Hundreds Rally in Support of Prospect Park West Bike Lane

Photo: Ben Fried
The pro-bike lane crowd at Grand Army Plaza this morning didn't fit into my camera frame.

Hundreds of Brooklynites gathered this morning at Grand Army Plaza to show their support for the redesigned Prospect Park West. They made a statement that should be hard for elected officials and the press to miss: Most people who live in the neighborhoods near PPW like biking and walking on the new, traffic-calmed street and don’t want to see those changes taken away.

I peg the crowd size at about 300 supporters. If you want to count heads, here are two more shots that complete the picture…

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The right side of the crowd.
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The left side of the crowd.

The rally was organized by Park Slope Neighbors, the Park Slope Civic Council, and Transportation Alternatives in response to an anti-bike lane demonstration that took place on PPW and Carroll Street. After massing at GAP, most of the pro-bike lane crowd walked down PPW to declare their love for the safer street to the gathering of about 70 or so opponents, while a large contingent rode up and down the two-way bike path.

The defining moment of the morning, I would say, came when Carlo Scissura, chief of staff to Borough President Marty Markowitz, rallied the bike lane opponents by telling them the PPW redesign was the vision of “one person” — Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The large mass of bike lane supporters were standing just a few feet away when he said it.

Scissura’s remark elicited a hearty round of booing on a morning that otherwise was largely free of overt confrontation.

Photo: Ben Fried
Carlo Scissura, chief of staff to Borough President Marty Markowitz, addresses the anti-bike lane crowd.

Unfortunately, it appears as though the tape we used to record interviews during the rally was corrupted, so I don’t have the audio and video that I hoped to show everyone. Here are a few more pictures from what was an impressive display of support for safer, bike-friendly streets. Hats off to the organizers and to everyone who showed up.

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  • Scott

    Great rally- very confused Nimby citezenry. Let’s all defer to the pedestrain please when biking and be ultra courteous. Coming form Windsor Terrace the bike lane is nothing short of a blessing. NO more sidewalk riding, no going against traffic, no more tickets. Thanks, TA, Eric and everyoe that turned out and was civil.

  • Joe R.

    I just learned this lane only goes 19 blocks. So all this fuss and protest over a lousy 19 block stretch???? You would think from all the noise the opponents were making that they had taken away ten miles of road here.

    I hate to say it, but the more I think about, the more I like the concept of elevated bike paths. It shuts up the bike lane opponents on several counts. One, you’re not taking away any of the “precious” space motorists feel so entitled to. Two, you won’t get complaints about cyclists running red lights because they wouldn’t need to be any on the elevated bike path. Three, the cyclists won’t be seen or heard riding 15 feet above the street ( yes, it seems just seeing cyclists annoys many of these people ). Yeah, they might complain about how it looks, but my answer to that is highways dividing neighborhoods are even less pretty. At least an elevated bikeway won’t cut a neighborhood in two the way many highways have.

    I say let the drivers have the streets. They might be surprised when there’s still congestion even without bike lanes. I’d much rather ride on an elevated bike path free of pedestrians, motor vehicles, huge potholes, and especially traffic lights anyhow.

  • J. Mork

    Joe, wouldn’t flying bicycles be much better?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I don’t get why people are confused about how snow will be handled. the lane is wide enough to accommodate garbage trucks with snow plows and salters. The lane will be plowed and salted, like the similar lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenue in Chelsea were last year.”

    I certainly hope so, but I recall reading otherwise. Perhaps someone can confirm this.

  • Joe R., perhaps you’d be interested to know that there once *was* an elevated cycleway that ran from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles. It opened in 1897 and was later replaced (sigh) by a freeway.

  • Joe R.

    Thanks for the info, Urbanis. I wasn’t aware of that. Maybe the idea will come back into vogue. Besides not taking up street space, elevated cycleways have lots of other advantages besides those I already mentioned. They can be roofed over to allow cycling in inclement weather. They can be designed to channel prevailing winds in the direction of bike traffic, turning headwinds into tailwinds. Getting more elaborate, you can line the roof with solar panels which run fans to create an artificial tailwind. In short, besides making cycling perfectly safe, a well-designed elevated cycleway can get average cycling speeds on par with rail transit, especially if it incorporates artificial tailwinds. In a city like New York, short of mass transit funds, this would be nothing short of revolutionary.

  • philipp

    folks don’t want to look both ways before crossing a path or learn to do that?! it never ceases to amaze me how much people detest looking before they cross anything – the street, sidewalk, even a a store aisle or room. they plain don’t want to look at all. hello?! you were given eyes for a reason and four other primary senses in order to have multiple means of sentience to your surroundings! now, if you refuse to use any one of those senses, you better damn well make sure that those that you might use are in good working order. ah, but guess what? they don’t always work effectively. that’s because some things are ascertained principally by the one sense you decline to use: vision. this is the particularly the case for identifying that there is a bicycle approaching you because they are so quiet. BICYCLES ARE NOT CARS roaring down the street alerting you of their presence even before any of you can make any eye contact. so, pay attention and start using those eyes and don’t assume your ears are going to alert you of everything surrounding you. there is no need to be arrogant about the need to use your senses. just use all of them, all of the time. dammit, to the extent possible. be glad that those that work actually work!

  • Michelle S.

    I am confused by Scott’s statement: “no more sidewalk riding or going against traffic….” Aren’t bikers expected to stay OFF sidewalks and obey the traffic rules of the streets, including especially, riding with the traffic? Would you be riding in the Park AGAINST the flow of traffic? If you did, you’d be wrong.

    The bike lane is ridiculous. Prospect Park is RIGHT THERE, and yes, if there was a bike line established on 8th Ave, that would still be a valid point. The bikers in Prospect Park already think they own that roadway – all of it, at all hours of the day! And to have cars parking in the middle of the street to acommodate more bikes – well, it just boggles my mind.

    The bike lane on Prospect Park West should be removed.

  • J. Mork

    Michelle, the impetus behind the PPW redesign was traffic calming — that’s why a motor lane was removed. The bike lane just happens to be the perfect thing to use the reclaimed space for.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Besides not taking up street space, elevated cycleways have lots of other advantages besides those I already mentioned.”

    The city missed its chance when it decommissioned the Els. They could have been bikeways. One of the many things I would have changed if I could have gone back in time and had omnipotent powers.

    Just imagine the Third Avenue El as a bikeway running from the Battery up the East Side to nearly the Yonkers city line in the Bronx. A bikeway over the Brooklyn Bridge (separate from the pedestrian path) splitting off in two directions, one running down Fulton Street toward Queens and the other down 5th Avenue nearly to Bay Ridge.

    If you aren’t aware of what was there, consult these maps.

    http://images.nycsubway.org/maps/bmt_1912.pdf

    Some of these lines were rebuilt into subway lines, but many were torn down.

    http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/caption.pl?/img/maps/irt_1939_small.jpg

    Elevateds in blue. Not strong enough for metal subway cars.

  • LALA

    Thanks Michelle, LuLu and JoeJoe….words of wisdom! At last someone who see what the rest of us see…accidents waiting to happen! Get rid of the ridulous, dangerous bike path now!!!!!!!! Please Marty!

  • wkgreen

    Michelle, your confusion is… well… confusing.

    How do you expect cyclists to be encouraged to follow the rules without accomodating them? As for Prospect Park, from its inception it was never intended as a transportation corridor. It exists for recreation and the loop serves primarily walkers, joggers and (yes!) recreational bikers. Its commuting potential is limited as it goes one way (the same direction as PPW) and it is only accessible to the street on that side at 3 points: Union St., 3rd St. and 15th St.

    There are so many reasons to have the bike lane on PPW. The only reason to get remove it is that it makes it harder for motorists to speed or double park.

  • I think it would be a great experience to ride an elevated cycleway, but as someone who lives near one of the last remaining Els in Manhattan (the 1 train), I’m not sure mass repurposing them for bikeways would have necessarily been the best move. First, people would have to haul their bicycles up and down stairs to the elevated cycleway. Second, the Els overwhelm the streets they are located on–they can make a street dark, forbidding, and noisy (although as we know bicycles make little noise).

  • Larry Littlefield

    “As someone who lives near one of the last remaining Els in Manhattan (the 1 train).”

    Hah. A Dykman Street/207th/215th St rider eh? Here’s a little story from back in the day — before air conditioners, and when so many trains were knocked out of service that it was crush loading all the way uptown. I was living in Kingsbridge at the time.

    Open windows underground would make the sound pound off the walls. We would desperately anticipate getting to Dykman, beyond which the sound would bounce outward, some air would circulate, and you might get a seat. But beware — once some young hood reached into the window and whopped me upside the head just for fun as the doors closed and the train started to move. Got to rank on me all the way down the platform.

    Ahh, memories. I was one short block away, and after a couple of months the noise trains going by overnight didn’t bother me at all. Bicycles certainly wouldn’t have bothered me. One mistake — I should have started bike commuting back then.

  • One last comment from me on yesterday’s rally.

    Last Saturday, the Department of Transportation did some educational outreach on Prospect Park West, principally targeting cyclists with their “Bike Smart” guide and bike maps, but also answering questions from pedestrians and drivers. I helped out for a couple hours, as it’s obviously important to remind bikers to ride by the rules of the road, pedestrians to look both ways when crossing, and drivers not to park in drop-off zones or pedestrian areas (one woman parked squarely in the crosswalk at the head-end of Union Street “just for a couple minutes” to pick up some pumpkins).

    While there, DOT staff put up some additional temporary green signs along the bike path, some aimed at cyclists and others at people parking. So it was with great amazement when I spotted on of the anti-bike path protesters on Thursday morning holding, proudly holding a sign saying “Bikes – Obey All Traffic Laws” — which she had ripped off the pole where it had been reminding bikes to obey all traffic laws.

    Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. Insane, indeed.

  • LB Honest

    Actually, Eric, the sign was found in the trash, as were others that DOT had posted. The people who feel the bike lane should be moved have no motive to do this, as we feel strongly that someone needs to remind the bikers who blow by the pedestrian crossings regardless of the pedestrian light status as they never paying attention to the lights, peel off the bike lane anywhere they want, rather than at intersections, and just plain ignore the presence of humanity of all ages going on with their life around the bike lane.

    We actually applaud that DOT is trying to rein in some of this behavior. The signs were all removed and dumped, and altnough we didn’t actually see anyone doing it (and you didn’t either, we’ll bet as we konw where the person in questoin found the sign) our hypothesis is that the signs were removed by bikers who think they own the lane. Unless you actually saw the person you claim ripped the sign off doing it, you are, indeed, making it up.

  • dporpentine

    Hey, LB: You were supposed to be keeping track of how dangerous this new lane is. How’s that going? Really looking forward to your analysis of the crash statistics in a year. But you don’t really care about that, do you? So long as humans not in motor vehicles are demonized, you’re happy.

  • Towards the end of the morning, I was riding north in the path while some of the anti-path protesters were leaving the scene. I stopped at the crosswalk so they could get across the path, gestured politely and said “after you” to them. We were literally surrounded by cops. But the anti-path protesters refused to cross while I was yielding to them. They insisted that I ride through the crosswalk first, and one of them said “no, it’s not safe.”

    Shows where at least some of the “anti” crowd is coming from with their “safety” concerns.

  • Apologies, LB. Let me amend that to “which had been ripped off the pole.” Perhaps by a cyclist, perhaps by a critic of the PPW redesign.

    Why go to the trouble, though, of calling yourself “LB Honest” rather than just using your real name. That reminds me of the 9 PPW resident who emailed me to ask for PSN’s speed survey data (which we had said we would provide to anyone, and we meant anyone) allegedly to use with his Brooklyn College students. Turns out he forgot to mention that he’s deeply involved with the small group of opponents still arguing against the redesign.

    I mean, LB Honest, right?

    Speaking of that data, another of your ringleaders sent an error-filled email to a Deputy Mayor and a long list of other city officials that described it as “amateurish” “so-called ‘speed data'” and claimed they were “ad hoc speed-gun measurements based on an altogether unsystematic sampling procedure, taken by unqualified non-professionals, which would not withstand any objective methodological appraisal.” The only problem with those claims is that the Department of Transportation’s own data completely confirms the results we published!

    And let’s also note that when he forwarded that email to others in your group, he wrote that he “dealt with the safety by pointing out various created potential hazards—had no data but anecdotal evidence.

    What, not even amateurish data?

    Yes, LB Honest.

  • @Larry, I actually like riding the elevated portions–you have a wonderful view and light and air. However, I think the visual pollution, light blocking, and noise creates a less than desirable street, so I think the underground system is preferable to an elevated system.

    The most civilized form of urban transit in my opinion is the streetcar/light rail. You get both the benefits of light, air, and views as a rider, but since the tracks are at street level, the businesses and residents don’t have their light, air, and views blocked by the massive elevated tracks.

  • And, Larry, thanks for sharing your memories of riding the uptown 1–very interesting to read!

  • Joe R.

    Yeah, the idea of repurposing those abandoned els as cycleways might seem attractive initially, but they really make the underlying street less desireable. A purpose-built elevated cycleway would be unobtrusive, airy, perhaps even enhance the street it’s built on if it’s done right. It could even double as a fixture to hang streetlights from.

  • Steven F

    20 feet above the ground.
    4 percent grade on ramps. We are not using steps.
    500 foot long ramp from ground to elevated cycletrack.
    Do we have a lot of 500 foot long 8 foot wide space to lock out on sidewalk or streets?
    And we still have to get from the bottom of the ramps to our house or destination on local streets with the usual traffic.
    Wonderful concept, but…
    The devil is in the details.

  • Joe R.

    Regarding ramps, the ones I’ve seen on pedestrian overpasses typically go up halfway, then turn 180 degrees. You can even do 2 180 degree turns with the ramps arranged similar to a stairwell. This way the cyclist enters the ramp in the same direction he/she wants to travel. That cuts the space by a factor of 3. Also, 15 feet above the ground is all you need because the maximum legal height for road vehicles is 13′ 6″. And the grade can be closer to 7 percent. Most cyclists can handle a 7 percent grade for a short climb of 15 feet. In fact, the worst grades on the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which was converted to a bike path, seem to around 7 percent but they only need to go up about 15 feet. As such, they’re quite manageable. Putting all this together you only need 70 feet for the ramp. Or if you really do need to go up 20 feet, then figure about 100 feet for the ramp. No need for ramps on every block either. It defeats the purpose of the whole idea if you have cyclists entering or exiting every block. Maybe ramps every ten blocks are sufficient. That means you’ll need to go at most five blocks on local streets to get whatever cross street you’re going to. After that, maybe a block or two on cross streets and you’re there. We don’t need the elevated cycleways on every single street to make the system useful. I’d say if we put them on the arterials in the outer boroughs then we’ll have a cycleway within 1/2 a mile of most places. In Manhattan just run them along every other avenue, and maybe put in a crosstown cycleway on a few of the major cross streets. The crosstown cycleways could connect to the bike lanes along the major bridges, and from there to the outer borough cycleways. In principle you could do maybe 19 miles of a 20 mile journey from, say, eastern Queens, to midtown, non-stop on the cycleways. The concept is similar to expressways. You don’t need a lot of expressways to make a useful system.

    No idea on the cost but as public works projects go this doesn’t seem like it would be terribly expensive. The more I think about it the more I love the whole idea. Just the idea of riding high over neighborhoods, perhaps even at something approaching express train speed if one had an aerodynamic velomobile, is both exhilarating as well as unbelieveable useful from a transportation standpoint. Even with conventional bicycles, perhaps with some form of artificial tailwinds, we could get commuter cyclists going 20-25 mph without working up a sweat. Think about it-20 or 25 mph nonstop speeds for most of the trip in an urban environment with no waiting times like public transit. This seems so useful to me it’s almost freaky. The hard part is convincing enough public officials of the merits of this whole idea. I’m sure quite a few will be opposed for no logical reason, same as with the PPW bike lane.

  • In support of Joe R., what makes the West Side Greenway so handy for bicycle commuting, particularly north of 59th St., is that there is only one intersection with automobile traffic (around 135th St) and not much pedestrian traffic above the Upper West Side (except on weekends in summer months). It really works well as a bicycle expressway. I completely agree that one doesn’t need a lot of expressways–by which one means a grade-separated route, which is what an elevated cycleway would be–to make a useful system.

  • 8th st sloper

    I am sorry but this is crazy data this and data that. Just observe the craziness on a daily basis.  A NYPD patrol officer pulled over a veichle yesterday wihich they stopped in the middle of PPW. As they gave him a summons the traffic built up behind him due to the reduction of the traveling lanes.  Not to mention a few feet away Fresh Direct was making there deliveries.  Talk about unsafe conditions.

  • @ 8th st sloper,

    So how many crashes or injuries resulted from the allegedly “unsafe conditions” you report above? Fresh Direct delivers to every block in Park Slope. Should we widen all of them to three lanes? Did you ask the Fresh Direct driver to pull in next to a fire hydrant or onto the adjacent side street? It’s also just possible that the driver stopped by the police did something that actually was unsafe. Granted, it would be better had they pulled him over to a place where they weren’t blocking a lane, but let’s remember that all the other avenues in Park Slope are also two lane roads.

    Your “unsafe conditions,” amigo, are a red herring.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey 8th Avenue sloper, without the PPW bike lane, I’d have to ride my bike north on 8th Avenue, which is two lanes wide (just like PPW is now).

    I find that road dangerous to ride a bike on, particularly for my daughters. Don’t you agree?

    PPW and 8th Avenue are paired twins, one way in each direction. They now each have two lanes. One might assume they carry the same traffic, unless the Prospect Expressway exist means 8th Avenue carries more traffic than PPW.