A day after an 18-year-old Kensington cyclist was dragged and killed by a driver on Flatbush Avenue, bike advocates called on the city to put a bike lane on the heavily traveled thoroughfare.
“[A Flatbush Avenue bike lane] is definitely something worth serious consideration,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell. “It’s a dangerous street for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists as well. It would definitely be a design challenge, but that’s what we have traffic engineers for.”
Norvell said a bike lane stretching from the tip of the Manhattan Bridge in Downtown all the way to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in Marine Park would not only help calm traffic, but “link the borough together” for bicyclists.
“It’s a critical corridor — if it was made safe for cycling, it would be utterly transformative,” he said.
Despite the daily dose of aggressive motorists and half-crazed dollar van drivers, more and more bicyclists have been seen trying their luck along Flatbush Avenue.
But that decision proved fatal for Jake McDonaugh, who was struck by a charging minivan and then dragged for several feet near the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Beverly Road on Wednesday morning.
Motorist Michael Oxley, 29, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for allegedly zipping around a slower car and blowing through a red light before striking McDonaugh.
Such behavior is a typical of a dangerous “highway mindset” that overcomes many motorists on Flatbush Avenue, according to Norvell.
“That kind of driving behavior is contagious,” he said. “Even when they leave Flatbush Avenue, they carry that with them for several blocks in every direction.”
Flatbush Avenue is currently not mentioned in the city’s Bike Master Plan, which hopes to double two-wheeled commuting in the five boroughs by 2015.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said a bike lane for Flatbush Avenue isn’t needed, since there are already several bike lanes that “essentially run parallel to it.”
Of course, no street is parallel to the diagonal Flatbush Avenue, but the city does provide bike routes on Jay Street, Dean Street, Bergen Street and Carlton Avenue serve bicyclists that funnel cyclists to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. South of Prospect Park, bicyclists are served by a lane running along Bedford Avenue.
And a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue would be a likely non-starter for Borough President Markowitz, who slammed Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan earlier this week as an anti-car zealot.
Markowitz opposes a plan for a two-way bike lane on Prospect Park West, which would cut one of the three lanes for cars.
“We just disagree on certain instances where I’m acutely aware that she wants to make it hard for those who choose to own automobiles,” Markowitz said. “I really believe that … she would like to see more people stop car usage and use their bicycles or walk.”
But the death may have changed things. When approached about creating a bike lane for Flatbush Avenue in light of Wednesday’s fatality, Markowitz softened his tone.
“I’ve supported the creation of many bike lanes in Brooklyn and am certainly open to considering the merits and feasibility of any such proposal,” he said.
Transportation Alternatives is not actively campaigning for a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue, Norvell said. Yet, looking at similar streets in the city, he surmised that Flatbush Avenue would need more than a painted bike lane.
“When there’s more traffic, paint doesn’t do the job. Streets that carry a lot of traffic like this is a different animal,” he said, adding that jersey barriers may have to be installed “to provide physical protection from the moving lanes.”
Such barriers were installed on Tillary Street near the Brooklyn Bridge.
In the end, the most-important barrier may be motorists. The idea of bringing a bike lane to Flatbush Avenue has already rankled some, who think it will only upset the chaos already found on the roadway.
Dollar van drivers were especially perturbed as they foresaw continually blocking the bike lane as they went about their business.
“In our industry we’re moving in and out to drop off people,” said Winston Williams, who has been driving a dollar van up and down Flatbush Avenue since 1992. “A bike lane will cause a lot more summonses.”