“It’s unfortunate, but it happens all the time.”

A section of the Brooklyn Greenway in Red Hook is now out of service due to a construction project that is taking place beyond – and the biker rerouting creates a lot more danger than it eliminates.

The problem starts on the corner of Van Brunt Street and Hamilton Avenue in Red Hook. Instead of safely driving through their own greenway, cyclists are blocked by construction equipment and then instructed to drive onto narrow Van Brunt Street, where they are brought into the middle of a busy two-way street. (Some will choose to take Summit Street the wrong way to continue the normal greenway path – this is not advisable.)

This is what the dangerous main intersection looks like (Van Brunt Street is in the foreground; the greenway is behind the white truck and is supposed to merge into Summit Street, where the building materials and many Tesla vehicles are currently located).

Cyclists are now forced to drive from the curb directly in front of the white truck into the intersection, where the properly protected lane now ends. Next, the cyclists have to cross the illustrated intersection, where cars can enter from four different sides, and then drive on the left-hand side onto the “common road”.

The intersection of Van Brunt and Hamilton Streets in Red Hook.  Photo: Henry Beers ShenkThe intersection of Van Brunt and Hamilton Streets in Red Hook. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

Department of Design and Construction workers have been on the site since mid-winter, said Terri Carta of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, and (as with many urban construction projects) the work has been delayed and extended several times. (The city now says the work will be completed by the end of July.)

City law requires the DDC to provide a safe alternative route for cyclists, but the agency has not only put up diversion signs saying “Share the Road” and “Cyclists Use Road” that direct bikers to the middle of a busy intersection and then to the narrow Van Brunt Street.

Councilor and Road Safety Officer Carlina Rivera passed law in 2019 requiring construction companies and city authorities to offer cyclists a safe alternative route if a construction site blocks a cycle path. In a statement to Streetsblog, a representative from her office said that the DOT has the authority to exempt projects from this rule in “exceptional circumstances”, but it should certainly provide an explanation “why this project cannot allow a sufficiently protected detour”.

When asked about the situation, a DOT representative said the detour route was planned using factors such as “low-speed roads” and “business operations and logistics”. The department could have turned the area around the Tesla dealer on the corner into a no-parking zone.

Let’s look at the perspective of a biker entering the intersection from both sides:

South

On the sheltered greenway towards Hamilton Street

Photo: Henry Beers ShenkPhoto: Henry Beers Shenk

Here the view to the south of the greenway in front of the construction site. Typically, cyclists heading south would stay on the greenway by turning right on Summit Street (where the Tesla dealer is located – more on that later) and then continuing south on Imlay Street (which is also closed to construction) .

Thanks to the cars coming off the one-way street Summit Street and the Red Hook shipping terminal (both on the right), a biker driving down the once sheltered, peaceful greenway towards Red Hook is suddenly faced with danger, an unclear path, and cars from all directions.

Enter the intersection at Hamilton and Van Brunt

Entrance to the intersection of Hamilton and Van Brunt Streets.  Photo: Henry Beers ShenkEntrance to the intersection of Hamilton and Van Brunt Streets. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

When cyclists approach the curb, they must fear traffic from all four directions. You drive on the right hand side next to the zebra crossing and want to pass to Van Brunt when the traffic allows it.

The Tesla building makes it even more difficult for non-drivers because workers there use Van Brunt and Summit streets as parking spaces and often block the sidewalk in front of their service ramps.

Merger with Van Brunt ‘Shared Road’

Go to Van Brunt.  Photo: Henry Beers ShenkGo to Van Brunt. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

This is the view when cyclists try to enter Van Brunt. The big car on the left faces the biker, a good example of the many different directions cars go in here. Trucks and construction vehicles often drive on the busy road, which makes it even more difficult for cyclists to pass through. A faded biker on the street leads the way, and after a block or two, the biker can turn right and then left onto Imlay Street to get back onto the greenway.

heading north

On Van Brunts “Common Road”

Van Brunt detour from the bikeView of Van Brunt from a bike looking north towards Hamilton. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

The road is barely wide enough to accommodate a lane of cars in either direction, so getting a cyclist down the road when it is busy is an operation. A cyclist traveling from this direction is likely to be very cramped between parked and moving cars and, depending on the amount of traffic on the street, may have to get off and walk through the particularly narrow spaces.

Approaching the intersection

Head north on Van Brunt towards the GreenwayHead north on Van Brunt towards the Greenway. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

When the cyclists enter the intersection heading north, they must navigate two intersecting lanes to get to the greenway, back center. On the left, the construction zone covers the greenway.

Crossing the protected greenway

Looking north to the intact part of the greenway.Looking north to the intact part of the greenway. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

After a successful crossing, bikers either have to drive up the curb or get on via the small pedestrian ramp in the center. Those traveling with fragile cargo must go to the ramp, even if doing so could get them dangerously close to the passing cars on Van Brunt.

One cyclist who refused to give his name said he recently encountered this danger.

“It’s so tight I hit a lady’s mirror,” he said, describing a recent visit to the area delivering flowers. Fortunately, in this case the only victims were a mirror and some petunias.

Behind the ramp, an orange cone marks the ruins of a pedestrian crossing, further evidence of the slowness and inattentiveness of DOT in the area.