Facebook Tally: PPW Bike Lane Support Outnumbers Opposition 4 to 1


A lot of neighborhood activists swear by the maxim that it’s easier to organize against something than to drum up support for something new. But apparently this rule of thumb doesn’t apply to the Prospect Park West bike lane.

Based on the latest tallies from Facebook, the incipient skirmish over New York’s newest two-way protected bike lane — and the traffic-calming removal of a lane for cars on PPW — is turning into a pretty lopsided affair, with the "pro" side on top. Two days ago, membership in the lane-loving Facebook group shot past the 1,000 mark, and last I checked was getting pretty close to 1,200.

The anti-bike lane group, which had a couple days to build up a head start, now has 293 members, according to founder Lisa Napolitano.

I spoke to Napolitano, who graciously returned my phone calls, about her group and why they oppose the new bike lane. We went back and forth for a good long while, and, as one would expect, she belongs to the hard core of opponents who will never be convinced that narrowing car lanes to slow traffic and create more safe space for biking is a good thing.

She also took issue with the assertion that the Facebook counts indicate that most people don’t share her views. "We as a community have to have a say," she said, meaning the people who live right on Prospect Park West. "Not the people that live five blocks away, not the people that come in from all over the city to use this."

So that’s the ideal public process some opponents envision — giving the group of people who live on PPW and don’t like the bike lane veto power over an amenity that the general public uses and benefits from.

There are many ways to refute the claim that the city has run roughshod over the public process by building this project. It’s tough, though, to beat this passage from the minutes of a June, 2007 Community Board 6 meeting:

DOT should, as promptly as possible, establish a class 2 bicycle path on PPW to connect the proposed 9th Street bicycle path with the 15th Street (Bartel Pritchard Square), 3rd Street, and Grand Army Plaza entrances to Prospect Park, as well as the 3rd Street/2nd Street bicycle path.  DOT should study traffic-calming measures on PPW, including the possible installation of a one-way or two-way Class 1 bicycle path on PPW.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “We as a community have to have a say,” she said, meaning the people who live right on Prospect Park West. “Not the people that live five blocks away, not the people that come in from all over the city to use this.”

    One must admit that this is a rather strange group of NIMBYs. Those anywhere else would be opposed to high speed vehicular through traffic on their street, even if they wanted to drive their vehicle at a high speed through other people’s neighborhoods. I’ll bet many of the people in their group actually don’t live on Prospect Park West.

    I’ve seen plenty of riders in the bike lane going back and forth while doing so myself, and not one negative incident. And I haven’t seen anything like a traffic jam in the remaining traffic lanes.

    Moreover, I’ve been going to Celebrate Brooklyn for 25 years, first as someone paying nothing because were spending nothing, then as someone who donates in gratitude. I am shocked at the number of bicycles I saw there last weekend. Not only was the TA bike corral full, but there were other bicycles all over the place. Someone should count them all. It’s unbelievable.

  • Eric

    In my experience it is a lot easier for people to click “like” on a Facebook page than it is for them to actual get involved.

  • Winston Smith

    They kicked me out and blocked me.

  • Tom Parsons

    Does this mean Ms. Napolitano will be supporting a new micro-democracy in which the residents facing a street get to vote on how that street is used? How does this work? Do residents get to vote only on the street in front of their building, or along it’s entire length? This micro-street democracy could produce some really interesting results. Let’s say the block on Seventh Avenue between Union and President votes to be car-free. Do the questionable foreigners on Prospect Park West get a say? They really shouldn’t, should they? Let’s say one block of Prospect Park West wants to ban bikes and the next to ban cars, who wins? Should Prospect Park West secede from Brooklyn and New York City? Where would that leave Senator Chuck. So many questions.

  • Doug G.

    To be fair to Ms. Napolitano, the demographics of both Facebook and an anti-bike lane stance are not exactly fully overlapping Wenn diagram circles. Chances are more people who are Facebook savvy are likely to also be pro-bike lane.

    However, one of her comments truly defies logic, and Larry already pointed it out:

    “Not the people that live five blocks away, not the people that come in from all over the city to use this.”

    Someone should explain to Lisa Napolitano that it was people who live much father than five blocks away and who come in from all over the city who are creating the automobile traffic, and who were speeding down PPW like it was a highway before the bike lane was installed. I doubt the people who live within five blocks of PPW ever had much occasion or reason to treat PPW like the Autobahn.

    If she’s truly serious about the scourge of people coming from all over the city to use the bike lane, I sincerely hope her opposition to the bike lane would also extend itself to opposition of any street on which people who live more than five blocks away are allowed to drive. But, of course, she’d never be opposed to that.

    The anti-bike-lane crowd is grasping at straws, despite overwhelming evidence that their position and the reasons for it have more basis in emotion than sensible traffic planning.

  • Winston Smith

    The anti bike lane crowd is the Brooklyn outpost of the Tea Party.

  • It was Jane Jacobs who noted how micro-democracy like this is a standard excuse authoritarian rulers use to overrule a community. The Village, she explained, had some people in it who supported the road widening around Washington Square Park and did not mind the Lower Manhattan Expressway; these were concentrated in a few blocks that would not see blight from those projects, and Moses tried to portray them as genuine neighborhood support, never mind that the majority of the Village saw his ideas as vandalism.

    For this reason plus the general principle of empowering neighborhoods to resist the city collectively, Jacobs argued for thinking in terms of districts instead of blocks. Thus, the opinion of people on one block of PPW would not matter; the opinion of people in Park Slope would.

  • Jonathan

    Well, as a proud NIMBY opposed to Atlantic Yards in my back yard, I do think there is something that people closest to a proposed intervention can offer to the public discussion, that others can’t. We know the streets and the corners better than anyone else, and understand the proposed impact better.

    As a driver, a biker, a pedestrian, and as a supporter of the bike lane, I advocate for the benefits that slowing traffic can have on streets, and on the public realm. It’s just not true that “the opinion of people on one block of PPW would not matter”. Of course it matters. If there are concerns about safety for pedestrians, these should be addressed. Bike lanes should take space from car lanes, but through-traffic, whether by car or bike, should privilege the pedestrian. Makes me want a T-shirt for walking on our streets that says “one less bike”.

  • Linda

    Excellent point, Jonathan. I love how the locally driven opposition to Atlantic Yards, a project with wide support from the larger Borough of Brooklyn, is held up as an example of pure and holy democratic activism against unscrupulous developers and unaccountable government because it involved a fight from residents in the immediate vicinity, yet the opposition to the PPW bike lane, also stemming from residents in it’s immediate vicinity, is nothing more than an example of the kind of corrupt micro-democracy often used by authoritarian regimes to represent a faux community position. NIMBY is as NIMBY does. Either residents in the immediate vicinity of something have a valid perspective in every case of land and street use, or they don’t, ever.

  • Linda, Jonathan, what Jane Jacobs would say in both cases is that we should look at what the neighborhood thinks. In Park Slope, the neighborhood is supportive. The people who live in the neighborhood but not on PPW have a valid perspective on the issue, as much as the people who do live on PPW. People walk around their neighborhoods, on more than just their immediate street.

    The Atlantic Yards example is different, because the people in the area affected are opposed. It’s not just a block; it’s a whole neighborhood. And that’s beyond the other concerns about human scale, eminent domain, and Ratner’s below-market-value bid. The anti-bike lane people on PPW aren’t proposing a 197a that includes an alternative on-street bike lane route with fewer community impacts; they’re proposing nothing.

  • We live in an adversarial system of checks & balances, competing interest groups, but we also live in a civil society. The NIMBY or NIMFY people can often win a battle because they truly care the most about an issue. But that’s not the case here. There is a clear mandate from the community on the issue. There are broader interests at stake and supporters have made a compelling case that not only was it the right thing to do, but the experiment is going very well.

    The people across the street will always have a voice, but if they can’t convince enough of their neighbors, their voice will be drowned out by the consensus of the broader community.

  • Judy

    I think there may be a lot of people who do not support Lisa Napolitan’s statements above, and who support the concept of a bike lane on PPW, but do not like the design imposed on Prospect Park West, and would like to see some thought given to alternatives. The floating parking lane seems inherently dangerous and I have witnessed two accidents since implementation. Despite my disagreement with the design I continue to support the bike lane on PPW and the ongoing designation of additional bike lanes throughout NYC. I do not like seeing this discussion deteriorate into NIMBYism.

  • mike

    I’m not sure I follow the local opposition to the lane. I understand why people driving through to other neighborhoods would oppose the slowing of traffic. Do the people living on PPW think that the bike lane is more of a hazard than speeding cars? Being familiar with that road I’m kind of baffled.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m still amazed that a group of people would be more upset that I can ride my bicycle north on their street on my way to work (which I can’t do in the park) than they are about me driving my car south on their street when I return from out of town. Let alone the way some other people drive.

    While I don’t agree with the Marty Markowitz objection — what about through traffic rights people who live in places like Mill Basin, Flatlands and Marine Park, work in downtown, have placards, and drive everywhere? — at least I understand it.

  • marty

    facebook has a younger demographic that is more in line with the pro-bike lane group. plus, most folks want a bike lane, of some sort. the issue is getting this particular design rammed down the neighborhood’s throat. want to stop traffic speeding? try speed bumps. or manipulate the traffic light sequencing. take a picture of the bike lane, right now: you will see it empty. and guaranteed there will be bike riders still on PPW.

  • Jesse

    Two facebook groups worth of people who might not have been interested in the time necessary to attend or speak at CB meetings seems like a vote for CB reform in the online direction. (How come there isn’t a central website for all CBs, their agendas for upcoming meetings, a map with projects being presented or in progress, presentations made, minutes, etc?)

    It makes you wonder how this plays out in less involved neighborhoods? Even if you just pass through on bike or in a (gasp) cab/zip/car: the people who live on the block are a whole lot more likely to know about a meeting or speak at it than someone who passes through the intersection everyday. The people who don’t necessarily stop or know the people who live on the block are the numerical majority.

  • J. Mork

    Judy —

    Can you describe the accidents? I’m curious as to what happened.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    If you watch my latest Streetfilm from Copenhagen, maybe people who oppose this lane might begin to understand that this lane is part of a strategy to make NYC to have a more comprehensive and street network – everywhere and make our streets less like drag strips.


    Although I am not holding my breath.

  • Marty:

    Take a picture of the traffic lanes of PPW. Most of the time, they’ll be empty too. Does that mean we should get rid of them too? Traffic on PPW is very sporadic during most hours.

    This design wasn’t “rammed down the neighborhood’s throat”. It was requested, repeatedly, by the Community Board.

    Speed bumps and light sequencing are not realistic ways to calm traffic over a long corridor. Taking away an unnecessary lane is.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Take a picture of the bike lane, right now: you will see it empty.”

    I pass people coming toward me in that bike lane every time I use it. And sad to say, people going in my direction pass me. And it just got there.

  • Brooklyn

    I was also kicked out of the group; my posts were factual but admittedly provocateur — the subtlety, of course, lost on this “old Brooklyn” bunch who you could probably spot colluding over pints at Farrell’s.

    Thoroughly enjoyed my time in there, though it made me hopeless that there could ever be a reconciliation of perspective with these types. Progress will be made mainly through – to be polite – generational attrition. . .

  • J:Lai

    I disagree with the nimby-ism and the anti-bike dogma, but ultimitately I think it is good that local communities and neighborhoods get a say in projects that affect them.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Tt made me hopeless that there could ever be a reconciliation of perspective with these types. Progress will be made mainly through – to be polite – generational attrition…”

    I reached that conclusion some time ago, and it is sad. Open minded people capable of being persuaded by the facts are few. Most people’s views, even among the majority who can be bothered to pay attention, get locked in fairly young.

    Which is why when you see the choices those under 30 make, you see the future.

  • Jonathan

    Clarence: thanks for posting the link to the Copenhagen Streetfilm. I watched it again, with new interest. Some things I noticed this time, besides my awe at how great it is: for the most part the bicyclists follow traffic conventions, stopping at lights, using hand signals; the stress on the slow speed of the bikes as well as the cars; and (a bit of a criticism here) a lot of discussion about the bike/car interface but no discussion about the bike/pedestrian interface.

    Alon/Linda 5:39: As long as there are three Brooklynites I guess it makes sense we have four opinions. Larry, I accept that you’ve revised your “the opinion of people on one block of PPW would not matter” to something like “the opinions of other Park Slopers are just as valid”. This may seem like a small difference, but it’s not. And Linda, the validity of our reasons for being opposed to AY has nothing to do with the fact that we live nearby, other than we were paying closer attention. That’s the value of the local view, and it applies here. I actually don’t hear drivers complaining about PPW, other than our esteemed BP, I hear people worried about bikes hitting pedestrians. This can, and should be addressed with better site lines for both pedestrians and bicyclists, lights, and the like.

  • filip

    Don’t pick on that lady- her opposition is noted, but will be passed over quietly. Completing appropriate lanes over the entire section of Park Slope is the goal; leaving her stretch alone is unlikely, and would cause more harm than good.

  • “the issue is getting this particular design rammed down the neighborhood’s throat”

    I live on 8th Ave and actually wanted it very badly. As a biker it makes it easier to get to and around the park, as a parent it makes it easier and safer to cross PPW and as a DRIVER it makes me have a calmer driver. I don’t even think it takes any longer.

  • Doug G.

    “I have witnessed two accidents since implementation.”

    That’s all fine and good, but I’m sure lots of people witnessed countless accidents before implementation. And some of the accidents that have happened since may simply be the result of an adjustment period. Once the lane has been around for a while and people expect it and the floating parking lane, fewer accidents may occur.

    As I’ve stated on other posts, the question is not whether or not the bike lane will be the site or even the source of accidents. Of course it will. Nothing in life is 100% safe. The question is whether or not it leads to MORE accidents. It probably won’t.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Let me comment on the “local interest” question.

    In my view, we went from the Robert Moses era, in which the regional interest (as he saw) mattered and neighborhood didn’t, to the Jane Jacobs on steroids ES NIMBY era, in which just about anyone could stop just about anything.

    San Francisco is still in the latter era, as that interminable anti-bike lawsuit shows, and given my comment above — our minds are captive to the conditions of our youth — perhaps I still have a tendency to react to that era.

    But in reality, for the past decade or so, I believe New York City has achieved a reasonable balance between citywide needs and local preferences when allocating public space and regulation private space. Much better than the prior two eras.

    What you hear from the anti-bike lane crowd is the idea that ANYONE who matters as much as they do, which is more than most, should have a veto over just about anything. Not even community board hearings, public comment and pilot projects with adjustments are enough. Existing interests rule, and they OWN public space. They don’t NEED a good argument, and have no obligation to consider others’ needs (ie. how to ride a bike northbound, vs. the claim that there already is a bike lane in the park).

    Their expectation is what actually happened from the end of the Robert Moses era until about a decade ago. There is always a chance that the current balance will be undone, heading off to one kind of unfair stupidity or another.

  • Larry, if you step out of the world of bike lanes and look at issues like middle-class jobs and affordable housing, you’ll see that New York’s “reasonable balance” hasn’t been reasonable at all. The current political structure is a truce between old-timers on rent control and luxury condo developers. Those two sides don’t like each other, but in the current regime, they’ve both benefited, at the expense of everyone else. Usually the status quo enforces itself in popular discourse using nativist-style insults against newcomers, hipsters, radicals, and capitalists, all defined as broadly as the Republicans define socialists.

    And if you listen to what Jacobs actually said, you’ll see that she did not empower NIMBYism – far from it. The process that emerged from her activism, the 197a, allows for upzoning and planning changes, as approved by the community. The process does not require unanimity, or even consensus. The problem is that it’s nonbinding, which means that the head honchos do what they want no matter what the community says.

  • Jonathan


    I agree that we’re moving towards more of a “balance” in the design of our streets. But when real estate interests are involved, and are able to aggregate financing from national and international interests, we just don’t have a process to ensure public benefit in the public realm as a whole. How does it make sense to add 4000 parking spots, fully loaded for events at rush hour, to the most congested intersection in Brooklyn? That’s the result of the “balance” between a Russian tycoon and Acorn. And, for that matter, what kind of “balance” allows/requires(?) parking on the ground floor of the new developments on 4th Avenue?

  • L.B. Honest

    Commissioner Sadik-Khan, Streetsblog, and Transportation Alternative have all be claiming that PPW is not safe and needs “calming” and that the double bike lane is just the cure we need. A recent petition on the TA website says that the PPW bikelane has made pedestrian crossings safer and given cyclists a safe place to ride.

    We haven’t seen any data yet, so we’ll be skeptical, but a recent TA flyer claims: “The benefits of protected bike lanes speak for themselves. On 9th Avenue, NYC’s first protected bike lane, there have been remarkable impacts on mobility and safety for everyone using the street:
    • Injuries to all street users down 56%
    • Injuries to pedestrians down 29%
    • Injuries to cyclists down 57%
    • Sidewalk riding down 84%”

    Do the Benefits of the PPW Bike Lane Speak for Themselves? Let’s look at the facts.

    Crashstat, http://www.crashstat.org, a useful TA web resource on pedestrian and cyclist accidents in NYC between 1995 and 2005, reports for Manhattan’s 9th Avenue in the 19 blocks between 15th and 34th Streets, there were 277 pedestrian accidents and 76 cyclist, or a total of 353 incidents, an average of 35.3 accidents a year with no fatalities. A reduction of 56%, the impact reported by TA with no data source indicated, would bring the annual total down to 15 pedestrian and cycling accidents.

    In comparison, in the same decade, on the 19 blocks between 15th St and President Street on Prospect Park West, there were 21 pedestrian accidents and 6 cyclist accidents, for a total of 27 in 10 years, or 2.7 accidents a year. A reduction of 56% would bring this down to 1.2, although there were many years when there were no pedestrian or biking accidents at all. And no fatalities either. If we knew the price of building tis bike lane, we could calculate the margin cost per accident of such an “improvement”, but it’s likely to be costly if the results on PPW were to be the same as 9th Ave. in Manhattan.

    The bottom line is that “safety” arguments for the PPW bike lane are bogus. PPW was a very safe street before the bike lane. It actually has the lowest rate of accidents of any of the N/S streets down to 5th Avenue (check Crashstat yourself). Ironically, the gonzo-biker bloggers have been getting their hostilities out by insulting citizens concerned about threats to our safety. We who know it was a safe street before. Since the bike lane was installed, it has actually made PPW LESS safe for seniors, for caretakers with strollers, for pedestrians, and for those entering and exiting parked vehicles. We hope that DOT, which clearly supports this design, will keep their finger off the scale and do an honest evaluation. And we pray for no serious accidents before then.

  • John Adams would counter the above tirade by saying that you shouldn’t measure the number of pedestrian accidents, since not all areas have the same pedestrian activity.

    Adams’ main example illustrating this principle is that in Britain, pedestrians are killed in car accidents at one third the rate they were in 1920, when there were few cars and there was a nationwide 20 mph speed limit. The reduction hasn’t been due to safety but due to a sharp reduction in pedestrian activity. More cars means fewer children playing outside. In neutral terminology, it’s called adjustment: people have learned to adjust their lives to high car traffic.

    The same goes for bicycles. PPW and 9th Avenue do not have the same numbers of cyclists right now. An individual cyclist on PPW is probably exposed to more danger than on 9th, but as there are fewer cyclists, it doesn’t show up in the stats.

    Bottom line: saying 9th is more dangerous than PPW based on raw numbers is like saying that New York is more dangerous than Detroit on account of its higher homicide count.

  • Mike

    Hilarious that you’re trying to argue against the PPW traffic calming project based on numerical evidence, and then throw out, without a single shred of evidence (numerical or otherwise), the totally insane argument that the redesign has made the street less safe for ANYONE, which is just not plausible.

  • L.B. Honest

    Guys, basic math and logic are clearly not your best skills. The DOT data show that 9th Avenue is more dangerous than PPW in absolute terms. TA’s flyer implies, as the data are speaking for themselves, that we can expect the same proportional accident reduction from the bike lane on PPW. I was merely estimating from data from the same time period and same source for PPW what that would mean in absolute terms. It’s just 4th grade math.

    Alon, the argument seems to subtle for you. I was indicating that reasoning by analogy from 9th Ave. in Manhattan to imply that bike lanes bring greater safety is going to run into some “floor” on PPW because it has not historically had a high accident rate for either bikers or pedestrians. The breathless verbiage by advocates of the lane about making the street “safer for everyone”, as a justification for the project, is based on facts about the baseline accident rate that indicate it will be hard to demonstrate significant proportional reductions.

    If my post is too subtle for you, check out the logic of the TA flyer about the PPW bike lane at: http://www.transalt.org/files/takeaction/group_images/brooklyn/PPWflyer.pdf

    And Mike, no one has compiled the data about the accident rates during the trial as yet. I was making a prediction, not an argument, that when accidents are counted, we’re going to see an increase. I could be right, I could be wrong, but it’s not from the air. I am basing this on the fact that many people have been reporting bike, pedestrian (and bike/pedestrian) accidents and incidents to 311 and NYPD as they have been occurring.

    An early Streetsblog post called those opposed to this particular bike lane “hysterical”. We’re anything but. We’re counting… The trial should be decided by data, not ranting. Some of us are just a bit suspicious, including apparently now City Councilman Steve Levin, about whether DOT will do a fair evaluation in part because they have not released the baseline data they will be using.

    And Mike, why aren’t you on Alon’s case which basically makes the totally unsubstantiated and frankly illogical statement that “An individual cyclist on PPW is probably exposed to more danger than on 9th, but as there are fewer cyclists, it doesn’t show up in the stats”. But if there are so few bikers that you can’t count the accidents, then when we have MORE bikers we should have MORE accidents if the rate is actually higher. That’s why we are talking about percentages, because the base rates are different!

  • Mike

    The real issue here is that there was no reason why PPW needed 3 lanes. Having too many lanes relative to the number of vehicles causes speeding and other unneighborly driving habits. Traffic calming projects have proved that they can safely remove unneeded capacity and repurpose it for other civic uses — in this case, a much-needed bike path and shortened crossing distance for pedestrians — while retaining vehicular mobility. There is lots of evidence that this is exactly what has happened on PPW. Regardless of the number of crashes, it has become a far more pleasant and functional street. That’s the main reason why this project was requested by the community board — traffic calming.

    Also, it sure sounds like you’re trying to fudge the statistics by overzealously reporting possibly-minor crashes that previously might not have been reported.

  • ^^^Exactly^^

  • L. B., if abuse were oil, you’d be Alaska. Calm down for a second. Go back to your original comment, the one talking about reductions in the absolute number of cyclists and pedestrians hit by cars. There’s nothing illogical about asking to compare those absolute numbers with the actual volume of pedestrian and bike traffic.

    Absolute numbers aren’t especially relevant: more pedestrians are hit by cars on 9th Avenue than in the median of I-95. This doesn’t mean that I-95 is safer for pedestrians than 9th Avenue; it means that 9th Avenue has pedestrians and I-95 doesn’t. Taking random numbers and calling them data is exactly 4th grade math. Some of us have moved on.

    The reasoning by analogy isn’t subtle; it’s just plain wrong. There’s no floor of accident rate, except zero (e.g. when there are no cars, and when there are no cyclists or pedestrians). The only hard numbers you provide is accident counts from two locations, which is too hackneyed to be a serious analogy.

  • L.B. Honest

    Alon, Don’t understand what makes it necessary for you guys to insult people who are trying to figure out what is really going on out there.

    None of this data came from me. The statistics on accidents is on the Transportation Alternative site, Crashstat. The reductions in the rates on the TA flyer that is touting the benefits of protected bikelanes by reasoning by analogy from 9th Avenue also gives data from an unattributed source. So, I guess you are arguing with Transportation Alternative that felt it appropriate to put these stats on a flyer intended to get people to sign their petition. I am also criticizing this kind of reasoning by analogy — so, in this we are actually in agreement.

    I’m not fudging anything. I’m a rational person, using what information is out there to draw conclusions — you seem to be using your prejudices, but at least I’m trying to get objective data and make sense of what I’m seeing out there on the street everyday. I’ve lived in PS for over 10 years. This is a long baseline. Don’t know how much time you spend on this street when not on your bike, but unless you’re spending a lot of time not on your bike, watching what’s happening, you are really in a position to disagree.

    We also agree that having more data would be helpful — in fact, it’s one of the problems with this project. Without traffic volume data, there is little sense of whether there is “extra capacity’ on PPW (odd that this is not an argument that is being suggested for capacity of the bike lane though — wonder way the asymmetry).

    But the question is, why the justification for the bikelane is so slippery. If not safety (which the Commissioner and CB6 cited), where is the data on why traffic calming is relevant. I’ve seen only one probably biased very short on-line video clip of an advocate for biking who got his hands on a speed gun shooting cars — no idea whether he was measuring only the ones going fast, but I have my suspicions. Certainly not enough evidence to bet the multiple hundred thousands of $$ this project is costing.

    Now in place of safety, which is the point of traffic calming, we’re hearing about “excess” capacity, but again no objective documentation (can you document, Mike?). So we’ll find data on AADT, and then I suspect the justification will shift again. (I have found some AADT data for PPW, but only lower down near 5th, which is after many cars have exited, so it’s not strong enough to make the case; they seem to be collecting some now, but as you can tell from the abundance of parking, in summer, there are many fewer people and cars in PS, so AADT from the middle of the summer is also questionable).

    Most plausibly, the real reason we have this bike lane is that this is a political decision. I’m just trying to work through the various justifications to see whether I’m wrong or not. So far, the data don’t support the justifications that have been made publicly, so in the spirit of honest government, we’re trying to get at the real motives.

  • Mike


    First off, you seem to be claiming that a project can’t have multiple purposes. This one clearly does: taking away a lane of traffic on PPW calms traffic (by increasing platooning and reducing the reasons to jockey for position), and lets us repurpose that space to provide a safe, protected cycle track. Similar projects, which have been done for similar purposes, have resulted in a decrease in crashes and injuries. That doesn’t mean they had to be the prime reason for those, or the prime reason for this one, but they’re still great side benefits. Why can’t we kill two or three birds with one stone?

    Regarding “extra capacity”, the reason for the asymmetry is the effects of extra capacity. Extra car capacity leads to bad things: aggressive driving, speeding, unsafe lane changes, induced driving. Extra bike capacity doesn’t have any of those side effects. And the bike capacity here is not extraneous — the bike lane is well used, and is of the minimum width required to provide a safe, two-way bike facility. (Literally: it exactly meets NYC DOT’s minimum standard of 8′ for a 2-way path.) So there is no excess bike capacity here.

    DOT presented several reasons for the project when they originally proposed it, and I don’t see why it’s so hard for you to grasp (or admit) that DOT would welcome a solution to several problems at once. Community Board 6 also made this clear when they called for this project — they pointed out the excess vehicle capacity of PPW, leading to aggressive driving and speeding, as well as the need for bicycle mobility, when they asked DOT to carry out this project in June 2007. The minutes are public.

    DOT’s presentation when they proposed this project did contain traffic counts, and they were of a level that would be — and indeed is — easily accommodated by two moving lanes. Those volumes are: at Carroll, AM peak hour 1,097 vehicles, PM peak hour 1,149 vehicles; at 11th St, AM peak hour 916 vehicles, PM peak hour 1,127 vehicles. Each traffic lane on a NYC avenue can accommodate 600-700 vehicles per hour — more if traffic lights are widely spaced, as they are on PPW. So accommodating 1,149 vehicles per hour is not even a stretch.

    DOT also found that, at 5th St, more than 70% of vehicles were speeding (at three different times throughout the day), and that the 85th percentile speed was 40 mph at 8am, 42 mph at 12pm, and 37 mph at 4pm. Those numbers are from March 2009, by the way, so your posited summer effect was not happening. It’s clear that PPW had an epidemic of speeding — a great reason for an additional traffic-calming program like this one.

    Bottom line: PPW had multiple problems — speeding, unsafe driving, long crossing distances, lack of bicycle mobility — and it’s appropriate to address all of them with a single project.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mike’s thoughtful comments. The only point of his I’d like to amplify is that it entirely understandable that the rate or MV collisions with peds and cyclists are low. Given how motorists treat PPW as a speedway, local residents have learned to use extreme caution when near it. This ruins the western border or the park and PPW for everyone but motorists. Safety is not just a matter of calculating the number of crashes, it’s a question of whether people feel safe enough to enjoy themselves and live their lives. The reconfiguration of the street has helped the neighborhood recapture that subjective experience of personal safety that’s necessary for a pleasant built environment.

  • 1,149 cars per hour at peak volume translates to about 19 cars per minute. On the pre-redesign Prospect Park West, given the traffic-light timings, it took about three minutes, driving the speed limit, to drive the 19 blocks from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel-Pritchard Square. That means at any given time, there were 57 cars on Prospect Park West (19 cars/minute x 3 minutes). Since there were three lanes over those 19 blocks, that means there were 57 lane-blocks from one end to the other. Thus, at peak volume, there were 57 vehicles in the 57 lane-blocks, or one car per lane per block at peak volume.

    It’s a pretty safe bet that PPW can handle the now one-and-a half cars per lane per block that have resulted from the conversion of the third travel lane to a bike path.

    And guys, don’t feed the trolls. The redesign of Prospect Park West is not a test. It’s done, finished.

  • L. B., I’m not insulting; I for one am not the person who ranted about fourth grade math. I’m pointing out that the numbers you quote aren’t relevant to the discussion and citing peer-reviewed transportation researchers explaining why.

  • Hmmm . . . wonder why L.B. has grown quiet after Mike’s post . . .

  • jack

    Did anyone ever see that South Park episode? You know, the one where everyone starts buying the hybird car—the Pius? They all start pontificating on the benefits of the Pius, and their own superiority, resulting in a giant cloud of smugness, which then threatens to merge with another giant smugness cloud from Hollywood. I don’t know what made me think of it.

  • I don’t know what made me think of it.

    Maybe because you just farted a giant cloud of smugness?

  • J. Mork

    Jack, did you ever see that Simpsons episode where Springfield starts to take back some of the public space that was given away to the least space-efficient mode of travel. Then a small subset of these people who were used to having all of the public space pitch a hissy fit because they realize that the majority who don’t operate these space-inefficient vehicles are finally catching on to the fact that they are getting taken advantage of? That one was hilarious.

  • Linda

    I am no cyclist or Transportation Alternatives type and all I can say is that this whole PPW bike lane drama is absurd. While I can empathize with non-cyclists who see cyclists operating illegally with regard to traffic law as a hazard and a pain in the a$$, the actual numbers just don’t substantiate any kind of real danger. I believe one person was tragically killed due to a collision with a cyclist a few years ago. This figure compared to the HUNDREDS of people killed every year in collisions involving automobiles and other road-machines is jarring. Bottom line is this: it is terrible that so many people die every year on our roadways in America because of our willingness to “write it off” as par for the course for how we travel. Drivers have been given priority for road use for the past 80-90 years and now the paradigm is shifting. Drivers will just have to get used to it. As cycling advances, the culture will come more in line with law-abiding sensibilities. More people will ride in accordance to traffic law. Right now NYC, as other American cities trying the same experiment, is facing an awkward phase of adjustment in how people interact on the road. While it is aggravating to see cyclists commonly disregard traffic law, and I fully support all efforts to get cyclists in compliance… the silver lining right now is that this behavior seldom causes any kind of injury or death. More people get hurt by car drivers acting irresponsibly (which is quite common) than by cyclists. You want to face a hazard that can cause real harm? Try crossing intersections like Flatbush and Atlantic or Kings Highway and Linden Blvd, or even any roadway where pedestrians have to cross a street while cars make turns into them. This is dangerous. I am often cut off as I cross with the right of way. Everybody on the road seems to be inconsiderate to other users but the difference is: motor vehicles kill and maime, pedestrians and cyclists don’t.

    So let’s diffuse this absurd battle. There are much bigger issues that require our attention: like our crumbling infrastructure, declining services in public transit, and this deep recession. Battling over a bike lane is stupidity writ large.

  • L.B. Honest

    I was out of town — not incapacitated by Mike’s stunning post. And I continue to be floored by the logic you are using — so, evidence of the blessings of bike lanes on 9th Ave. in Manhattan is that they make things safer for pedestrians and bikers, as indicated by the lower the numbers and percentage of accidents for bikers and pedestrians. But low ped and bike accidents rates on PPW mean that street is actually more dangerous? Seems like you want to have it both ways….

    I looked carefully at the DOT data on the supposed 58 accidents between 2005 and 2007 on PPW, and found that actually, accidents had been included that are not on PPW (Union St., GAP, and BPS — at the ends of PPW and with their own issues, to be sure, but not relevant to the area with the bike lane).

    When you subtract these, you are down to 44 accidents — 39 vehicles, 4 pedestrian and 1 bike accident in 2 years. none were fatalities. Not exactly proof of a death trap, despite Eric’s claims about the dire consequences of speeding cars (in his Park Slope Civic Council newsletter article in May). BicyclesOnly — Pedestrians are not fleeing from PPW in droves because of their fear of the street. It is a very, very busy pedestrian route on both sides and has been for years.

    Eric — I am aware of the “calming” argument, but people live on this street, and it reduces to 1 lane when there are, for example, deliveries (and before I get piled on for the illegality of “double parking” — check the NYC traffic rules. It is legal for commercial vehicles to make deliveries by standing in a traffic lane during their work, as long as there are no other free spots at the curb. This is a heavily residential St. There is a lot of commercical delivery activity, so you need to factor this in to your thinking, as it’s legal. We see traffic jams and lane switching going on even more than ever, because there is no, if you like, “relief” lane. My next project is to find out where your “capacity” figure comes from, as it appears to be a “universal” figure and there are big differences in the types of streets and street traffic across the city. It might work in some places, but it’s not working here.

    I know you guys seem to be obsessed with safety of bikers and pedestrians, and if there were any indication that these folks are in jeopardy,it would be sympathetic. But you refuse to believe that this is dangerous for others just going about their business on PPW.

    We had elderly visitors last evening who parked on the floating lane; when they parked, we looked out and saw and empty bike lane and a biker riding on the side walk. One wrote me last evening with the following when they left (after 10 pm): “By the time we crossed the street the light had changed and the cars came down the street and I pressed myself against the outside of the car door, I was afraid to open the door and get in because the cars were so close, I had to wait for a break in the traffic. It is dangerous, but I guess someone has to get hurt before anything is done.”

    I would love to see some evidence that you care about the safety of someone who could be your grandmother, but instead car users seem to be wearing black hats in all of your posts… Someone also has pictures of vans off-loading kids for camp at PPW that also had to double park. This is not just transit. People live here and they use the park, and they don’t all arrive on foot or by bike. This is just not safe, no matter how you do the numbers.

  • Mike


    Ignoring the bike lane portion of the street, the geometry of PPW is now exactly the same as the geometry of 8th Avenue, but flowing in the opposite direction. Are you clamoring to widen 8th Avenue to 3 lanes to fix its extreme safety problems? If so, would you rather take away the sidewalks, or maybe remove those outdated, unsightly stoops from some of those historic mansions?

    Your position is just not tenable. All over the city, there are one-way streets with two moving lanes and two parking lanes, and the world doesn’t end. People know to look for a break in traffic before opening their car doors. From the floating parking lane across the sweep of the street to the residential side, nothing here is new or different.

    The fact remains that three lanes were wildly over capacity for this street; two lanes are closer to balance. The Community Board and your Councilmember both recognize that there are better uses of street space than encouraging speeding and putting cyclists in fear for their lives. Why are you fighting this losing battle against a balanced street?

  • L.B.:
    “you refuse to believe that this is dangerous for others just going about their business on PPW.”
    Since “others,” in your vocabulary, excludes pedestrians and bikers (and the former were what your elderly visitors were when they were outside their car), I think it’s incumbent upon you to prove that people driving motor vehicles (the only road users left, right? or are you a rollerblade kinda guy?) are in greater danger now.
    This thread will still be here in a year. Look forward to hearing from you then.


Who Supports the Prospect Park West Bike Lane?

As a referendum on the Prospect Park West redesign, last night’s Community Board 6 hearing was another clear signal that the two-way, protected bike path enjoys broad support within the community. On the community board’s sign-in sheet, 86 people put their names down to testify in favor of the project while 11 signed up to […]