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Anonymous Bike Lane Opponent Scores Media Coup on NY1

12:14 PM EDT on April 21, 2010

ppw_alarmism.jpgWill we ever see the headline "Bike Lane Opponent Resorts to Misinformation and Lies"? Image: NY1

This report on the proposed Prospect Park West bike lane from NY1's Jeanine Ramirez doesn't quite stoop to Marcia Kramer levels of fabrication, but that might make it even more insidious. Slap together a few shots of ill-informed people on the street, add an anonymous flyer, and you've got a story headlined "Park Slope Residents Oppose Addition Of Bike Lane."

The central claim that the story rests on -- the reason it's "news" -- concerns the "growing opposition" to the PPW bike lane. The same bike lane that DOT designed at the request of neighborhood residents. "Those who oppose the bike lane have started a campaign to try to stop it," Ramirez tells us.

So, who's organizing against the bike lane? Well, it's impossible to say, because the "campaign" seems to consist mainly of anonymous flyers that someone slipped under the front doors of Prospect Park West this weekend. These pieces of anti-bike lane propaganda get a brief turn on camera in Ramirez's report. Here are a few examples of the misinformation and fear that the unnamed opponent is peddling:

    • The bike lane will eliminate the B69 bus route. Clever, because it's true that the B69 is being re-routed. But that has nothing to do with the bike lane and everything to do with the recalcitrance of our representatives in the state legislature to fund transit through bridge tolls or congestion pricing.
    • Traffic will be hazardous to pedestrians and pets. I wonder how many people fall for this sort of scare tactic. Even if you're not aware that the type of design proposed for PPW has made other streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, it just makes no intuitive sense that narrowing traffic lanes creates hazards.
    • Police and emergency services will be impeded. Officers from the 78th precinct were on hand at last week's open house about the project. While they wouldn't say a word to reporters, they were quite jovial and didn't seem put off by the prospect of a traffic-calmed PPW. Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors tells us that "neither the FDNY nor NYPD nor any ambulance service nor any other city agency has voiced any opposition to the plan whatsoever."
    • Park Slope residents were never notified. I'm sure that of the 65,000 people who live in Park Slope, quite a few don't know this is happening. But not because no one tried to tell them. While Ramirez does mention that Community Board 6 has held hearings on the project and asked the DOT to implement it, she doesn't mention all the grassroots organizing that led up to that CB request.

More than 1,300 people, including several dozen PPW residents, have signed on to the Park Slope Neighbors petition asking for a traffic-calmed PPW with a two-way bike path. They put their names behind the request for a much-needed safety improvement, and the organizers backed up their proposal by documenting the rampant speeding next to Prospect Park. But apparently, all it takes is one anonymous act of inaccurate scare-mongering to create a semblance of "growing opposition" that the media will buy.

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