Out of town Saturdays: Brooklyn Style

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It’s nice to get out of town every once in a while. Today I used CitiBike, New York’s new bike share program, and rode around the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope and Cobble Hill. Some observations…

- Red lights mean pause briefly before barreling ahead, apparently. For the record, I stopped at each one.

- A lot of parents find it safe enough to ride with their kids.

- Green pavement and contraflow lanes are really nice. A low cost, high impact way to improve cycling without taking away those ever-so-precious parking spaces. Take note, Boston. See the photo.

- Diversity among Brooklyn cyclezenry- more people from across the socioeconomic spectrum seem to be cycling.

- On the subject of red lights, the signals could be timed better so you don’t have to stop pretty much every block.

- The bike-friendliest nabes of Brooklyn are more pleasant to ride a bike in than most of Cambridge… am I a traitor for saying that?

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7 Comments on “Out of town Saturdays: Brooklyn Style”

  1. Contraflow lanes are awesome. A downside of all the green painted lanes is that they become even more slick in rain than regular asphalt. But increased bike lane visibility is always good.

  2. Cris says:

    In general, I have always found New York to be a more pleasant city to ride in than Boston. And I don’t feel like a traitor for saying that. After all, we’re talking about Boston, where pleasantness comes second to knowing who you are. They’re just different cities. New York has wider streets laid out in a grid. It’s easier to navigate so drivers and cyclists aren’t as distracted, and are therefore more aware of each other.

    I always wonder how much of New York’s biking population is made up of restaurant delivery guys, pedaling around these impregnable mountain bikes with the massive front baskets,

  3. Chris McNally says:

    I ran into you Saturday on that very same contra-flow bike lane on Plaza Street West.

    I was at a community board meeting when that lane was discussed. Neighbors were very upset not that they would lose parking spaces, but that they would lose the ability to double park! Some bike activists also apposed it because they said it would be unsafe for cyclists without barriers or parked cars as protection. However the compromise of installing it as turned out to be a sane solution and I hope many more contra-flow bike lanes will be installed on one way streets. It just makes sense.

    In Cambridge there is a one way street, Tremont, I think, and there is a sign that says “do not enter except for cyclists”. So I don’t remember if there were painted lanes but it was a one way street for cars and two way for cyclists. In New York especially, I think we should have more of these as one way streets are very wide here.

    • Chris, I’m not surprised to hear about that particular form of neighborhood opposition. There is a proposal to put bike lanes on Broadway in Southie and a chief complaint among residents is that it could inhibit their ability to double park.

      On the bright side, Brookline has done some really neat stuff with contraflow recently. They’ve made it possible for bikes to filter through the one-way streets leading the the BU bridge and avoid some really bad ramps over the Mass Pike.

      I am very excited about a plan Boston is proposing to give Hemenway Street a bike boulevard treatment, including contraflow for the block between Westland Ave and Boylston. This would be a huge improvement and allow cyclists to avoid Mass Ave. I hope to point to the success NYC has had with contraflow to support this particular project.

  4. Mem says:

    Rebecca,
    Could it be that the lights are not timed so that you can proceed without stopping at each one, is a traffic calming method. Timing the lights so you can proceed faster leads to higher traffic speed.

    • Rebecca, yes, this is likely a traffic calming strategy for cars. However, signals can be timed to favor bicycle traffic AND calm car traffic. In Copenhagen they have a “green wave” on a major cycling artery timed so that if you are traveling around 15mph- average bicycle speed- you will sail trough a succession of green lights. San Francisco has also implemented something similar on a major cycling street there. New York, with its long one way avenues, would be a perfect place to implement such a thing. I can also think of a few major cycling corridors here in Boston that a green wave might work.

  5. […] been hard at work installing new bike lanes on A Street in South Boston. A few weeks ago I was in Brooklyn and came upon a work crew installing bike lanes and symbols in Cobble Hill. They were kind enough […]


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