A lot of neighborhood activists swear by the maxim that it’s easier to organize against something than to drum up support for something new. But apparently this rule of thumb doesn’t apply to the Prospect Park West bike lane.
Based on the latest tallies from Facebook, the incipient skirmish over New York’s newest two-way protected bike lane — and the traffic-calming removal of a lane for cars on PPW — is turning into a pretty lopsided affair, with the "pro" side on top. Two days ago, membership in the lane-loving Facebook group shot past the 1,000 mark, and last I checked was getting pretty close to 1,200.
The anti-bike lane group, which had a couple days to build up a head start, now has 293 members, according to founder Lisa Napolitano.
I spoke to Napolitano, who graciously returned my phone calls, about her group and why they oppose the new bike lane. We went back and forth for a good long while, and, as one would expect, she belongs to the hard core of opponents who will never be convinced that narrowing car lanes to slow traffic and create more safe space for biking is a good thing.
She also took issue with the assertion that the Facebook counts indicate that most people don’t share her views. "We as a community have to have a say," she said, meaning the people who live right on Prospect Park West. "Not the people that live five blocks away, not the people that come in from all over the city to use this."
So that’s the ideal public process some opponents envision — giving the group of people who live on PPW and don’t like the bike lane veto power over an amenity that the general public uses and benefits from.
There are many ways to refute the claim that the city has run roughshod over the public process by building this project. It’s tough, though, to beat this passage from the minutes of a June, 2007 Community Board 6 meeting:
DOT should, as promptly as possible, establish a class 2 bicycle path on PPW to connect the proposed 9th Street bicycle path with the 15th Street (Bartel Pritchard Square), 3rd Street, and Grand Army Plaza entrances to Prospect Park, as well as the 3rd Street/2nd Street bicycle path. DOT should study traffic-calming measures on PPW, including the possible installation of a one-way or two-way Class 1 bicycle path on PPW.