Before I get to the "intrigue" part of this post (it’s juicy), first let me say that if you haven’t checked out the Prospect Park West re-design yet, you owe it to yourself to head on over and take a look. Last time I checked, some of the finishing touches have yet to appear, but it’s already one of the most effective street transformations the city has undertaken.
With two lanes of traffic instead of three, PPW feels like it’s been reclaimed for the neighborhood. I haven’t biked the new two-way path since it opened, but I’ve walked on each side of the new PPW, and it’s a pleasure. The highway speeds and zooming traffic noise are gone, and the calming effect seems to rub off on everybody.
The experts at Project for Public Spaces, where I worked before coming to
Streetsblog, will tell you that the "outer park" matters just as much
as the "inner park." Well, now the west side of Prospect Park has more breathing room — it’s a much better "outer park." If you’re walking next to the park, you don’t feel hemmed in by parked cars and traffic, and you’re not sharing the sidewalk with cyclists any more. And the bike lane is attracting kids and other riders who never would have felt safe biking on the old PPW.
Not everyone sees it this way. These folks on Facebook want to see the bike lane disappear. (They’ve been eclipsed by the growing ranks of this pro-bike lane group, which — full disclosure! — I joined today.) Last week, Courier-Life publications ran a screed against "pedal-pushing jerks in their fancy Spandex uniforms," though they were curiously silent about the business casual commuters, the pants-wearing errand-runners, and the families-with-kids-in-T-shirts-and-shorts crowd who seem to be enjoying the new lane immensely.
And, a few nights ago, staffers from Marty Markowitz’s office were seen leaving an anti-bike lane strategy session held at 9 Prospect Park West. The apartment building is home to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, whose daughters have both signed on to the anti-bike lane Facebook group, but I was not able to confirm a rumor that the meeting happened inside the Schumer-Weinshall residence. Streetsblog is in the midst of following up on that particular storyline.
In any event, the confrontation over this traffic-calming, sustainability-promoting piece of 21st century transportation infrastructure isn’t over. So it was a pleasant surprise today to see the Brooklyn Paper leap to the defense of the new bike lane. After running a critical opinion piece last month, before the re-design was implemented, the editors have come around:
For all the hysteria in its first two weeks, the Prospect Park West
bike lane has already solved many problems: it has gotten cyclists off
the sidewalk, it has slowed down cars, it has turned Prospect Park West
back into a neighborhood street instead of a thruway, and it has
strengthened the connection between the park itself and the roadway
that frames its western border.
We call that a win for everyone — except drivers, who have had it too good for too long.