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Brooklyn Paper on PPW: Double-Parking Takes Precedence Over Safety

12:00 PM EDT on May 7, 2010

The self-hating cyclists at the Brooklyn Paper are at it again. A year after siding with a handful of merchants who wanted to erase the Fifth Avenue bike lane, Gersh Kuntzman and the editors of Brooklyn's flagship media property say they don't want to see a protected, two-way bike path on Prospect Park West:

gersh.jpgGersh Kuntzman: cyclist? Photo: Brooklyn Paper

The city says that such a configuration, which already exists along
Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, would make Prospect Park West safer for
everyone. But we’re not convinced. Unlike Kent Avenue, Prospect Park
West has significant pedestrian traffic that will have to cross that
bike lane. Now, instead of merely looking out for speeding car traffic
from the north, pedestrians will have to be alert for bike traffic
zipping from the south.

If the issue was simply traffic-calming along Prospect Park West,
the city already has many old-fashioned tools at its disposal: altering
traffic light timing, enforcing speed limits better, narrowing car
lanes, or even making Prospect Park West two-way.

Instead, the agency is using an elephant gun to take down a mouse --
and, in doing so, ignored some of the realities about life on
Brooklyn's version of Central Park West.

Trucks making deliveries and soccer moms and dads dropping off their
charges for sporting events often double-park on the stretch. With
three full lanes, drivers can easily get around the blockage. But
eliminating one lane for cars will cause congestion -- and inflame,
rather than calm, traffic.

And there's something else that has been lost in this whole debate:
Prospect Park West already has a great bike lane. It's called Prospect
Park.

So the Brooklyn Paper isn't convinced that narrowing a roadway, shortening crossing distances for pedestrians, and adding physical protection for cyclists will make the street safer. That's insane.

The main basis for the claim seems to be that pedestrians will have to be more aware of cyclists. As the editors surely know, pedestrians are already on the lookout for cyclists drawn to the safe haven of PPW's extra-wide sidewalks. Reducing bike-ped conflict is one of this plan's many safety enhancements, although it's a minor one compared to calming traffic traveling at deadly speeds. (Also, guys, where's the internal consistency? Two-way traffic on PPW is a nice idea, but then all that sacrosanct double-parking will -- gasp! -- "create blockages" and force motorists to weave into oncoming traffic.)

Let's get real. This isn't a call to try other traffic-calming methods. The Brooklyn Paper editors -- like Marty Markowitz, Marcia Kramer, and the anonymous NIMBYs spreading misinformation about the PPW bike lane -- would rather see the street just stay the way it is: a three-lane urban speedway where cars take precedence over pedestrians and cyclists.

I know Gersh rides to work and he likes the Kent Avenue bike lane, but how much longer can the Brooklyn Paper get away with the "we're cyclists, but..." shtick? Once you start calling the one-way Prospect Park loop -- where rush hour traffic still whizzes by -- "a great bike lane," I think you may have forfeited any legitimate claim to call yourself a cyclist.

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