
NYC Mayor and Brooklynite Eric Adams is also advocating for more cyclist-friendly infrastructure and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has told Ossé that he would be a partner in Ossé’s initiative to make streets safer, Ossé said.
But, before the protected lane on Bedford Avenue could be approved, many community conversations were needed, Ossé said.
“We have seniors and disabled folks that do need cars to survive and could have some worries about bike lanes because it might mess up parking,” Ossé said.
He also said there was a tendency to think of bike infrastructure as a white, gentrifier issue, but that pedestrian and bike safety is “more of an all-of-us issue.”
“There are so many Black bikers that are from Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, who also want to see this infrastructure built out,” Ossé said.
Ossé is in the process of building a coalition of bikers of color who will act as consultants on his street safety projects.
“There are people in my community who bike to work, who bike for work as essential delivery people and who bike for recreation. These people are endangered when we don’t have safer streets for them.”
His office is also putting together upcoming bicycle giveaway events and bike riding events for his constituents, and working with CitiBike to get more bicycle stations in central Brooklyn.
He is also hoping to get Oonnee Pods installed in his district, which are public, secure bike and scooter parking containers.
“Bikes are fun to ride, but they’re also better for our environment. Our city is great to bike around, but only when our streets are made safe for us to bike,” Ossé said.