Park Slope Passes on Traffic-Calming, Ped Safety & Bike Lanes

Gowanus Lounge reports on the debate over DOT’s 9th Street redesign plan at last night’s Park Slope Civic Council meeting. The Civic Council voted overwhelmingly to "table" a plan that would provide the neighborhood with improved pedestrian safety on one of the most hazardous streets in the area, enhanced cyclist safety along a key access route to Prospect Park and Red Hook, and traffic-calming along an overly broad street with low vehicle counts and a serious speeding problem.

Anyone naive enough to think that bike lanes would be embraced in Park Slope–home of a food coop where green is an ideology, not a color–would have been quickly disabused of the notion within moments of walking into the room at Methodist Hospital on Seventh Avenue where the Park Slope Civic Council was holding its monthly meeting last night.

"There is no way in hell there is going to be a bike lane on Ninth Street," one resident exclaimed before the meeting even started.

A group of Ninth Street residents turned out in force to strongly oppose a Department of Transportation proposal that would add turning lanes and bike lanes to Ninth Street, and in the end the PSCC voted 14-3, with one abstention, to object to the plan.

The primary objections voiced by residents were that a bike lane would interfere with double parking and the ability to pick up and drop off children, for instance. There were also concerns that narrowing the street from two lanes to one lane would cause traffic congestion and that bicyclists would be deposited at the Ninth Street entrance to Prospect Park, which is for pedestrians. There were also a number of complaints that the city’s Department of Transportation had not involved residents in preparing its plan.

Note to Livable Streets advocates: If you don’t join civic groups and show up to community meetings, you lose.

Note to DOT: I am sure that you could have won over most of this 9th Street crowd if you had included them in the planning process.

Note to Mayor Bloomberg: You need to say that projects like these are critical to the future of New York City. We need a mandate.

  • JK

    Disappointing news. But this again raises the question of what forum the DOT and concerned public should focus on. In this case, getting 50 people to the community board meeting, and a letter of support from the city council representative should be adequate political support for DOT to procede. 17 unelected people showing up at the PSCC shouldnt be enough to veto a plan ‘like this.

  • Note to parking planners: get the damn curb right so double parking (illegal) isn’t *threatened* by a proposed bike lane (rational and green).

    Sheesh, makes almost as little sense as minting parking placards like funny money.

    NYC wouldn’t do that, would it?

  • beep

    wow…how dare you guys try to come btwn park slopers and their uniquely righteous sense of entitlement!!!

  • Seriously. I can’t even keep it straight anymore: Are the cyclist/ped advocates the entitled Park Slopers or the double-parkers?

    Or does any blog post with the words “Park Slope” in it evoke a comment with the word “entitled” in it?

  • d

    I’m with Aaron. I’m tired of every Park Slope post resulting in someone criticizing the neighborhood’s residents as entitled, simply because they voice an opinion. Whether or not you agree with their actions, people in Park Slope are involved in their community, more so than in a lot of other neighborhoods. Since when does caring about what happens in your neighborhood make you entitled?

    If anyone seems entitled, it’s car owners who simply must be allowed to double park, no matter where they live.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    What is really wrong with being entitled? Am I missing something? Civic minded people come out to participate in the politics of their community aren’t all Americans similarly entitled? Isn’t that in the Constitution or the fine print on the Credit Card agreement or somewhere? I know I read it somewhere.

  • I face many of these issues in my area.

    The problem is not an over sense of entitlement on anyone’s behalf. We are all citizens and this is a democracy.

    It’s that we have a process that encourages those most affect to express their views and come to meetings and for people to take extreme positions in community meetings like this with the only common denominator or compromise position be “keep things as they are”.

    There needs to be more of a chance to take a sense of the larger community in a more thoughtful and collaborative way.

  • LocalGuy

    Or, another way of looking at it:
    Stuff like this is bound to happen in a neighborhood built before everyone had cars. No driveways, plus way too many cars in PS, plus a hospital going 24/7, make this a place where parking insanity is the norm.

  • JK

    The parking insanity is citywide. This is a city in which religion is celebrated through parking holidays and privilege through placards. When it comes to parking, irrationality is embraced and heralded from City Council to the Slope Civic Council.

    New York motorist have met the enemy and it is them.

  • nimby pimby

    “Note to DOT: I am sure that you could have won over most of this 9th Street crowd if you had included them in the planning process.”

    Do you realize what you’re saying? You want DOT to install more bike lanes but you want them to include the community in planning all of them? Any idea how long that would take? To get 200 miles in three years you can’t have a three month planning process with the community for every lane.

    Also, any idea how much would be sacrificed to build a consensus? You’d end up with sharrows for every lane mile in the city!

    And even if the “community” is included in the planning process who does that represent? Not every neighbor is going to show up, only ones with a certain agenda. What about all the other people who are affected but can’t spend their time coming to bike lane planning meetings? And what about people who don’t live in the community but would use the bike lanes?

  • steve

    Democracy is lovely, but I had thought that DOT was shoving its 200 miles of bike lanes down the throats of dissenting communities. Is Park Slope somehow exempt?

  • Indeed, Steve. DOT did say that it would install its 200 miles of bike lanes over Community Board objections.

    The PSCC vote doesn’t mean all that much necessarily.

    In fact, CB6’s transportation committee voted to approve the project last Thursday by a margin of 4-2. Though, CB6 members will try to have that vote overturned at their full board meeting next Weds. 4/11.

  • VoiceOfReason

    Bike lanes, in general, have absolutely no place in New York city. If you want to ride your bike in NYC, decked out in your shiny helmet and skin tight pants, you do it like we did back in the bad old days: vying for space with all the other traffic.

    I swear, this town gets more sissy by the minute.

  • BorschtBelt

    VoiceOfReason sounds a lot like VoiceOfHistory. I was expecting reason’s voice to be as smooth and soulful as VoiceOfSustainability, not all whiny and intentionally dopey.

  • cheeks

    You can have my car lanes when you pry them from the cold, dead hands of someone else’s child.

  • superstraightguy

    VoiceOf”Reason” seems to need a big piece of metal and lots of lanes of asphault to feel like he’s not “sissy”, I guess. Is there some other department where you’re lacking, Voice?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Yeah, I generally don’t expect the Voice of Reason to use ad hominem arguments.

    In the past year I think less than 5% of the cyclists I’ve see are wearing skin-tight pants, and most of them were on Route 9W in NJ. Certainly most of the bike-lane advocates I’ve met haven’t been wearing skin-tight pants.

    The whole point of bike lanes is to make cycling safe for sissies and thus increase motorist familiarity with cyclists and swell the ranks of cycling supporters. You might disagree with this strategy, but sissies are an integral part of it.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    Most cyclists in NYC are hungry Latin guys trying to save money to send home. They won’t be showing up at the Community Board meeting. Environmentalists and people of conscious will.

  • The real issue is that cyclists are currently an extreme minority of trips even in eco-friendly Park Slope. While current street design is a major factor, politicians are not sensitive to the needs of future voters, but rather today’s.

    We also tend to overestimate people’s beliefs translating into direct action and underestimate the power of the human mind to rationalize their actions afterwards.

  • Steve Faust

    Re the DOT 9th St plan – I like it.

    DOT has included buffer space alongside the bike lanes. The roadway lane allocations work with one vehicle lane each way, a 3 foot buffer in the center of the street and a dedicated left turn lane. Yes, drivers still need to watch for bicyclists and pedestrians when they turn, only there will be one less lane of oncoming traffic to distract them when they turn.

    This is not at all like the One-way No-way plan that a different unit of DOT tried to BS us with.

    DOT has used the latest thinking in multi-modal traffic planning on 9th St. This is state-of-the-art design to move everyone smoother, and though hard to believe, slow speeding motor vehicles, while getting traffic through the street quicker.

  • Steve Faust is right. The DOT plan is not just about bicycle lanes, it’s also about better conditions for drivers, pedestrians and local businesses. The redesign has improved safety due to fewer conflict points, better visibility and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians. There is less speeding and more efficient traffic movement. The more pedestrian-friendly design can lead to more trade for local businesses.

    Here’s a pretty good presentation by traffic engineer Michael Ronkin that illustrates similar redesigns and the benefits. Here’s another one by Dan Burden.

  • Try again: Another one by Dan Burden.

  • N. Pimby,

    I hear you. In the current environment, it is hard to imagine how a community planning process could work. Hell, at this PSCC meeting the other night I, essentially played the role of DOT representative. Angry 9th Street residents were pointing at me and saying, “This plan of yours!…” I suppose it was some sort of karmic payback for helping to bring out 650 people to the “One Way? No Way!” meeting a few weeks ago. I’ve been to enough community meetings to know how hard it is to deal with the “community.”

    There are really good precedents out there for productive community planning processes. First, take a look at how London is approaching its even more aggressive bike network build-out using this process called CRISP in which community stakeholders are brought together by city government and they actually all go out together and ride the proposed bike route:

    Then look at the Context-Sensitive Solutions movement in the US:

    Or just look at the open source software movement. The best products are now being built not be top-down centralized command and control systems but systems that allow the users to help create the product:

    Simply put, NYC is a huge city. There is no way one can expect a single centralized agency with limited resources to be able to take care of all of the miniscule details required to make a livable streets movement agenda work. DOT needs to get better at brining local stakeholders into the process. It’ll create a better product.

    That being said: I think we also need to have a major reform of the Community Board system in NYC. With their unelected life-time appointees and limited power, CB’s often don’t do a good job of representing the community. One of the things I noticed in London and Paris on recent trips was that their borough and arrondisement-level governments represent almost the exact same number of people as our community boards, between 160K and 220K (I should double-check those numbers).

    So while in Brooklyn 180,000 people have a staff of four and 50 unelected appointees representing them, over in the London Borough of Islington pretty much the same number of citizens have a City Hall, a mayor, an elected council, their own street sweeper machines, parking agents and parking permit revenue.

    The Imperial Mayor thing just isn’t working very well for NYC in a lot of ways. We need more local accountability and control.

  • JK

    Please take these comments on the London boroughs and write a larger SB piece on them. A system of competent, dynamic local governance is critical to creating a sustainable city of livable streets.

    I’m with you on London boroughs being a potentially good model for NYC. That means elected executives and borough councils for areas just a little bit bigger than our community boards. So Brooklyn would be divided into 10-12 “small boroughs.” The existing borough would be scrapped except for the judicial system. At least for land use and transportation, our current system does not work.


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