Bike lane battle rages on Crotona

Tremont locals are grinding their gears over new bike lane signage installed this summer on a congested stretch of Crotona Avenue.

Icons for what the city Department of Transportation (DOT) dubs “shared bike lanes” appeared overnight on the avenue from Crotona Park North to East Fordham Road.

Bikes and arrows have been painted on the ground, and signs hang from street corners alerting drivers to share the road with cyclists. But Community Board 6 wants to slam the brakes on the project, claiming that the shared lane could endanger the bikers themselves and make a hectic, one-lane avenue even more hairy.

“The population in this busy urban neighborhood is not conducive to bike riding,” said Ivine Galarza, CB6 district manager. “ It’s a no-man’s land up here.”

Extending a dead end

The shared lane is part of the DOT’s plan to build a complete bike route in the borough. There had already been a bike route running north through Crotona Park, but cyclists continuing to Belmont toward Bronx Park and eventually Moshulu Parkway hit a dead end.

“Bikers travel best in efficient networks, like everyone else,” said Jill Guidera, who works in the Bronx Committee of bike activist group Transportation Alternatives.

Crotona Avenue’s shared lane provides a straight shot north and was already being used, according to the DOT, which counted 125 bikers passing through E. 181st and E. 182nd street in 12 hours on a summer day in 2012.

But the lane is anything but a smooth ride. Bikers and drivers share one narrow lane of traffic and contend with bus lines, double-parked delivery trucks, and traffic flow from four schools.

The stretch has already proven deadly. Just two years ago, an avid cyclist was struck by a car door and killed at E. Tremont and Crotona Avenues.

Icons out of nowhere

Converting Crotona Avenue into a shared lane only makes the street more dangerous, Galarza said, because bikers might be lulled into a false sense of security. But the city likes shared lanes because they raise awareness that bikes may be riding through, and are cheap and feasible to install where other lanes, such as a “protected” lane, are not.

“They tend to act as traffic calming devices,” Guidera said. “People see that paint on the ground and are more aware that the streets are being used by other folks.”

Galarza said the community was taken aback when they noticed the painted icons lining the street. The DOT had presented ideas for the lane, along with a protected lane a few blocks East on Southern Boulevard from East Fordham Road to Mosholu Parkway, at a Community Board meeting this spring. But amid criticism from the community, the DOT had tabled the discussion, she said.

Then, without warning, the icons came in, part of 54.5 miles of bike lanes the DOT told the Wall Street Journal it has installed or plans to install in 2013, the final year of bike-friendly Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure.

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3394