Health Department Marks Start To Biking Season With Celebration Of Cycling Accomplishments In Brooklyn

Joint neighborhood and City effort helped to transform neighborhood cycling infrastructure, bringing 21 miles of bike lanes to East New York and Brownsville
Community rallied to increase bike ridership, physical activity, and health
Cycling to work in Brooklyn jumped by 75 percent from 2010 to 2014

May 14, 2016 – Marking the start of New York City’s biking season and Bike Month, the Health Department today celebrated the accomplishments of a five year-long bike lane planning initiative in East New York and Brownsville. City agencies, local businesses and community groups responded to community demands to transform the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and provide safer and easier ways to stay physically active in these neighborhoods. This joint effort led to the addition of 21 miles of bike lanes, the installation of 600 new bike racks, the initiation of three new cycling clubs and an annual 20-mile bike ride. To promote safe biking, more than 1,500 helmets were distributed to residents free of charge.
“Physical activity lowers your risk of obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “To encourage physical activity, we must create opportunities for adults and children to exercise safely. As a result of this initiative, the residents of East New York and Brownsville can now fully reap the benefits of a community suited for walking, running, biking and healthy living.”
“Obesity and diabetes rates in Brownsville far surpass the averages for Brooklyn and New York City, as do the rate of fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Both adults and children need safe access to activities such as bicycling that allow them to engage in active transportation for commuting and recreation. This community-driven planning and implementation process will go a long way towards expanding safe bicycling infrastructure in Brownsville as a way to address underlying health and safety challenges of community residents.”
"Biking is not only a great way to get from point A to point B, but also a way to incorporate physical activity into our busy lives. I’m hopeful that the addition of 21 miles of designated bike lanes in East Brooklyn will create a safer environment for both motorists and cyclists and encourage more residents to bike throughout the neighborhood,” said Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr.
“Bringing better active transportation options to underserved communities is one of the most important things we can do,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “As cycling grows in popularity across the city, we must ensure that every community has the tools and road infrastructure to take part. Cycling continues to be one of the healthiest and most efficient ways to move about the city and we are doing more each day to encourage more people to try it. Through the efforts of the DOT and their many partners in Brooklyn, East New York and Brownsville will have more opportunities to travel safely by bike and I applaud their efforts.”
“A crucial element in building a just New York City is inclusivity”, said Dr. Aletha Maybank, Associate Commissioner and Director of the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity. “This requires listening and incorporating the voices of our community residents when planning neighborhoods so that are safe and healthy places to move around.  In doing so, we at the Center for Health Equity, alongside trusted community organizations and our sister city agencies, were able to make the network of bike lanes a reality for the people of Brownsville and East New York.” 
On an average day, there are more than 400,000 cycling trips made in New York City, according to recent report from the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). Brooklyn experienced a 75 percent increase in the number of cyclists who commute to work between 2010 and 2014. The Health Department and Department of Transportation worked to ensure that these improvements benefit all New Yorkers and worked with community groups, community boards, and residents to plan and activate a bike network. The resulting effort was a bike route plan that increased the bike network in Brownsville and East New York from seven to 21 miles. 
The Bike Lane Inaugural Ceremony honored 13 community partners and individuals for their contributions and collaboration on the effort, including the Brownsville Partnership, Bike New York, Purelements Evolution in Dance, Recycle-Bicycle, Brookdale Hospital’s Live Light Live Right Program, Transportation Alternatives, NYC Parks Department, DOT Bicycle Program, NYPD, East New York Farms, Community Boards 5 and 16, and the National Parks Conservation Association.
Resident biking advocate Bettie Kollock-Wallace was also honored. These partners were key allies to the project by helping to engage the community with numerous bike activities for children and families throughout the year. 
Last month, the American Journal of Public Health published a paper highlighting the multi-year community engagement and planning process that led to the new biking infrastructure. The process involved school and community forums, neighborhood surveys, neighborhood street assessments, and local events around the need for safer roads.

“Bike lanes are an essential component of a healthy city’s transportation infrastructure, and have been proven to increase safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike,” said Ken Podziba, President & CEO of Bike New York. “With this expansion of the bike lane network in East New York, more New Yorkers will get to see these benefits—and we are pleased to offer free classes and programs in Linden Park, so that those who choose to get around by bike might do so with the knowledge and skills they need to ride confidently and safely in almost any kind of traffic situation.

“It takes many approaches to create and build a culture of cycling,” said Karen Overton, Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle. “Recycle-A-Bicycle is proud to be a part of the community organizations and government agencies working to achieve this goal in East New York and Brownsville. We have trained earn-a-bike teachers in Mott Hall IV Middle School, and Eagle Academy; operated mobile bike repair at the East New York Farm, supported Pure Elements neighborhood ride, and participated in several Bike Bonanzas. Recently, we started up an earn-a-bike program at Brownsville Recreation Center.  Dedicated cycling infrastructure creates a safer environment for youth to ride the bikes they build. This bike lane inauguration truly marks a time in this movement to celebrate.”
“I enthusiastically invite the communities of East New York and Brownsville to hop on a bicycle and enjoy these 24-plus miles of new bike lanes,” said Ryan Russo, DOT Deputy Commissioner, Transportation Planning and Management. “We look forward to growing cycling in these neighborhoods as DOT strengthens the city-wide bicycle network by building over 50 miles of bike lanes annually, for New Yorkers to commute, run errands and for recreation.”
The next phase of the initiative will be to ensure that the residents of Brownsville and East New York benefit from the bike lanes with a series of community bike riding and pedestrian activities including: the Brownsville Recreation Center’s Saturday Morning Group Ride Club, increasing local participation at Bike New York’s Bike Education Center in Gershwin Park, Purelements’s Saturday Morning Group Rides, a free Pop-Up Bike Repair Station, Saturday mornings at East New York Farms, a weekly market, and a series of rides throughout Brownsville and East New York. Additionally, the Health Department and DOT will partner with the community to identify new streets for future bike lane expansion as well as identify more features to improve infrastructure for pedestrian safety. 
Increasing bike paths and bike safety is part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce the number of traffic related fatalities and is also a key strategy of the Health Department to build neighborhoods that encourage physical activity. Through the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity, the agency is committed to investing in underserved communities and eliminating the health inequities in New York City.

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Jeremy House, (347) 396-4177