Brad Lander and Park Slope Residents Rally For Prospect Park West Bike Lane

City Council Member Brad Lander, joined by Park Slope community leaders, defended the Prospect Park West bike lane in the wake of yesterday's lawsuit. Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Brad Lander and supporters of the Prospect Park West bike lane rallied on the steps of City Hall this afternoon in response to yesterday’s lawsuit, filed by a group of well-connected Park Slope residents who want to rip the lane out.

“A small group of opponents have chosen to bring a baseless lawsuit in an effort to block further safety improvements, to eradicate the lane, to go back to three lanes of traffic on Prospect Park West, the speedway that it was before, and essentially to impose their will on the community through a lawsuit,” said Lander.

The council member, who represents much of Park Slope, called the bike lane “an enormous success” and noted that it not only has been proven to reduce speeding and enhance safety, but also has the strong support of most of the local community. In a survey sponsored by Lander and Council Member Stephen Levin’s offices, which received 3,000 responses, 78 percent of Brooklynites and 71 percent of Park Slope residents said they supported the new design. According to Lander, the idea for such a survey actually came from opponents of the bike lane, who expected the results to go the other way.

The two-way, separated bike lane was the result of a multi-year community process and numerous votes by Community Board 6. “I don’t see how you could have a more extensive process than we had here,” said Lander.

Lander was joined by several Park Slope community leaders, including Park Slope Civic Council president Michael Cairl, Park Slope Neighbors co-founder Eric McClure, and Gary Reilly, the chair of CB 6’s environmental protection committee. After the 73-year-old Gene Aronowitz explained how the Prospect Park West bike lane has enabled him to stay active, Lander quipped, “We have seniors for safety and neighbors for better bike lanes right here at the press conference.”

  • Marina

    Thank you, Brad Lander! I’m proud to have you represent me as my Council Member.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good for him.

  • mike

    Thank you Mr. Lander. You truly are stepping up for the health, safety and happiness of your district residents, as well as that of all New Yorkers!

  • JK

    Thank you to Brad Lander for his reasoned and intelligent support of the PPW land, and for taking a clear stand in the face of Chuck Schumer’s political machinations and the hyper charged media distortion machine at CBS 2 and the Post. From his community polling to his engagement with the community board and DOT, Lander’s open minded, yet no-nonsense approach to the lane has established him as one of the few politicians in New York City with the smarts, diligence and integrity to keep us moving forward. We need more Landers in this town.

  • Pandabear

    Since NBBL is apparently reading the comments, let me say I SAW JANETTE SADIK KHAN RUN OVER AN ELDERLY PERSON ON HER SUV BICYCLE

  • Adam

    It is indeed reassuring that Brad has not only preserved his objectivity on the PPW bike lane imbroglio but also promptly countered the filing of what appears to me to be a completely frivolous law suit engineered by a cabal of obviously elite and politically connected individuals whose real concerns are shrouded in hyperbole, euphemism, and misrepresentation of the issues. I’m not quite sure why or how bicycling and pro bicycle policy has become public enemy number one to these folks, Post columnists, other members of the Third Estate and apparently Rep. Weiner among others. PS Isn’t the law firm that is representing these groups Pro Bono one of the main firms who represented Bush in Bush v. Gore? The fact that they are doing so purportedly Pro Bono is really outrageous IMHO.

  • Lisa

    I was very pleased to see and participate in Brad Lander’s survey and his follow up conference call on the issue earlier this year.

    I participated in the survey and my vote to accept the lanes with modification was counted as one of the majority in favor of the lanes.

    HOWEVER, Interpreting my vote in that way is over simplified and not an accurate representation of my position on the new configuration.

    It isn’t just about bike lanes so to reduce the discussion to being pro-bike anti-bike is a severe distortion for me.

    Cars and Bikes were safety issues before the “traffic calming” plan and are still – just in different ways and the new configuration has raised some safety issues of concern for me and my family —

    1) narrower travel lanes leaves vehicles little room for maneuver at any speed – I’ve seen more fender benders/mirrors swiped in the time since the new configuration has been put in place than in the entire 20Yrs I’ve lived on PPW before the new pattern.

    2) Visibility is not as good crossing the street from the park side – can’t see as far down the street for oncoming vehicles (slow or fast).

    3) Visibility crossing the street from the non-park side a new trouble because need to watch for bikes on the bike path who don’t abide by the traffic lights and may not have lights. The view is blocked by parked cars.

    I have great respect for people who get involved in the community and work to better our environment but just because a process took many years and had lots of input doesn’t mean we thought of everything and that things have turned out the way we anticipated.

    I have questions about DOT study on speed of bike traffic and traffic flow – they reported that the usage tripled on weekends but is that number comparing apples to apples or something else – for instance I wondered if they also tallied the bike usage and speeds clocked in the park both pre and post config. Just a question not an indictment of the DOT at all.

    All I know is that while it is easier to ride bikes on PPW, and traffic gets more congested at certain times of the day — I’ve seen more incidents since the configuration than I had in 20yrs prior and still have to watch for speeding cars during less congested hours and be on watch for faster bike travel on the lanes when going into the park – I don’t feel safer but that’s just one person’s definition of “safe.”

  • zz

    I think the problem here is that Park Slope has an entitlement problem. Each person is the center of his/her own universe, and the rest of us must watch the resulting dramas play out in the media.

    I’d like to see more resources and planning efforts invested in lower-income and more deserving neighborhoods.

  • Lisa,

    One point of clarification, since I can’t argue with your experience. The travel lanes were not narrowed, to the best of my knowledge. One travel lane was eliminated, but the remaining two lanes were not made any more narrow than typical travel lanes on other two-lane streets.

    In theory, drivers should have no more trouble navigating the new PPW as they do driving on any of hundreds of NYC streets.

  • thfs

    @Lisa-

    To your point #2, that the pedestrian sightlines of the traffic lane from the park side of the crosswalk were better under the old configuration is not true. Remember that cars could park between the crosswalks? That meant you were coming out from a very small space right into the traffic lanes. Now there are a few less parking spaces and you have better sightlines of the on-coming traffic.

    This is like when I heard one person complain about the new configuration that it was too dangerous to jaywalk because a crosswalk had been eliminated. We had to look at google earth and turns out that she was wrong- there had never been a crosswalk where she said there was!

  • kevd

    There is a problem with the traffic control lights on the bike path.
    If you are going to give pedestrian a “Walk” signal, you should also give bikes on the bike path (in both directions) a red light… and a red light that can be seen.

    Cyclists “don’t abide by the traffic lights” because they don’t get red lights on the bike path, just these weird flashing yellows that can’t be seen anyway.
    So yes, there is a significant design flaw there.

    (or has it changed? I haven’t taken it in a few months, as I live on the opposite side of the Park)

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Cyclists ‘don’t abide by the traffic lights’ because they don’t get red lights on the bike path, just these weird flashing yellows that can’t be seen anyway.”

    I think most people on bicycles follow the same commonsense rule I do. Expect pedestrians to step out at any point, and if they don’t stop, you do. I just ride as if there is a flashing yellow all the way from Windsor Terrace to Midtown and back.

  • tom

    zz: Please don’t feel obligated to share Park Slope efforts anywhere soon.

  • Joe R.

    “Cyclists “don’t abide by the traffic lights” because they don’t get red lights on the bike path, just these weird flashing yellows that can’t be seen anyway.

    So yes, there is a significant design flaw there.”

    It’s not a design flaw. The bike path runs adjacent to the park, with no possibility of a motor vehicle crossing it. That’s the sole reason to have traffic signals-to prevent motor vehicles from colliding with each other, or with bikes on a bike path. Cyclists can interact with pedestrians crossing by following the flashing yellow, which basically means yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk at all times. Both sides win. If no peds are crossing, then cyclists don’t have to stop on red and stare at empty space. They can in theory have a continuous journey for the entire 19 block stretch. If peds are crossing, then cyclists will slow or stop as needed to let them cross. Both peds and cyclists have good enough visibility, plus slow enough speeds, so that interactions between them can be on a see and be seen basis. Traffic lights would negate the entire purpose of having the bike path where it is. They’re a construct which simply wouldn’t need to exist in the absence of faster motor traffic.

  • mfs

    @kevd-

    My understanding is that the DOT is going to clarify the situation w/r/t to the ped-bike crossings. Let’s hope that the lawsuit doesn’t hold this up!

  • NattyB

    @Adam,

    re: “Isn’t the law firm that is representing these groups Pro Bono one of the main firms who represented Bush in Bush v. Gore?”

    Yah, and that lawyer (Ted Olson) teamed up with Gore’s attorney (David Boies) to overturn California’s anti-gay marriage law. Ted Olson is very pro-same sex marriage and for Conservative reasons. He’s a good guy (notwithstanding his role in bush v. gore).

  • Boris

    Interpreting a lack of traffic lights as a “design flaw” comes from a mindset of the need for maximum control of the public, preferably technological control, to avoid being held personally responsible for one’s actions. It harks back to an earlier era, where fear of the “other” drove people into isolation in the suburbs, or at least into the protective surroundings of their cars.

    That era is over. There is no longer need for control. Give people a chance to adjust to their new surroundings, and couple that perhaps with some education. Everything will be fine.

    I’d say about 50% of my decision to start a graduate degree in city planning has been due to being inspired by JSK’s work. Here I had an example of government really working for the people. The PPW outreach process is nothing but a textbook example of how planning should be done. If this is all overturned by some stupid lawsuit, what message does that carry for me and my fellow students? Avoid NYC, don’t try to live or work there. It is a backwards place not worthy of our efforts.

  • I’ve never been to new york, but is it for real ? In my opinion i think new york is a great place to do business, not to live

  • On flashing yellows: according to the statute, they require caution, but do not indicate who should yield to whom. As Joe says, any reasonable cyclist with a yellow light should yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and the law requires cyclists to use due care not to strike pedestrians. However there are differences among cyclists about what “yielding” to a pedestrians mean, and pedestrians have their own views.

    Some cyclists think yielding means simply changing course and speed sufficient not to hit the pedestrian, even if a “near miss” results (and pedestrians and cyclists often have different views about what constitutes a “near miss.”) Some pedestrians do not feel “yielded to” unless the cyclist puts both feet down on the pavement.

    Especially given the charged atmosphere surrounding the PPW bike path, cyclists should strongly consider yielding yield to pedestrians by slowing down and using hand gestures, eye contact and statements to indicate that the pedestrians has the right of way and should proceed through before the cyclist. This approach might help build a little trust and would be more efficient for everyone.

  • gecko

    @powerofsocinnov Deputy mayor @s_goldsmith The Social Innovation Daily is wonderful! http://bit.ly/hP0kGj

    http://paper.li/powerofsocinnov

  • kevd

    I would much rather know that I do not have the right of way and therefore have to come to a stop (occasionally) than have to wonder if some is about to cross at every single one of the cross walks (are there about 6 total?).

    The problem is that pedestrian are operating under the knowledge that they, and they alone of have the right of way (they have a “Walk” signal after all), while we have a conflicting “exercise caution” signal. If you want to impose a dutch style, signal free “figure it out on your own” system of determining right of way (i.e. eye contact) you have to confuse all parties equally, not give one group a very clear, very definitive “Walk” signal. Based on the complaints of the the Bike Lane opponents, I would say that the current system clearly isn’t working out very well for them.

  • kevd

    (someone is about to cross)

  • Joe R.

    @kevd,

    If you insist that actual traffic signals are needed on the bike lane, then why not push to cross? It’s retarded for the signals on the bike lane to go red in sync with the car signals if nobody is crossing. Most cyclists are quite willing to slow or stop when there’s a reason, but forcing them to sit and wait for absolutely nothing makes little sense. Don’t forget, the minute you stick in traffic lights synced with the car signals, you’re going to have cyclists in the lane racing to “make the light” just like car drivers do. That’s probably the last thing we need. When cyclists know they only need to slow or stop for actual people crossing, and then for only as long as it takes for the person to cross, they’re apt to ride much more sanely.

    I personally feel there’s nothing wrong with the existing system that a little tweaking wouldn’t fix. The pedestrian walk signals should only be adjacent to the part of the crosswalk which crosses the two car lanes. That clears up any ambiguity that it also applies to the bike lane. On the bike lane, the signs should simply tell peds to look both ways before crossing. And the bike lane should be signed yield to pedestrians at all times, establashing that peds generally have the right-of-way here. Just in the interests of keeping good public relations, it’s better to defer to pedestrians anyway. One less thing for the opponents to complain about.

  • Adam

    @ Natty B

    I did not mean to cast blanket aspersions on the firm or all of its members. My beef if focused on this firm’s choice to represent Pro Bono a group of wealthy individuals many if not most of whom reside in expensive homes on PPW when this group’s interest is strictly parochial and not a matter of public interest despite their couching it in such terms. Not to mention that there is an appearance that the law firm is representing this politically connected group for self-interested motives, not that they don’t have a right to do so. Just don’t use the term Pro Bono which connotes what they are doing is in the public interest . . . nuff said.

  • Adam

    On the issue of bicyclist’s behavior, I cast my vote with those my fellow cyclists who slow down and nor stop if necessary to allow pedestrians who have a walk signal cross in front of them without their having to worry about whether the cyclist is going to stop and yield or not. Considering all the backlash we cyclists need to be especially vigilant and act as ambassadors in an effort to temper all the hostility that exists against us. I am frequently troubled by cyclists who think that just because they know they can ride around peds and avoid hitting them that that is the proper course of action. Give respect get respect! Peace.

  • eveostay

    You’re right, zz. One side thinks it is entitled to a share of the street, and the other side thinks it is entitled to all of it. There’s your problem.

  • PM Stanton

    Seeing Brad Landers self-destruct on NY1 (just now) trying to support his case, with lines that sounded like an overly-evil politician character in a poorly written script, made it clear just how false his argument was. I didn’t imagine there could be a scenario in which a bike lane was a bad thing, but his statements for it convinced me of the opposite!

  • kevd

    @JoeR.
    (slow response – worked all day)

    Push to cross makes perfect sense to me. Though it would require additional walk / don’t walk signals and therefore, $.

    I don’t think bike lane traffic control lights have to be coordinated with the lights on the roadway, just with the “walk” signals that they are perpendicular too.
    As it is now, the walk makes it seem that pedestrians have the sole right of way all the way to the curb. Hence the confusion, and anger.

    The pedestrians don’t think they’re in a free floating, dutch style, figure-out-the-right-of-way-with-eye-contact area. They think they have the right of way, and that therefore, the bikes must have a red light.
    Which they don’t.

    Bikes have a “use caution” flashing yellow, which almost always corresponds with a perpendicular flashing red – stop check for cross traffic – proceed when clear.

    The design is flawed because the signals given to the different users indicate, or imply a signal to the other users that is not, in fact what those other users see on their traffic control devices.

    My complaints are not due to out dated reasoning based on cars or a windshield perspective, they are due to the traffic control devices telling 2 separate groups, who cross each others’ paths, that they both have the right of way at the same time.

  • kevd

    Also, your statement that “Most cyclists are quite willing to slow or stop when there’s a reason” would be akin to someone saying “most drivers won’t hit you with your car on purpose.”

    Perfectly nice to note. But pointless from a design perspective.

    And the vitriol from significant percentage of pedestrians indicates to me that both sides are definitely not winning.

    BTW. I only use that lane late at night, so I pretty much never encounter an crossing pedestrians. So, either design works perfectly well for my needs. But then again so did the old, bike lane free PPW (not that I’m in any way arguing for its removal).