The Brooklyn Heights Bike War – Promenade Edition

With the hullabaloo over church goers parking in the Henry Street bike lane on Sundays about to prove Godwin’s Law, it’s time to shine a light on the far more pernicious and rampant law breaking by bicyclists, skaters and other scofflaws in Brooklyn Heights.  Yes folks, BIKES ARE NOT ALLOWED ON THE PROMENADE.  Neither are ROLLER SKATES, SCOOTERS AND SKATEBOARDS.  As Mrs. Fink, Baby Fink and I were lounging on the Promenade Sunday afternoon, we noticed scores of people breaking this rule.  You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows here — reckless bikers and skaters on the Brookyn Heights Promenade are a much bigger threat to public safety than a few parishioners parking in the Henry Street bike lane for a few hours on Sundays.

*Full disclosure – I am a new member of First Presbyterian Church but that has no bearing on my position regarding the bike lane “controversy.”

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  • Kyle

    There should be a nice bike path through the promenade. Why not? It would a great addition to this public recreational space.

  • zburch

    to preempt the inevitable “bikers feel entitled too” Don’t make me state the obvious….Two wrongs don’t make it….

  • AEB

    Bikes are here to stay. Perhaps it WOULD be a good idea to require that cyclists be licensed before being permitted to ride.

    But that issue has nothing to do with the legitimacy of selective law enforcement.

    if you don’t like a law, get it changed, but disregarding it because it isn’t enforced doesn’t wash.

  • Homer Fink

    Here’s what bugs me about the church/bike “issue”– the out-of-proportion fervor that folks are going after the “law breakers”.

    Yes, I find it ponderous that with at least two parking lots within spitting distance that folks don’t opt to park there. I find it ponderous the BOTH sides seem to feel entitled to that space. (Yeah, yeah bike lane, law et al.)

    Geez people, GET A ROOM.

    It’s the incivility of it all that drives me mad. Not to mention the waste of government resources to feed this beast. Seriously, Ms. Millman must pine for more lofty tasks than dealing with this doofy issue.

    Bikes, skaters on the Promenade is just the manifestation of selfishness of residents and/or the cluelessness of tourists — ridiculous because all this occurs within a stone’s throw of a world class park with a spankin’ new bike path.

  • nabeguy

    zburch, that “entitlement” you speak of is a constitutional right. If the arguments regarding this issue were a bike lane, it would extend to the moon and back but we’d still be no closer to resolving it. What I find ironic is that both camps seem to be coming from a similar POV, namely one that’s left of center. I don’t think that the bikers are truly against people excercising their First Amendment rights or that the church-goers are truly against green initiatives. As far as I’m concerned (as I’ve tried to make people realize in my posts) the real villians in all of this are the city planners who overreached their mandate to go green and installed bike lanes with no forethought as to the ramifications on the area they were installed in. As much as we’d like to think that this argument lives and dies on Henry Street, it’s one that’s being discussed city-wide. There has to be better sensitivity on both sides, but most importantly, on the part of the city when making their initial decisions (which, btw, I don’t think the neighborhood was privy to in advance)

  • nabeguy

    Yes, AEB, bikes are here to stay, and that’s a good thing. But churches aren’t going anywhere, so there’s no reason for the proponents of the former to act “holier-than-thou”. I think the latter have that covered already.

  • bornhere

    When biker riders, whether they are the baseball-cap, Chinese-food-on-the-handlebars crew, or the baby-on-board contingent, or the Ciao-bella-Breaking-Away-Spandex crowd, stop at red lights and stop signs, and travel only with the traffic, then I will care about bike-lane “abuse.” But a significant part of me doesn’t understand why there should be bike lanes at all, especially in a neighborhood of narrow streets and slower speeds, or in a city in which roadway real estate is as crowded as it is.
    As for the Promenade, there are too many wee ones and old ones and mesmerized ones to think throwing a bike in motion into the mix is a good idea. As for the church-bike issue, I can’t call up a whole of of enthusiasm for the debate; I actually am curiously uplifted by seeing the Sunday gaggle, with cars all over the place, attending OL of Lebanon. But that’s just me. A side note: those of you who know Pepe must find it noteworthy that a man, who owns one of the most gorgeous buildings in the Heights (and keeps getting rid of the City’s garbage can on his corner so as not to detract from his house) doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the cars on his sidewalk on Sunday.

  • nabeguy
  • Homer Fink

    Thanks nabe, bornhere – among others – for understanding the true point of my “trolling”.

    I’m pondering a BHB Town Hall Meeting. Good idea? Lousy idea? Meh?

  • nabeguy

    Homer, I literally just walked in the door from a drive up Henry Street and, after what I witnessed, I’m more prone to grab the tar and feathers than sit down at a Town Hall. In the space of one block between Pineapple and Clark, I saw two delivery bikers riding north on the left side of the street (NOT the bike lane), and one rider properly proceeding south in the bike lane who had to swerve to avoid another biker going in the opposite direction. And, most disturbing, of the 4 bikers that I saw, only one had a helmet. I support green initiatives, but if bikers are not going to follow the most basic rules of the road, as well as the helmet laws that are already in place. then don’t expect me to sympathize with you when that initiative runs red.

  • AEB

    Homer, depends on the entertainment and the catering. (And of course whether the meeting will be in 3D.)

    As for a caterer, well, there’s only one possibility and that’s…..

    Great Wa…OK, I’ll stop now.

  • TAP

    It says a lot about this wonderful neighborhood that our impassioned debate centers around misplaced cars and speeding bikes rather than the more common neighborhood friction: misplaced bullets and stolen bikes!

  • T.K. Small

    Look at the bright side, at least we are not talking about “gravel”!

  • Kyle

    Bornhere, the last time I stopped at a stop light and rode across an intersection with traffic when the light turned green (as traffic laws tell us to do), the car to my right made a sudden left turn into my bike, knocking me up into the air and crushing my bicycle under its tires. I rolled a few times on the asphalt before scraping to a halt. I still haven’t got back full range of motion in my left arm.

    It isn’t safe for cyclists to follow traffic laws intended for cars, and most of us learn that the hard way. Sometimes you have to go through a red light to not get crushed. Sometimes you have to ride on the sidewalk to not run into traffic. Sometimes you have to do all sorts of crazy looking things that bother people, in order to not get injured.

  • bornhere

    Kyle — That is an awful story, and from your description, it sounds as though it could have been so much worse. And I hope you mend; but your anecdote doesn’t argue for cyclists to make it up as they go along. Unspeakable accidents befall car drivers and others who were following the rules of the road — so should everyone sort of wing it as they see fit? Perhaps if cyclists routinely followed the rules, cars and pedestrians would view them as less of a loose-cannon threat: as it stands, I am more likely to cross the street (with the light) or drive through an intersection when I see a car approaching its red light than when I see a bike — I am a bit more confident that the car will stop.
    That this is an ongoing debate seems so senseless.

  • Heightman

    First of all. Let’s us reognize that T.K is funny and I don’t always agree with him but you made me laugh. Secondlly, bikes on the Promenade are no good but children are expempt. Read the rules. True whether you like it or not. Thirdly, I can’t stand anyone that blocks the streets. Yeah Willow between Clark and Pierrepont, how long will the FDNY have to deal with the dumpster. We’ve been dealing for 4 years now.

  • No One of Consequence

    It’s one thing when I get annoyed by the comments on this blog. It’s another when the site owner gets into the fray in this fashion.

    That’s it for me and BHB.

    As you’re so fond of saying… Buh-bye!

  • Arch Stanton

    Seriously, are bikes really a big problem on the promenade? I almost never see anyone (adult) riding there and when I do they are usually going fairly slow. It is not a thoroughfare and certainly not any kind of a bike route. I’m not saying it’s okay to ride there. The cops should ticket flagrant violators. I think this post is more about trying to rake up some muck by the anti bike crowd.

  • Andrew

    The main reason that so many bikers disregard traffic rules comes from the fact that bicycles are treated as third-class users of the public space.

    Cars have the traffic lanes. Pedestrians have the sidewalks. Bicycles don’t belong with pedestrians on the sidewalk, because cyclists are much faster than pedestrians and mixing the two is very dangerous. Bicycles don’t belong in the street, because cars are much heavier and faster the cyclists and potentially very dangerous for cyclists.

    Now if there was a place for this intermediate speed transportation to go — faster than a sidewalk, slower than a street — that was as fully fleshed out and well connected as the street network, and not consistently encroached upon so that cyclists need to go out into faster moving traffic to get around obstructions, then there would be no need for cyclists to selectively choose which traffic laws to obey.

    When the infrastructure allows cyclists to safely ride while obeying traffic laws (and the city as a whole is getting much closer to that), then the traffic cops should start cracking down on blatant violations, like if there’s a southbound street with a bike lane one block over, you shouldn’t be riding like a salmon against traffic on the northbound street.

  • zburch

    …..and nabeguy completely misses my point. I don’t recall parking illegally being a constitutional right. That’s some kind of tunnel vision!

  • Quinn Raymond

    Our neighborhood’s bike lanes are an asset– something that increases the attractiveness of our community, reduces congestion, reduces noise, and improves the health of our residents.

    And in an area with NINE subway lines, there is no rational reason for most people to drive anywhere. I am very happy that people visit our area on a weekly basis to worship in our many religious institutions, but they must follow the same laws as the rest of us– as should bicyclists on the Promenade.

  • AEB

    Thank you, Quinn. Well said.

  • DerekJetah

    CHURCHES ARE TOO DAMN DANGEROUS, doncha know — certainly more dangerous than bikers on the Promenade or parkers in the bike lanes…

    What about all those rabid anti-abortionists, creationists, homophobes and, worst of all, child-abusing clergy.

    Give me a biker any day!

    And why can’t all those fine church-goers park in the Cadman Towers garage or at 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park? If I’ve gotta ride my bike around those cheap churchgoers one more time (and if they keep blocking my building), think there may be a few more keyed cars on Henry Street.

    (Unless Minka stops me, of course…)

  • nabeguy

    Thanks Derek for introducing the miscreant POV to the mix.
    zburch, you’ve got me… I admit that I confused the right of worship with the right of way, and do acknowledge your point, even though it reeks of yet another overlay to this dialogue that some seem heck-bent on introducing…namely, a straw-man class-warfare argument that holds that the church-goers should pay for the privilege of worshipping their diety. Quinn has had the most rational and city-centric argument in regards to this issue and I agree that there absolutely is no reason why worshipers can’t utilize subway lines that practically leave them at the church doors. But I still feel that the implementation of this bike lane was handled poorly by the city and has created a situation that has gotten well out of hand.

  • Arch Stanton

    @ nabeguy, FYI: Surprisingly, the NYC bike helmet law is only for kids under the age of 12 and working cyclists. Personally, I think it should cover everyone.

    Your statement:
    “As far as I’m concerned (as I’ve tried to make people realize in my posts) the real villians in all of this are the city planners who overreached their mandate to go green and installed bike lanes with no forethought as to the ramifications on the area they were installed in”.
    The city actually did do a lot of planning before installing the bike lanes. they certainly did not “overreach their mandate” If you get a copy of the free NYC Cycle Map, you can see just how well thought out and extensive the system of bike lanes is. It would be ridiculously impractical for the city planners to listen to every petty gripe from every property owner abutting a bike lane. The city and the environment benefit from the increase of cycling and the decrease of cars… so like it or not, the lanes are going in.
    As far as the Henry St bike lane. What other route would you propose? Henry is the only southbound street running through this section of Brooklyn that isn’t a commercial traffic nightmare.

    @ Everyone: If you drive, stay on your side of the street. If you walk, stay on the sidewalk. If you bike, stay in the bike lane. If you want to park your car, stay out of the bike lane and off the sidewalk. If you don’t like it, stay home.

  • Arch Stanton

    Oh and thanks nabeguy for posting that link:
    It only proves that the bike lanes help calm traffic and show Marty Markowitz for the asshat buffoon that he is.

  • T.K. Small

    Homer is relatively new to the neighborhood, but nabeguy, and many others (myself included) have lived here for decades. I’m sure that people have been bicycling in Brooklyn Heights and people parking outside the Presbyterian Church long before the bicycle lanes were installed. I do not recall anybody ever complaining about this as a major community issue. Admittedly, Sunday morning I am watching the political programs, but if it was such a life-threatening condition, I think I would’ve heard about it. Perhaps there is someone they can offer some historical perspective on bicycling in the neighborhood before the beloved lanes.

  • nabeguy

    Arch, it’s my greatest wish that the bike lanes have a calming influence on the people that use them. As for “working cyclists”, if that term applies to the kamikaze delivery people that have no regard for their own safety, much less that of pedestrians, then I need say no more.
    As to the idea that the city “did do a lot of planning before installing the bike lanes”, can you please cite any instances of them actually conferring with the area leaders before they made their decisions? Who did I vote for that gave this a nod?

  • PBK

    @TK, is it cool with you if the parishoners park in handicapped spots for just a few hours a week?

    Bike ridership is up all over the city. The fact that the church was there for a long time – so what? What if I had an outdoor shooting range in Brooklyn before the church? Do I get grandfathered in?

    The lanes are put in with the input of the Community Planning Boards.

  • ujh

    All places of worship have parking in front of their buildings on the day of worship, and parking in front of the Presbyterian Church on Henry Street preceded the creation of the bicycle lane. I suggest that those who oppose this arrangement attend the next meeting of CB2’s Transportation & Public Safety Committee to present their case. Call CB2 district manager Rob Perris at 718-596-5410 to get the date and venue of the next meeting and request that he place this item on the agenda. It would be advisable to have one spokesperson to present your argument(s). The DOT coordinator for downtown Brooklyn attends these meetings and can take your concerns to his boss, the Brooklyn DOT commissioner.