Radar Survey Says: New PPW Has Reversed the Curse of Speeding Traffic

ppw_sppeds.jpgVehicle speeds recorded on Prospect Park West at the intersection of Garfield Place before and after implementation of the road diet + bike lane. Graphic: Park Slope Neighbors [PDF]

The Prospect Park West bike lane has bestowed order and virtually eliminated the raceway conditions on a street where speeding used to be the norm.

In March, before the re-design, the community group Park Slope Neighbors clocked 85 percent of drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit on the open expanse of PPW. A post-implementation follow-up last month showed the new street design, with two traffic lanes instead of three, has increased compliance with the speed limit five-fold [PDF]. Average speeds are down about 25 percent.

Each sample was collected by measuring vehicle speeds on two weekend afternoons, when Brooklynites walk and bike in droves across PPW to get to Prospect Park.

Despite the evidence that the traffic-calming plan has worked, Borough President Marty Markowitz hasn’t been swayed, telling the Brooklyn Paper:

"Double-parking is still commonplace and the result is more noise
from car-honking, more pollution from traffic jams and more frustration
to residents and visitors alike," Markowitz said.

Let’s just appreciate this line of thought for a moment: Motorists double-park and spew fumes, so let’s go back to the bad old days when they could double-park, spew fumes, and speed unchecked.

I’d like to see whether Markowitz has any evidence that making it safer for New Yorkers to walk and bike has increased people’s exposure to pollution. Because we know that if you’re walking, biking, or driving on Prospect Park West, this project has drastically reduced your exposure to this kind of vehicular mayhem:

ppw_crash.jpgThe sidewalk of Prospect Park West at Eighth Street, September 16, 2006 at 9:45 a.m.
  • Grinner

    “Double-parking is still commonplace….”

    I know i’m not the only one who immediately thought, “well, have the NYPD have a ticketing blitz.”

    Of course, if memory serves me correctly, Marty likes parking on the sidewalk, so traffic enforcement probably isn’t high on his list of priorities.

  • MRN

    What is Markowitz’s real stance here? Is he simply anti-bike? I get the distinct impression that he’s offering up ‘plausible’ reasons to be against this bike lane while obscuring his actual reasons for disliking it… kind of like breaking up with a girlfriend who you’re not attracted to anymore, you gotta kinda make up some other reason. Anywhoo.

    His point about Park Slope Neighbors data having the appearance of impropriety. He won’t be able to say anything once NYCDOT releases their data on the project [although I suspect they never collected any ‘before’ data].

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, I’ve spent quite some time going up and down that road since the bike lane opened.

    Yes, people double park, but aside from an occasional honk from a jerk and a momentary pause in traffic, I have yet to see any real back up. Despite this being the peak time of year for the use of the street. No problems whatsoever. And there are plenty of riders in the bike lane, and I expect their number will do nothing but increase for years.

    The opponents of anything always come up with these doomsday scenarios. Richard Lipsky has made a career out of it. The whole EIS process piles worst case assumption upon worst case assumption. No one ever checks after the fact to see how the reality compares with the a priori claims, and then hold the difference over the heads of the claimants the next time around.

    Perhaps this is the start of that kind of accountability.

  • DOT did collect “before” data on speeding. In March 2009 they recorded more than 72 percent of motorists exceeding the speed limit on PPW between 5th and 6th Streets. I’m not sure if the measurements were on a weekend or weekday.

  • The logic that honking motorists means we have to accommodate them with more street space is silly. If a toddler starts screaming and crying because he wants some candy, would you give him candy?

  • I’d like to rephrase the “speeding” numbers in the table somewhat:

    * Speeding (driving in excess of 30 mph) is down 71% (calculated by comparing 25.0% of vehicles speeding “after” with 85.3% speeding “before”).

    * “Gross speeding” (driving 40 mph or above) is down 95%, as shown.

    In other words, installing the bike lane has eliminated 7 of every 10 speeding violations and 19 of every 20 gross speeding violations.

    If this isn’t revolutionary, I don’t know what is.

    Bravo to the activists in and out of NYC government that wrought the bike lane, to Park Slope Neighbors for taking the measurements and compiling the results, and to Streetsblog for putting the info out there.

    I think this may be the most impressive and important traffic / livable-streets story of the year. May it spawn a thousand posts, articles and op-eds … and more bike lanes!

  • @MRN,

    Ben beat me to it, but yes, DOT did collect “before” data, and it was very similar to our “before” data. I expect their “after” data to also mirror our results. Which, despite what Mr. Markowitz may think, are wholly on the up and up.

    As for the alleged problems: on Sunday, Transportation Alternatives’ and Park Slope Neighbors’ volunteers were on PPW handing out copies of “Biking Rules” to cyclists using the PPW bike path, encouraging them to ride courteously and yield to pedestrians. TA folks have done this on a few occasions. We didn’t observe anyone concerned about double-parking or honking out educating motorists about proper driver behavior.

  • Congratulations to Park Slope Neighbors and T.A.’s Brooklyn Committee on all your excellent work around this bike lane–advocating for it, defending it, documenting and publicizing its benefits, and educating cyclists how to use it. An inspiration to the rest of the city!

  • It’s completely expected that there will be honking. People were used to a three-lane speedway, now they’ve only got two lanes, and with a double parker, one lane. Once expectations come into line with the reality, they will stop honking. Virtually no one honks on Madison or Lexington when there are double parked trucks on both sides of the street (common during weekdays, turning what is ordinarily a three-lane avenue into a single lane. People expect it.

  • Car Free Nation

    I was explaining the reduction in speeders to a friend who looked at me blankly and said “and is that a good thing?” I was surprised since I thought most people who live in the city and walk places would think that speeding is very bad. I think he looked at speeding as evidence that traffic was moving well.

    We have a lot more educating to do.

  • ddartley

    I had a polite argument with an opponent bike lane a couple weeks ago, and she said there had already been a couple of accidents in the lane. I was skeptical. Does anyone know if there is any truth to it?

  • ddartley

    Meant to say “an opponent OF THE bike lane”

  • People for the Ethical Tratment of Bike Lanes

    Ben Fried is a hack. I attended the spring 2010 Open House regarding this bike lane in Park Slope and there were numerous people who expressed frustration about this bike lane, which was then still “yet to be installed.” However, Ben fried released a post following the open house entitled: “Shocking Video: See What People Are Saying About The PPW Bike Path” on 4/13/10 with a video showing none of this contention. Pathetic reporting. He simply can’t be trusted to report the full picture. Here’s the link to the aforementioned post:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/04/13/shocking-video-see-what-people-are-saying-about-ppw-bike-path/

    Also, I do not dispute that the new PPW configuration has improved the streetscape and made the road safer for everyone involved. It has definitely calmed traffic and will certainly result in a steep decline in injury and death from reckless driving. Road Safety should be DOT’s numer one priority and I am glad to see this PPW change.

    However, Ben Fried is still a hack reporter.

  • PETBL — Thanks for your anonymous comment. I’ll refer you to the second sentence in the post you linked to:

    The first half of the evening is when the fuss happened — apparently a few people made it known in no uncertain terms that they think it’s crazy to narrow a wide street where more than 70 percent of drivers are speeding.

  • ChrisCo

    First off, Markowitz is a complete moron. This guy is not fit to hold any office or elected position of any sort.

    This is great news for PPW. I can think of many other streets in Brooklyn alone that desperately need this kind of treatment to slow vehicular speeds and improve the pedestrian realm.

    I’m curious what you all think. What other streets in Brooklyn or Queens do you think could most use this treatment?

  • Glenn

    This is great data. I look forward to DOT’s analysis.

    One thing that people need to understand is that “capacity” and “speed” are two very different things. PPW can still accommodate the volume of cars it used to. The speeding was occurring because PPW had spare capacity. DOT has simply brought capacity down to the level of demand. Avg speed of 27mph is still blazing fast compared to many other city streets.

    The DOT should be commended for nibbling back against excess capacity dedicated for automobile usage. The much harder battle is removing automobile capacity in places like East Midtown for bus/bike lanes.

  • dporpentine

    The new lane is spectacular. Between that and the new markings on Vanderbilt–especially the dedicated bike lane between Fulton and Atlantic–my route home feels considerably safer. Thanks to all the people who worked to make that happen.

    As for the folks opposed to the lane, I have to say that the more I think about it, the less I get what they’re complaining about. But they’re so noisy (and in such positions of power) that I think the PPW lane is vulnerable to what I think of as the Williamsburg solution: one backroom deal, and it’s gone.

  • People For The Ethical Treatment Of Bike Lanes

    Ben Fried… I stand corrected.

    I apologize for my previous comments. Indeed it is I in this case who is the hack.

    -PETBL

  • Danny G

    ChrisCo,

    Emmons Ave in Sheepshead Bay.

  • ChrisCo,

    Bushwick Ave

  • Larry Littlefield

    The question now is, how do people riding through Windsor Terrace from points south and southwest get to the bike lane on their way to points north?

    I’ve noticed lots of those DOT counters around the neighborhood lately, so perhaps DOT is studying it. DOT should consider Prospect Avenue, a relatively slow-paced, lightly trafficked street as a recommended bike route.

  • Suzanne

    I can tell you what I do, Larry. I ride on the sidewalk. I hate it, but it’s crazy down there, with the expressway cutting off the park from where I live. The only other options I have are riding on Prospect Park Southwest, which is way too intimidating for me, or going the hell out of my way on a bunch of neighborhood streets and adding a lot more time to my morning commute.

    At night I cut into the park and ride down to the Parade Grounds, but in the moning I wind up riding – verrrry slowly – up the sidewalk. Please, please, please, DOT, extend the bike lane all the way down PPSW!

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t think PPSW works for a two way path Suzanne, because it carries more traffic than PPW and is two-way.

    I assume you either live in the part of Windsor Terrace across the highway, or in Kensington. Here is what I suggest: Prospect Avenue, to Prospect Park West.

    Prospect Avenue was also cut off from the grid by the expressway, with a couple of low traffic bike/pedestrian overpasses built for non-drivers. It is a low traffic, low-speed street, aside from a few feet where people get on the highway toward Manhattan off Park Circle. I ride up and down Prospect Avenue and over the overpass to get to the Greenwood Playground, where I play paddleball.

    Prospect Park West is commercial from the expressway to Bartel Prichard Square, with cars pulling in and out of street parking. But drivers are pretty well behaved in the area, and there is little through traffic, so it is a safe ride.

    If you use the overpass off E 8th Street (east of Ocean Parkway) rather than Greenwood and E. 5th (west of Ocean Parkway), ride a block up Sherman and then over to Prospect Avenue on Greenwood Avenue. Greenwood Avenue is another major street that became a quiet backwater, on both sides of the expressway, when it was built. With the overpass, it is a natural “bike boulevard.”

  • Suzanne

    Thanks Larry. I come from Ditmas Park so I’m not sure if that’ll work but I’ll definitely check that out.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I checked out the PPW cycle track this past Sunday evening (didn’t see TA handing out BikeRules BTW). Anyway, overall I think it works pretty well. PPW went from being an overly wide raceway to a narrow neighborhood street. Granted this was Sunday evening but my very brief observations was that traffic was well accommodated.

    The only thing that puzzled me was the width of the buffer zone between the cycle track and the parked cars. I can only assume that in the future there are plans for a wide planting strip of large trees in what is now the buffer. If this is not the case then I ask, why is it so wide?? That space could be used for two things and still have space left over. First the cycle track seemed a little too narrow, particularly for two way traffic. Second, some of the buffer could have been used for angled parking (back in or otherwise) to placate some of the “automobilists” with more on-street parking. Anyway, I’m quite sure NYDoT had their reasons.

    Also, I approached Prospect Park on my bike from Berkeley Place bike lane (I think but I’m not 100% sure since the Streetsview images don’t confirm what I saw. When I got to Grand Army Plaza on Plaza St West, there were signs pointing us in the right direction but no lanes or other markings. I found this VERY surprising. I also can’t help mentioning this but it still felt VERY awkward having to navigate that intersection from the left side of the road which only added to my unease.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I come from Ditmas Park so I’m not sure if that’ll work but I’ll definitely check that out.”

    You can ride one block on PPSW to Greenwood, and then go over on Greenwood to Prospect Avenue. It isn’t that far out of your way.

    From Ditmas Park, I would be tempted to ride on the other side of the park after passing through the Parade Grounds, despite the hill.

  • Repeating what #6. Charles Komanoff wrote:

    “In other words, installing the bike lane has eliminated 7 of every 10 speeding violations and 19 of every 20 gross speeding violations.

    “If this isn’t revolutionary, I don’t know what is.”

    This is definitely good cause for broad implementation of bike lanes to greatly improve safety in this city and elsewhere at minimal cost; information that US DoT Secretary Ray LaHood would likely find extremely useful if he is not fully aware of this already.

  • ref: #6. Charles Komanoff

    How’s this tweet?

    @RayLaHood http://bit.ly/9Q1gS4 Shocker: Bike lane nearly eliminates road warrior lawlessness

  • @Andy B,

    The three-foot buffer on PPW is to provide a safe space between people exiting their cars and the bike path. It allows people to open car doors without their doors entering the bike right-of-way. While it’s possible DOT might want to replace it with a raised curb at some point, I don’t think they would plant in it so as not to impinge on pedestrian/cyclist sight lines. Building it up might also result in some drainage issues. Initial plan was for a 10-foot wide bike path, but Community Board pushback regarding the width of the travel lanes led DOT to revise the bike path to eight-foot wide. That width appears to function just fine, however.

    As for the Berkeley Place approach, both Plaza Street West and East are slated to get the two-way cycle track treatment probably before the end of the year, as part of a significant Grand Army Plaza makeover, and the connections through GAP and to PPW will become much easier to navigate. See pages 11-15 here: http://tinyurl.com/newgap (PDF).

    Finally, we’d given out all our copies of Biking Rules by 2 pm. Sorry to have missed you.

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