The Ridgewood Reservoir is one of the largest greenspaces near Ridgewood, yet getting there is an unpleasant and dangerous experience for people who walk, bike or take public transit. Ridgewood, Glendale and Bushwick locals who visit the reservoir, and the nearby Highland Park, without a car are forced to negotiate unsafe traffic conditions on Cypress Avenue and Vermont Place, the most direct route to the reservoir from central Ridgewood. 

The two streets are plagued by speeding vehicles entering and exiting the Jackie Robinson Parkway, sidewalks that are often full of trash and overgrown vegetation and illegally parked cars. There is no safe area for biking on either Cypress Avenue or Vermont Place, forcing cyclists and pedestrians to share the avenue with cars that often go far faster than the citywide limit of 25 miles per hour, or to use the narrow and, in some areas, non-existent sidewalks along Vermont Place to safely access the entrance to the reservoir.

People in Ridgewood, Glendale and Bushwick need a safe way to access one of the only large greenspaces in our neighborhoods. People of all ages and abilities should be able to safely travel to and from the park in a way that is convenient to their homes – whether on foot, bike, bus or scooter. 

Ridgewood Rides is a local group that advocates for improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in Ridgewood and surrounding neighborhoods and leads weekly community bike rides. These rides are designed to be accessible even to new or less confident riders with the hope of continuing to grow the cycling community.

The group formed in June 2022 after what was supposed to be a one-off advocacy ride to highlight the lack of bike infrastructure in Ridgewood commanded a lot of interest and a big turnout. We’ve organized roughly 50 community rides since and are behind a petition campaign in partnership with Transportation Alternatives that calls for safe access to the Ridgewood Reservoir, which has gathered over 600 signatures.

Christine Buese, who has been on several rides with the group, lives less than a mile from the park, and told us about her own experiences trying to access the reservoir: “I stopped walking my dog to the park because the sidewalk on Vermont Place is too narrow and it was impossible to walk with him if another person was coming in the other direction and not be close to speeding cars! It’s scary. The trash along the sidewalk on Cypress Avenue is an obstacle as well. My dog loves to eat off the sidewalk buffet and I just couldn’t risk it anymore. People bring trash in their cars and just dump it. It’s gross.”

Local cyclist Mallory Woods tells us that she feels unsafe trying to access the reservoir by bike, “I’m an active bike rider and often seek out locations to ride safely away from traffic. The Ridgewood Reservoir is the perfect place, with gorgeous trees and a paved loop! But it’s such a challenge to get there that I hardly ever work up the nerve to do it. Cypress Ave gets wide as you near the Reservoir so cars are often speeding to try to get to and from the parkway, and there are many abandoned cars and broken glass along that stretch.”

As Ridgewood residents who primarily get around via public transportation, bicycle or on foot, we are calling on the NYC Department of Transportation to fix these dangerous and untenable street conditions. The swift implementation of life-saving infrastructure is especially critical due to the alarming number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city, in Queens, and on Cypress Avenue in particular. 

Citywide, there have been 183 fatalities so far this year, including nine children under 18 years old, according to data from the group Transportation Alternatives and from the New York City Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero View Interactive Map. According to them, there have been 26 cyclist fatalities, the highest year to date since 2014, and set to be the second-deadliest year since 1983, the year the city started tracking bicyclist deaths. In Queens, 5 cyclists and 26 pedestrians have been killed by car drivers since the beginning of 2023. And on Cypress Avenue, there have been 127 total crashes resulting in 50 cyclist injuries, 78 pedestrian injuries, and 2 pedestrian fatalities, according to data from a Transportation Alternatives project called NYC Crash Mapper

The lack of safe pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure on Cypress Avenue also resulted in a terrible tragedy in our neighborhood last year. A man was critically injured at the intersection of Cypress Avenue and Cooper Avenue as he was crossing Cypress Avenue. He was hit by two cars, both while he was in the crosswalk trying to safely cross the intersection.

The city’s response to this horrifying crash remains sub-par, improving the only signal timing at the intersection where he was hit to allow for a 4-way pedestrian crossing, but not adding any physical infrastructure improvements. Without the necessary infrastructure improvements at this intersection and along Cypress Avenue, it is inevitable that more cyclists and pedestrians will be injured and possibly killed along this road.

We at Ridgewood Rides believe that the most effective way to calm traffic and to make streets safer for residents is to make design changes to at the street level, which is why we are demanding the installation of both a protected bike lane and widened sidewalks on Cypress Avenue, and improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure along Vermont Place, such as installing a multi-use path leading from the intersection of Cypress Avenue to the entrance of the Ridgewood Reservoir.  

Despite our year-long advocacy efforts, NYC DOT has not been in touch with anyone from Ridgewood or in Community Board 5 regarding plans to improve conditions on these streets. On April 24th, 2023, the DOT released a plan for future bike lane expansion with Cypress Avenue included on their “future outreach” list, but there has been no contact made with Community Board 5 as of yet. On October 12, Eric Adams released a plan to install 40 miles of greenway in outer boroughs; safe cycling connections from Ridgewood were notably left off of this announcement. Our neighborhood has often been overlooked for the installation of safe cycling infrastructure, there is not a single protected bike lane installed in the entirety of Ridgewood. 

We also suffer from the lack of political leadership, as our City Council representative Bob Holden has not offered his support to our campaign. He has previously asked the NYC DOT to install a bike lane on another section of Cypress Avenue to prevent illegal dumping, but this would not improve the access route to the reservoir or the nearby park.

As outer-borough residents, we demand that NYC DOT make good on their promises to do outreach to local residents as well as heed our demands to install this life-saving infrastructure.

Ridgewood Rides is a local group that has been organzing community bike rides since 2022. The group is hosting a community walk and rally to highlight street safety concerns on Cypress Avenue and Vermont Place at 11 am on Saturday, November 4th, which be followed by a community potluck picnic in Highland Park.

Bushwick Daily is committed  to publishing a diversity of local voices. Do you have something you’d like to say? Email [email protected]

Photos provided by Ridgewood Rides.

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