In Progress: A More Walkable, Bikeable, Trottable Park Circle

park_circle_bike.jpgA protected bike path will soon wrap around the circumference of Park Circle. Some segments are bi-directional.

There’s a very nice set of livable streets improvements underway at Park Circle, where Brooklynites heading to and from Prospect Park mix it up with traffic heading to and from the Prospect Expressway, Ocean Parkway, and the Fort Hamilton Parkway. Construction was still in progress when I took these pictures a few days ago, but it’s already making a big difference for pedestrians and cyclists. (And, I assume, the equestrians coming from Kensington Stables, although I didn’t see horseback riders during my visit.)

The DOT plan [PDF] got a thumbs up from Brooklyn CB 7 back in June. Here’s a look at the wide open sea of asphalt Park Circle used to be, seen from Coney Island Avenue:


The best thing about the project is that motor vehicles are now channeled into a tighter space. Traffic is noticeably calmer — the circle doesn’t feel like an extension of nearby speedways anymore. Here’s a tighter shot of that same angle today, zoomed in on a fairly huge new traffic island:


More pics after the jump.


A bi-directional approach to the Ocean Parkway Greenway — much, much easier to use than the overpass you see in the background.


It’s also much easier to cross Prospect Park Southwest where it meets the circle. Technically, there’s separate space for pedestrians and cyclists at this crossing, but I think we’ll see a lot of sharing here.


The exit from Prospect Park. Yes, that is a "multi-lane" bike path heading toward Park Circle.

Not pictured in this post: The terrible TD Bank building on the opposite side of Prospect Park Southwest from the park. Its curb-cutting driveways, parking lot, and drive-through window are a real blemish on this much-improved urban space.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.


  • Geck

    I particularly like the incorporation of bi-directional bike lanes around the circle. I assumed we would be expected to have to go 3/4 around the circle, crossing some major interchanges to get from Prospect Park to the Parade Grounds when my son pointed out last weekend we could legitimately go counter-clockwise in the bike lane crossing only one signaled intersection. Bravo to DOT.

  • Geck

    that should read counter-flow/clockwise

  • Wonderful! So many new bike lanes are cropping up faster than I can ride them,

  • Wait. Am I catching this right? The bike path/lane around the circle is bi-directional? (I looked at the PP and it wasn’t clear) I don’t know how I feel about that.

    There are quite a few high-volume intersections this path would cross. Will MV drivers expect bicycle traffic coming in the opposite direction? I’m sure DoT with address this with new traffic signals but why the need? Is DoT just designing it this way knowing that cyclist would simply salmon around the circle if they didn’t? The circle is NOT so big that it is unreasonable to expect bicyclists to ride 3/4 of the way around it.

    Plus that path seems almost too narrow for two-way bike traffic even without the puddles and other debris as pictured above. If traffic was one-way there would be plenty of room to navigate around these hazards. As is, to avoid these hazards one would need to navigate into oncoming bicycle traffic.

    I do hope there is a clearly reasonable reason for this designing the bicycle facility this way. Besides this one concern, it looks like an excellent project.

  • Trips out to Coney Island have always been one of our family’s favorites, but the connection to Ocean Parkway from Prospect Park was incredibly harrowing. One time my son got confused and rode part way up the ramp to the Prospect Expressway before I could stop him. I am really looking forward to trying this out on our next trip to Coney.

  • Andy B from Jersey: The lane does look a bit narrow for two-way but, truth is, most bike lanes wind up being two-way (unofficially) Maybe it’s safer to recognize the salmon and accommodate them with a wider than one-way lane. Cars are supposed to look for pedestrians crossing these intersections so they should be able to look for bicycle traffic too.

  • Andy, all the intersections of the 2-way path with car traffic are signalized.

  • Gross

    The redesign is great (I love it in fact) and MUCH safer to walk thru. Drivers will have to get used slowing down.

    There is a well connected and very vocal minority that have somehow scheduled a DOT Walk Through. I hope the motivation of the group comes from a place that allows for equal and safe use of pubic space regardless of your mode of transport.

    Here is the info on the Walk Through:

    “Park Circle Walk-Through

    Review the Results & Provide Feedback
    The NYCDOT is still making adjustments to Park Circle and would love to hear what you think works and what still needs improvement. Come walk around the area with DOT staff and share your thoughts. All are welcome!

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009
    5:00PM – 6:30PM
    Meet at the Park Circle entrance of Prospect Park
    (between Prospect Park Southwest and Parkside Ave. )

    Please give me a call if you have any questions.
    Claudette Workman”

    Please attend.

  • Mike & Stacy, yes, I’m glad to hear that they are signalized but are they given their own signal phase like on 9th ave in Manhattan? Bicycle traffic can arrive to an intersection very quickly from far away, unlike pedestrians. Once a crosswalk is clear of peds, it is usually clear. If a pedestrian unexpectedly enters the crosswalk when the driver is already committed to making the turn, a pedestrian can stop rather easily. If a bicyclist enters the intersection at high speed (15mph or higher) from a direction a driver might not expect, once the driver is committed the results are usually not so benign.

    Like I said (admittedly) without having seen the redesigned circle I still have my concerns about this one aspect of the project.

    And Stacy, if you and I are both right about salmoning being the reason behind DoT designing it this way (I know, calls for lots of speculation), it is sure a sad statement about how cyclists behave in NYC and what is expected of them.

    God! I sound like John Forester more and more! Ugghh!

  • Gross

    Lets not throw the Baby out with the bathwater.

  • Andy, it doesn’t sound like you’ve ever been to this circle. The intersections are fully signalized in both directions (traffic entering and leaving the circle), so there are no turning conflicts whatsoever, with pedestrians or bikes. That is, at every intersection, cars and peds/bikes are moving perpendicular to each other, and one or the other has the signal, never both.

  • Mike, your right I haven’t been to it since it has been redone and with your explanation and reviewing the PP I now understand.

    It is very unusual to have to go through a traffic light to leave a circle or roundabout. In fact I have NEVER seen that done anywhere (domestically or abroad) but doing so is an utterly brilliant solution and just about eliminates any conflicts bicyclist could have with cars.

    I humbly rescind all my concerns about conflicts at intersections!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Looks like they took my advice and shank the circle from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. Hopefully my child and her friends will be less likely to be run over crossing that circle.

  • BicyclesOnly


    I may be wrong on this, but I think many so-called traffic “circles” in NYC are partly or fully signalized like this one. Columbus “Circle” comes to mind–every entry and egress point from the circle-form roadway has a signal, as far as I can remember. I think NYC drivers are too aggressive, uncooperative and unskilled to use a true Euro-style non-signalized rotary without lots of crashes.

  • Sam

    As someone you rides this circle a few time a week I have to say I am less than impressed with the improvements. Riding the outer ring bike bath is not fun and feels very unsafe because not only am I closer to the exit/entrances to the expressway, but I am hidden by a large amount of parked cars. I will save final judgment for the completed circle but personally I prefer the highly visible, short route through the circle with cars than the long, hidden route around the circle near the exits/entrances.

  • Phil

    Yes it’s all those: walking and bike friendly but it’s also better driving. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? I’m pleased all around since I do all three. . .

  • i like the changes!

    man, every day i’m getting closer to plotting my return to NYC — this time with one purpose in mind — to ride the city!

    oh, and that one grate looks…not so nice.


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