As PPW Intrigue Mounts, Brooklyn Paper Defends the Completed Street

ppw_bike_lane_1.jpgThe new Prospect Park West makes biking and walking safer for all ages. Photo: Jeff Prant

Before I get to the "intrigue" part of this post (it’s juicy), first let me say that if you haven’t checked out the Prospect Park West re-design yet, you owe it to yourself to head on over and take a look. Last time I checked, some of the finishing touches have yet to appear, but it’s already one of the most effective street transformations the city has undertaken.

With two lanes of traffic instead of three, PPW feels like it’s been reclaimed for the neighborhood. I haven’t biked the new two-way path since it opened, but I’ve walked on each side of the new PPW, and it’s a pleasure. The highway speeds and zooming traffic noise are gone, and the calming effect seems to rub off on everybody.

The experts at Project for Public Spaces, where I worked before coming to
Streetsblog, will tell you that the "outer park" matters just as much
as the "inner park."
Well, now the west side of Prospect Park has more breathing room — it’s a much better "outer park." If you’re walking next to the park, you don’t feel hemmed in by parked cars and traffic, and you’re not sharing the sidewalk with cyclists any more. And the bike lane is attracting kids and other riders who never would have felt safe biking on the old PPW.

Not everyone sees it this way. These folks on Facebook want to see the bike lane disappear. (They’ve been eclipsed by the growing ranks of this pro-bike lane group, which — full disclosure! — I joined today.) Last week, Courier-Life publications ran a screed against "pedal-pushing jerks in their fancy Spandex uniforms," though they were curiously silent about the business casual commuters, the pants-wearing errand-runners, and the families-with-kids-in-T-shirts-and-shorts crowd who seem to be enjoying the new lane immensely.

And, a few nights ago, staffers from Marty Markowitz’s office were seen leaving an anti-bike lane strategy session held at 9 Prospect Park West. The apartment building is home to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, whose daughters have both signed on to the anti-bike lane Facebook group, but I was not able to confirm a rumor that the meeting happened inside the Schumer-Weinshall residence. Streetsblog is in the midst of following up on that particular storyline.

In any event, the confrontation over this traffic-calming, sustainability-promoting piece of 21st century transportation infrastructure isn’t over. So it was a pleasant surprise today to see the Brooklyn Paper leap to the defense of the new bike lane. After running a critical opinion piece last month, before the re-design was implemented, the editors have come around:

For all the hysteria in its first two weeks, the Prospect Park West
bike lane has already solved many problems: it has gotten cyclists off
the sidewalk, it has slowed down cars, it has turned Prospect Park West
back into a neighborhood street instead of a thruway, and it has
strengthened the connection between the park itself and the roadway
that frames its western border.

We call that a win for everyone — except drivers, who have had it too good for too long.

Well put.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “We call that a win for everyone — except drivers.”

    Acutally, I often drive down that street when returning from out of town, and based on what I’ve seen biking on the street, I don’t expect any difference other than not being honked at by other drivers for going a mere 30 miles per hour.

    The opponents are treating this like the Alamo. So although I only really need too use the new bike lane to ride to work, since I could use the park in the other direction, I’m making a point of using it both ways.

  • Josh

    The bike lane is great! My only quibble is that they put the yield signage and blinking lights aimed at cyclists waaaay too high on the poles to be noticed by anyone actually riding a bike. Fix that, trim some of the trees that are hanging low into what is now cycling lanes, and we’re good to go. The pedestrian islands at the crosswalks, complete with signage for pedestrians to look both ways, is also a nice feature.

  • I have checked the lane out. What a travesty. Let’s hope that a few courageous public-spirited individuals put up some anonymous fliers to give voice to those voiceless pedestrians and automobile drivers who are put in very real and constant danger by this bicyclists pedalling up and down this lane…

    Or something like that. It’s great, actually. Can’t wait to see the finishing touches. Hope the Schumer rumor isn’t true, because it would be a pity.

  • Anon

    Although this is great, it would make much more sense if the bike path was northbound-only. If you want to go south, the lanes in the park are 100 ft away. With the path marked as two-way, you can only go in either direction single-file.

    One-way would also be a little easier for pedestrians crossing the street — coming from the park, first you would look left (for bikes), then you look right (for cars). Now you have to look 3 different ways while crossing.

  • Danny G

    Anon,

    Though counterintuitive, I think the two way may actually help to tame the bike lane and make it more casual. Rather than it being a space where the stereotypical ‘on your left’-shouting whistle-blowing spandex types can race down it two abreast, those who ride in the bike lane must be aware of not only pedestrians crossing the path, but oncoming bike traffic. This complexity in a somewhat narrow space will help to slow it down and make it more manageable for everyone.

    Or so I hope. Give it a year, let’s see what kind of culture develops in and around it.

  • I had a brief email exchange with Phillip Golfeder, a member of Sen. Schumer’s staff who I met with earlier this year about the East River Greenway. I don’t think he would mind me posting since he seemed intent on setting the record straight. Here was our exchange:

    From: Glenn [mailto:glenn_mcan@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 10:59 AM
    To: Goldfeder, Phillip (Schumer)
    Subject: Schumer Protesting Bike Lanes near home?

    Phillip

    I met with you at Sen. Schumer’s offices earlier this year about the East River Greenway. [Various talking points about East River Greenway]

    Also, I heard a bizarre rumor today that Sen. Schumer was going to be protesting against a new bike lane on Prospect Park West. Can you confirm or deny that? Sen. Schumer would lose a lot of the respect and credibility that the environmental movement has for him over something fairly minor. I suggest that he not attend and let the city finish the bike lanes, do the traffic safety studies and let the Senator make a decision after he has all the facts.
    -Glenn

    RE: Schumer Protesting Bike Lanes near home?
    Wed, June 30, 2010 11:31:06 AM
    From: “Goldfeder, Phillip (Schumer)” View Contact
    To: Glenn

    Hey Glenn

    Great to hear from you! That’s great news, please keep me posted and of course let’s get together again once we have a deal in place. Keep in mind that that the appropriations process begins in late January, so the timing may be perfect.

    That is a very bizarre rumor and there is no truth to it whatsoever. As I’m sure you are aware, the Senator is an avid biker and would never be involved with something like this especially before the final analysis has been completed. -Phil

    Fingers crossed for a greenway deal before the appropriations process begins!

  • Roadblock

    So envious of New York’s push for bicycle infrastructure. The LA DOT is pathetic. Can’t barely get paint on the streets let alone get the placement right in the rarest of times when it DOES happen…

  • Bike Lane Fan

    I would love to buy a bike for running errands and going to downtown BK (or further?) but the idea of riding on the street or in an unprotected bike lane is not that appealing to me. If there were more of these protected bike lanes, I would purchase a bike today and make good use of it.

    More bike lanes like PPW please…

  • @Josh,

    I’ve been told by DOT that the Parks Dept. will be trimming back the trees along the bike path.

    As for the lights and signage being too high up, that’s been a common refrain. Let DOT know how you feel: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/contactdot/assist.shtml. And be sure to let them know how much you love the new PPW.

  • John

    Oh no! Is Iris continuing to stymie progressive streets?? You’re out of office, dammit. GO AWAY.

  • The new PPW bike lane is my single favorite piece of bicycle infrastructure in the city. It completely transforms the northbound connection from points south of Prospect Park to central Brooklyn.

    I acknowledge that the parking lane makes it a little tricky to see pedestrians on the street side. So my pledge to pedestrians is that I’m going to be an especially courteous and respectful rider in exchange for the awesomeness that is the PPW lane.

  • Clutch J

    Our beloved Streetsblog should be very careful about repeating rumors concerning U.S. Senators.

  • Well, after all that sound and fury, it looks pretty good. When I visit the Slope, entering at the Plaza IRT, I usually get away from PPW as soon as possible and walk south along 8th or 7th Aves. But now I have an incentive to take a different route and enjoy the proximity to the park.

  • John

    Fair point Clutch J. However, the Senator should be VERY careful about his daughters signing such petitions (I checked the FB page, and it’s obviously them). While he can’t be held accountable for their every belief and action, it is also undeniable that their opinions carry much more weight on his personal position than, say, mine. My worry is that he will use his considerable power to weigh in on the matter (either publicly or privately). This project has already been held up by political insiders using their power to further their personal opinion (Thanks Marty!). This was previously done behind closed doors, with no public input or knowledge, so you can understand my distrust and concern.

    That said, since there is now a credible source publicly denying the allegation, I will now desist, lest his reputation be further damaged by a rumor.

  • susan

    just exactly who do the senator’s adult daughters think they are? they have no right to their own opinions, especially where bike lanes are concerned. Brook no opposition!!! Get membership lists and expose any one who dares oppose this. And I think someone suggested that we contact the police regarding flyers. Excellent idea…..that should put a stop to people expressing their opposition to government action.

  • Moot

    Now IF the Senator (and that is IF) is against the bike lane. And IF he were to speak out against it…with him being a Democrat and a cyclist it really opens him up to a bunch of criticism and NIMBY-ism. It will be interesting to see IF he does so.

  • I’m a cyclist, driver, and pedestrian who lives in Windsor Terrace. I used to ride home from work through the park all the time, and, frankly, thought the on-street lane was unecessary. I rode it tonight and boy was I wrong! The lane was great, and there was a Celebrate Brooklyn show running and it was all no problem. My compliments to the amazing Jeanette Sadik-Kahn!

    John
    p.s. keep in mind that Shumer’s wife is our former transportation commissioner (and, before that, TLC commissioner), who basically did nothing for cyclists in her tenure.

  • I noticed the picture at the top of the article changed.

    Can streetsblog post a full tour of the new lanes for those of us who cant visit in person? I hate reading about all this exciting infrastructure, but not being able to see it all.

  • Geck

    As a daily user of the PPW lane I would just like to note that the spandex clad racers are en extremely small minority of users (and mostly well behaved at that). I suspect that the Courier Life screed was written by someone with an ax to grind and was not based upon any real observation of the what is happening on PPW. Mostly it is ordinary folks in ordinary clothes taking it slow and enjoying an unusually peaceful ride. It may be counter intuitive, but it seems to me that separating the bicycle traffic from motor vehicles reduces the stress level and encourages bicycles to relax and take it a bit slower. I don’t anticipate much pedestrian cyclist conflict once everyone get used to it.
    If NYC is going to take it to the next level on bicycle mode share, parking protected bicycle lanes should become the norm and not the exception. But as we have seen the opposition can be fierce.

  • Larry Littlefield

    FYI, I saw cars parked in the bus stops while riding up PPW this morning. One had a ticket, which will presumably be dismissed since the bus stops are no longer active. DOT should remove the signs.

    So in the end, the drivers get more parking spaces, not less parking spaces, particularly when the vacated bus stops on 8th Avenue are included. And I have yet to see anything like a traffic jam on Prospect Park West.

    So what is this about? Perhpas it’s about about “people like us” who are worth more and “people like them” who are worth less. Symbolism.

    Which is why you read and hear all the rants about arrogant, spandex clad cyclists who need to be put in their place. When do they show up in the bike lane? I haven’t seen one riding to and from work.

  • Suzanne

    I just checked the two facebook groups and although the anti-bike lane group is still at yesterday’s 250 something membership the pros are well over 500. Hee!

    Yet again we see that people WANT to traffic calming, bike promoting infrastructure. We love you, PPW Bike Lane!

  • dporpentine

    In the last week I’ve ridden my bike (in my middle-class office worker clothes . . . what a dumb, distracting issue that is . . .) down the new PPW bike lanes two times, and I love them. The only problems I had were with salmon. And salmon are terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible.

    Today I drove a Zipcar down PPW, and found it much better nicer than it used to be. The narrow lanes definitely keep the motor vehicle equivalents of salmon from slaloming around everybody, trying to win the race to the red light.

    Hooray for democracy!

  • Susan

    I know the narrative is more exciting if it’s framed in terms of “anti-bike” vs. “pro-bike,” but in fairness, and at the risk of drawing some of the considerable venom that is directed toward anyone who doesn’t agree 100% with the party line, I’d like to set the record straight. Many people, and I think this includes the group you’ve labelled “anti-bike lane,” object not to bike lanes, but to this particular kind of bike lane. Reasonable people can differ as to whether it’s necessary to have a protected bike lane on a street like prospect park west when there are other alternatives. those alternatives include closing the park to traffic, or a bike lane that permits cars to be parked against the curb. There are safety issues with the current set-up. There is also increased traffic congestion when delivery trucks, school buses and emergency vehicles double park. I suspect that will increase when school starts up again. Since the purported justification for the lane has been “traffic calming,” changing the timing of the lights or installing speed bumps are less drastic alternatives. Maybe these concerns can be solved in other ways. But it doesn’t seem particularly productive to demonize and stereotype people who might not agree with you. And yes, this applies to everyone. I believe there is a way to accomodate everyone’s concerns. Lower the temperature.

  • Mike

    unfortunately, none of Susan’s suggestions would actually, you know, work. But logic doesn’t seem to be the opponents’ strong suit, as a look at their facebook Wall will attest.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “There are other alternatives. those alternatives include closing the park to traffic, or a bike lane that permits cars to be parked against the curb.”

    Are you suggesting two painted lines to allow people to ride against traffic in a bike lane, so people could ride north (the direction the Prospect Park bike lane doesn’t go)? That sounds like a good way to get someone killed — a child, for example, particuarly when manuvering around cars parked in the bike lane.

    As for closing the park to traffic, and having two way bike travel in the park, that would certainly allow me to ride two and from work, but not to and from intermediate desinations on Prospect Park West, such as the church I attend.

    But the fact is that for every driver/parker who is against the Prospect Park West bike lane as a possible incovenience to them, there would be 50 who were against closing the park to traffic. While not quite a red herring, it is close, unless those opposed to bike lane are able to close the park before the bike lane is removed.

  • Back a few years ago, there was a fight over a proposal to install the first cross-town painted bike lane on the Upper East Side. For a variety of sound policy reasons, DoT selected E. 91st for the westbound route, but residents living on the route at Second and Third Avenue opposed it because their block of E.91st Street was already closed to motor vehicle traffic. The opponents said they weren’t against bike lanes, they were just against them on this “play block,” because the cyclists lured there by the bike route would inevitably collide with children and senior citizens and destroy the character of the block. The opponents of the proposal lost, and the lane was put in.

    As far as I know, not a single collision involving a cyclist has occurred on that block in the years since. I attended meetings of the community board transportation committee, where a number of the opponents serve, and asked them if they knew of any collisions, and they couldn’t cite a single one.

    Opponents of bike lanes like to cite vague “safety concerns,” but in fact there is simply no data to suggest that cycling infrastructure creates danger for other road users. None. Whatsoever.

    Can we move on?

  • Moot

    Susan,

    Closing the park to traffic still DOES NOT allow cyclists to cycle the wrong way in the park. The PPW lane ALLOWS contra-flow.

    This kind of bike lane is as safe as can get without physical protection for cyclists. And this kind of bike lane allows younger and older people to feel safer riding. A striped lane in traffic will not make it as safe for those two groups.

    Making PPW one-lane more narrow does wonders for the speed and for allowing pedestrians to more safely cross the street. Seniors that have a hard time crossing PPW in the amount of time they used to have, now have 25% less distance to traverse. Cars go slower because they have two lanes now instead of one.

    I am all for re-timing of the lights, that is a very good suggestion that should be done whether or not cars have two or three lanes.

    Finally, double-parking is breaking the law. If we need to accommodate double-parkers and make the world easier for them, we are sending the wrong message.

  • J

    Susan,

    The reason that the groups have been labeled “anti-bike lane” and “pro-bike lane” is that the anti-bike lane has proposed no solution that maintains the bike lane. How is that not anti-bike lane?

    If you tried biking or even just sympathizing with those who do, you’d very quickly realize that the park drive is no substitute for PPW. It’s far out of the way, closed overnight, and doesn’t connect to much in Park Slope.

    Also, i’m sorry, but it’s really not that difficult to park away from a curb – hundreds of cars are already doing it just fine and in many different parts of the city (Williamsburg, Chinatown, Chelsea, SoHo, East Village). Finally, a few speed bumps simply don’t calm traffic the way that removing a lane does, and wouldn’t provide any bike facility.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Closing the park to traffic still DOES NOT allow cyclists to cycle the wrong way in the park. The PPW lane ALLOWS contra-flow.”

    In fairness, if there were no motor vehicles in the park ever, the park roadway could be configured into a six (narrow) lane highway, in both directions, for bikers, joggers, skaters, etc. moving at different speeds.

    But the park isn’t going to close, so for that reason it is unfair to offer it as an alternative.

    There are probably be less than a dozen people who are against the PPW bike lane who would be in favor of closing the park. The opposition would be overwhelming, particularly among the placard holding political types who typically live along the southern rim of Brooklyn and work in Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.

  • Moot

    What needs promoting is that this kind of solution has worked well in many other cities: Montreal, Copenhagen, Bogota – they all have many spots where there are perimeter bike lanes around parks that also have cycling going on inside of them. I am sure there are dozens of other cities as well, but those are ones I have witnessed first hand.

  • Susan

    “unfortunately, none of Susan’s suggestions would actually, you know, work. But logic doesn’t seem to be the opponents’ strong suit, as a look at their facebook Wall will attest.”

    Riiiight.

    “If you tried biking or even just sympathizing with those who do, you’d very quickly realize that the park drive is no substitute for PPW. It’s far out of the way, closed overnight, and doesn’t connect to much in Park Slope.”

    pot, I’d like to introduce you to kettle.

    Good luck, everyone!

  • Geck

    Susan,
    I don’t see why you are so dismissive. If I come up to PPW on 9th Street and I want to go to Carroll Street, how does the Park loop help me? Even if it went Northbound, you can only get to it at GAP, 3rd Street and 15th Street.

    The problem with the “we aren’t against bike lanes, just this one” approach is that there is someone that says that about every bike lane and their reasons are all pretty much the same.

  • J

    Susan,

    You say I can’t sympathize. Here I’ll give it a shot:

    Let’s first look at the negative impacts created by this project. Susan, you make a fair point that the negative impacts fall mainly on drivers. Drivers won’t be able to drive 45 or 50 mph down the street anymore. This will make some driving trips slightly longer. There will also be slightly fewer parking spaces on the street. This will make finding a parking spot take slightly longer. In addition, the new floating parking does not have a curb, making it slightly harder to park exactly on the line at first. Deliveries, double parking, and school bus pickups may also cause some minor disruption to traffic flow during the morning or evening peaks, but these can be improved by tweaking curbside regulations.

    Now let’s look at the impacts of removing the bike lane. Vehicles will once again be able to drive 45-50 mph. This will once again make it very difficult to walk across this street, making PPW a barrier to Prospect Park. It will also make biking southbound on this street once again terrifying, forcing people off of bikes and limiting their mobility. Northbound biking will become illegal, causing detours for bikes, often onto other scary roadways. With no other option, bikers will return to riding on the sidewalks, making it difficult for people to walk or jog there.

    I’m sorry, but the massive public benefits of the bike lane (mobility, safety, and health) WAY outweigh the minor inconveniences to drivers.

    It is this type of project that will make our cities more friendly places to live. It is this type of project that will actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

  • Suzanne

    Good lord, what a troll this Susan character is. Honestly, you’ve been given every opportunity to provide some meaningful counter arguments – which I’ve seen on this site, and in response to this very matter. If, like this other poster, you also had some actual, well reasoned points that would have been great. I’m all for vigorous debate but your responses have been not much more than sarcasm and baseless name calling.

    The sad thing is, I’m sure you won’t even really understand what I’m trying to say. The inability of your type to take part of public debate in a constructive way is a big part of what’s wrong with this country. Sometimes, I really wish we could set up separate countries for the people who don’t give a crap about the environment or even other people and let them destroy themselves without taking the rest of us with them…

  • Geck, that is in fact EXACTLY why Community Board 6 requested the PPW bike lane in June 2007: so that bikes could connect from the 9th St bike lane to the park and to other destinations without riding illegally on the pedestrian entrance at 9th Street.

  • Steve F

    Anon #4 wrote:
    “Although this is great, it would make much more sense if the bike path was northbound-only. If you want to go south, the lanes in the park are 100 ft away.

    Perhaps with the best of intentions, Anon has his/her facts badly wrong. This is unfortunately quite typical of bike lane opponents, but even appears among supporters.

    The park drive is NOT 100 feet east of PPW. 100 feet would just about take you to the front doorstep of Litchfield Villa, not the drive. Litchfield wanted the park to start BEHIND his villa, equal to 10th Ave, but the City of Brooklyn took Olmsted’s advice and started the park on 9th Ave = PPW. The distance to the drive is +600 feet, the same as between 8th and 9th Aves. 100 feet is exactly HALF the distance between 3rd and 4th Streets, 200 feet of housefronts.

    Of course this proposal to use the park drive ignores the often stated fact that there are only 4 legal access points to the drive (GAP, 3rd St, Litchfield/5th and Pritchard) and over 20 intersecting blocks to be accessed. But lets not let facts get in the way of a “good” idea.

    When easily checked distances are underestimated by 6 times (just pace off the along the Litchfield parking lot, or the walk in from 9th St.) or congestion numbers are exaggerated by orders of magnitude (so far there has been NO congestion backed up on PPW, even with only one lane open to moving traffic) the opponents of bicycle and pedestrian complete streets are painting themselves into corners. They have pretty close to zero credibility concerning traffic conditions.

    Three years ago there were predictions of All Hell Breaking Loose if 9th Street received its Road Diet. City DOT and cycling planners predicted not only no chaos, but smoother traffic flow with the new left turn pockets and the bike lanes.

    Anyone seen the Devil or even a few minor demons on 9th St. lately?

  • j mork

    Suzanne,

    Unfortunately we already have set up that country. Also unfortunately, global warming doesn’t care about borders.

  • 8th Streeter

    @ #27 (moot):

    I am in favor of the bike lane. I had fears that it would be hard to cross with my children, given the 2-way traffic, but that hasn’t proven to be the case as the lane has been mostly empty when we’ve traversed it and the sightlines from the islands are good.

    I think you’re overdoing it about the double parking, though. Of course, it is illegal, but in our land of no driveways it is sometimes necessary for those making heavy or bulky deliveries, dropping off a child or disabled person in front of his/her residence, driving a school bus that stops on PPW, etc.

    I think you hurt the cause of the bike lane, not to mention unrealistic, by insinuating that no double parking should ever occur.

  • susan

    No more callers! We have a winner! The prize for unintended irony clearly goes to Suzanne—-managed to call me a troll(I’ve been crying all day) and then bemoaned the absence of civilized debate. There were other serious contenders, but props to you Suzanne! Sorry to have interrupted your “debate” with one another—-See you on the bike lane—you’ll be the ones shrieking at us pedestrians to get out of your way as you blow through the light.

  • 8th Streeter, of course loading is necessary, thats what loading zones are for! Problem is, that means taking away parking, and we cant have that.

  • Mike

    Actually, we’ll be the ones riding responsibly and yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks. Nice try, though.

  • Pedestrian

    I love the PPW bike lane! PPW is now safer for everyone: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. I wonder how many “opposed” have actually taken the time to use PPW since the change.

    I am a frequent pedestrian in the area, for work and pleasure. I used to dread crossing that street, even with a stoplight, because I was afraid the speeding cars would miss the lights and smash me. Now it’s a pleasure to cross the street, walk on the sidewalk outside the park (no bikes coming at me anymore!), and just generally be in the area (the noise level has gone way down too!)

    I have never had a problem with any cyclist on this street since the change, and I can say from experience that the sight lines are very good for pedestrians. Not only can I see bikes coming toward me, but cyclists can also see me in time to slow down — and they do! Before the change, cars would speed by so fast they would never have had time to slow down after noticing a pedestrian in crosswalk. I watched cars run red lights outright or tear through crosswalks a fraction of a second after the light turned green. It was terrifying. Now drivers stay nearer the speed limit, and the crossing distance has been cut in half. I feel much safer than I did before the bike lanes were put in.

  • Steve F

    In post #36 I wrote that Litchfield’s front door was 100 feet from PPW.
    I just paced off the distance and I will admit I was wrong, the villa is not 100 feet in from Prospect Park West. The distance is actually 200 feet east of PPW.

    I stand by my earlier statement that the park drive is 600 to 800 feet from PPW – well behind the Litchfield Villa, not Anon’s 100 feet. And there are only 2 rideable bicycle legal entrances between GAP and Pritchard.
    The park drive is not a viable alternative to the PPW cycle track.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Took the bike lane a couple of times so far this weekend, to church and elsewhere. I saw people going a long in both directions each time. They were more likely to appear older than I was, or be children, or be female than those riding on the street.

    I saw one father who did the theoretically impossible (park an SUV next the bike lane) and take out some bikes for his young children to ride on it.

  • As bike lanes become extremely popular so many people use them including pedestrians, young children on small bikes, scooters, walking, running and playing and meandering about it is often impossible for people to go fast through the confusion . . .

    . . . and, the dangers impossible to fathom.

  • Pedestrian

    gecko, can you point us to some data on the dangers of crowded bike lanes?

    When I looked around for info on crowded bike lanes, I found one article about Copenhagen, where about 36% of trips to work and school are made by bike. The article reported that more and more cyclists were feeling unsafe on crowded bike lanes and parents were nervous about letting their kids bike.

    However, the numbers continue to support the position that cyclists are safer in a crowded bike lane than with no lane at all. In fact, “The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in the city fell steadily from 252 in 1996 to 92 in 2006. The number of fatalities have fallen as well, from six in 2006 to five last year and none so far [September 18] in 2009.” (http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6261)

    The situation in Brooklyn is very different from that in Copenhagen. For one thing, though cycling and commuting by bike have become much more popular here in the last few years, the number of commutes made by bike is nowhere near 36% of total commutes! (Does anyone have an stats on how many BK or even NYC commutes are made by bike these days?) So we have a long way to go before we have to worry about overcrowded bike lanes!

    A second difference is that children under age 13 can legally ride on the sidewalk here in NYC. So parents need not worry about their kids riding in the bike lanes, competing for space with teens and adults.

    The more important fact, though, is that cyclists are so much safer with the Copenhagen bike lanes than they were without them. Another important fact is that Copenhagen is trying some pretty cool approaches to reducing the crowding. By the time Brooklyn’s lanes are overcrowded we’ll have lots of data available to us on what has worked in Copenhagen. Check out the article for more info on that! http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6261

  • Speed is probably the real danger where people can really get hurt so that anything that mitigates speed will likely cut down on serious accidents but “freak” accidents can be very bad also and kids playing — which they should be doing — increases the likelihood of freak accidents.

    All the rules about where and how people can ride or play and walk and at what ages and the seeming seriousness of them seem to stem from the dangers caused by cars which are absolutely idiotic in the context of public space. Next they’ll be wanting to drive forklifts.

    If people are really worried about dangers on the road next to Prospect Park stop using them there on PPW and just use them elsewhere but, that undermines the monopoly even more doesn’t it, and we will all have to apologize to BP for even thinking such thoughts.

  • Doug

    The question is not “Is the bike lane dangerous?” Honestly, and I say this as a person whose biking runs the range from spandex-clad racing to leisurely commuting in jeans and a t-shirt, the answer is that the bike lane isn’t 100% safe. There will be accidents, a rider may very well mow down a pedestrian or a car door may open too close to the lane, taking down a person on a bike. Nothing is 100% safe and to claim that the bike lane is a panacea to PPW’s traffic dangers is disingenuous. Supporters of the bike lane have to be ready for opponents to jump on the first accident that happens as “proof” that it’s a bad idea.

    The real question is whether or not the bike lane is SAFER than having three lanes of automobile traffic. Clearly, the answer is yes. Opponents of the bike lane have no real solutions to PPW’s traffic problems other than to say, “Get rid of the bike lane!” We shouldn’t treat this as an either-or proposition: either PPW has a bike lane or it has three lanes of high-speed traffic. Can’t it all be a work in progress?

    We can have a bike lane that evolves. Lights can be lowered, speed bumps can be put in near crosswalks, signage can be put in, the green lane can get a color change. This bike lane is a great first step towards further discussion and changes. But any discussion that starts with “Get rid of it!” is not a discussion at all.

  • J

    Well said, Doug. Nothing is 100% safe, but this is clearly much safer than before, and PPW is now useful to a much large number of people. The design can be tweaked further to improve safety, but it’s safe to say that Brooklynites are voting with their feet and their bikes.

    I rode the lane this weekend and it was wonderful. The bike lane is actually not terribly wide and is quite well used. Because of this, it’s pretty difficult to tear down the street on a bike. The moderated bike speeds make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

  • Park Slope Neighbors has launched a petition drive supporting the new design of Prospect Park West in conjunction with Transportation Alternatives. Please take a half a minute to sign the online version here: http://parkslopeneighbors.org/ppw_support_pet.htm, and please forward the link to other supporters.

    Thanks.

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