DOT’s PPW Data Greeted With Cheers, Paranoia at CB 6 Meeting

Data from the sixth month study period indicates that the traffic calming redesign has substantially reduced the incidence of injurious crashes on Prospect Park West. Graphic: NYC DOT

The loudest applause at last night’s Brooklyn CB 6 meeting on the Prospect Park West bike lane went to DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo, after he wrapped up his presentation documenting the redesign’s effect on safety, bicycling rates, and traffic. The brief summary: injuries are down, cycling is up, and speeding has been tamed while travel times and traffic volumes are the same as before. The project has been a success so far and DOT will be moving ahead with further tweaks, like installing raised concrete islands in the pedestrian zones between the bike lane and the traffic lanes.

The second loudest applause went to Council Member Brad Lander, after he told the audience of about 150 that the DOT data “shows the project is working to me and that we should keep it and move forward.” (In contrast, you could hear crickets chirping after Lander’s colleague in the council, Steve Levin, weighed in on the redesign by saying he’s concerned about the effect on snow removal. Christmas blizzard populism has its limits.)

Other than that, there weren’t many occasions to audibly and directly register one’s opinion at a meeting devoted mainly to audience questions about DOT’s presentation. CB 6 will be holding another event to gather public feedback on the redesign, probably in March. So prepare to save the date.

When the Q&A rolled around last night, the anti-bike lane folks were easy enough to spot because their questions mainly boiled down this: They don’t believe DOT. The “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” just don’t believe that a project which has slowed down speeding traffic and shortened crossing distances for pedestrians has actually improved safety. They would rather believe that their self-reported, apples-to-oranges data collection represents the truth, and that opposition to the bike lane is actually 50 times greater than what they’ve been able to muster.

Some of the more high-profile bike lane opponents, including Iris Weinshall and Norman Steisel, could be spotted in the pews of the Old First Reformed Church, shaking their heads as Russo and DOT bike and pedestrian director Josh Benson explained their data. (Interesting factoid: DOT bike counts and traffic flow data are collected by outside consultants, not agency staff.)

At one point, NBBL member Lois Carswell asked why her group had counted half the number of cyclists on PPW as DOT on Tuesday, November 19. Russo explained that NBBL’s camera, trained on the northern tip of the bike lane, would not have captured as many cyclists as DOT’s count, which was conducted at the center of the bike lane. Much of the bike commuter traffic using PPW to access bicycle lanes on 2nd and 3rd Streets would have been recorded by DOT, but not by NBBL, Russo explained.

Note that the Post’s Sally Goldenberg and CJ Sullivan completely flubbed this explanation in their piece on the CB 6 meeting today:

Assistant DOT Commissioner Ryan Russo said that his agency counters caught more riders because they were at more points along the route.

I was at the meeting, and that is not what Russo said. Hardly the only crime against journalism in a piece that might as well have been written by Steisel without intermediaries.

Carswell also wanted to know why DOT hadn’t furnished NBBL with data in response to a FOIL request they filed 60 days ago. The end of the study period was December 31, Russo said, so DOT had not even finished collecting its data until 20 days ago.

Another skeptic questioned the DOT’s “before” count of weekday cyclist volume on PPW, saying an internet search had revealed that the count was conducted an on unusually rainy day — June 9, 2009 — which would skew the recorded increase in cycling. Benson explained that as a rule, bike counts are done on sunny days, and the crews will call it quits if it starts to rain.

There’s also the fact that according to the National Climatic Data Center, in nearby Bayonne, New Jersey (the nearest weather station to Brooklyn), the weather on June 9, 2009 was in the sixties with zero precipitation. UPDATE from the comments: It did rain on this day in Central Park — mostly overnight rain with some cloudbursts in the morning.

The quote of the day, though, has to go to Carswell after Russo explained why NBBL’s bike counts would be lower than DOT’s: “I disagree with your logic.”

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Let’s just get rid of this number of cyclists point of contention by NBBL since they love to scream and yell about it: let’s assume that no one – not ONE single cyclist used the new lane for the last 6 months.

    The street is still safer, the number of car crashes are down as are serious injuries, drivers are still getting where they need to in the same amount of time. As one person told me – even if they filled in the bike lane with grass and trees it would still be a resounding success.

    Let’s see the NBBL is their true light – they are not a group for better bike lanes. They are a group for faster, more dangerous traffic that puts ALL street users (pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) more at risk.

  • dporpentine

    My vote for aimless antipathy of the night went to the person who was visibly upset that there were no counts for the response times for emergency vehicles on PPW. How could anyone be upset about that but completely uninterested in the amazing decline that DOT reported in accidents with injuries? You know, the kind of thing that gets emergency vehicles called to PPW in the first place.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Sidenote: Brad Lander made Steve Levin look like a complete amateur last night.

  • “Logic” is in short supply among the “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes,” who care only about one bike lane, want to make it “better” by replacing it with a lane of traffic, and are the antithesis of neighborly.

    These selfish people need to stop their misguided efforts to make Prospect Park West less safe. Maybe if they’d get on a bike now and then, they wouldn’t be so angry.

  • JBK
  • Marty Barfowitz


    According to that, it was not raining during the day. The rain is happening overnight and basically stops at 9am. There’s no rain during the day.

    Still, that’s a cool site.

  • Moocow

    JBK, your (and mine) weather log says it rained around 4 in the morning on the 9th of June 2009. Maybe some light rain around 930. Go to the bottom of my link for the graph.

    My station is located near GAP, I believe.

  • KRN

    Interesting/ironic that Iris Weinshall was shaking her head at the DOT staff, since they were both hired and/or promoted when she was Commissioner, pre-JSK.

  • I’ve posted this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. Here’s an example of how every “fact” that a NBBL member brings up also brings up other inconvenient facts that refute the very points they are trying to make.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that it was actually raining on June 9, 2009, the day of the DOT “before” count. That means that despite a torrential downpour, 349 intrepid cyclists still biked on Prospect Park West and even did so when there was no bike lane! That takes some real guts!

    Living in NBBL’s world for a bit longer, if the DOT counted 349 cyclists on a rainy day, imagine how many people would have been on their bikes if it had been sunny!

    Applying the 50:1 standard multiplier effect, there would have been 17,450 cyclists on Prospect Park West that day.

  • Better Bike Lanes?

    Does NBBL really stand for NiBBLe? As in nibble away at a now proven successful DOT project?

    And where the hell was Marty Markowitz last night? The guy screams and yells (and apparently sings – badly) in protest over NYC DOT livable streets improvements, but then is nowhere in sight to speak to the community and hear the factual data. Doesn’t he average showing up to about a half dozen events every day as BP (which admittedly is pretty impressive). But you’d think since he has made this such an issue, he’d welcome this kind of opportunity.

    And I’ll agree with “Barfowitz” – I think Brad Lander was so amazingly good last night. He is turning into a great representative for the city. A reasonable man. He is going to be a bright star in the next few years.

  • NBBL Lies

    Yeah look at that weather data and you can see how NBBL likes to manipulate the facts. About 98% of the day’s rain fell prior to 9 AM on that day. The guy must have known that when bringing it up.

    Selective and manipulative. Just what the NBBL is accusing the NYC DOT of. Why should anyone trust them with any data? They just love to lie. Outright lie.

    Also, that time of year a day in the high 60s and overcast is beautiful biking weather. If anything there might have been a slant towards having more cyclists than usual on that day. June-July-August can get damn hot, and very hot and sunny weather can lower the number of cyclists as well as heavy, heavy rain.

  • Streetsman

    I’m with the first comment. Whether it rained or not that day or how many cyclists are using the lane now doesn’t matter at all. The street is significantly safer for all users, illegal speeding has been curtailed, and the vehicle volumes and travel times have been maintained. Those were the benchmarks for the project and they have been met. Any increase in cycling is just gravy and need not be argued about – it’s inconsequential.

  • JBK

    I agree completely with Streetsman – Bike lane or merely putting speedbumps on the deathtrap that was PPW. However, it’s best that one not present arguments that are easily nitpickable, which is why I nitpicked.

    Now, what can be done to make 4th ave the new “Park Ave.” of Brooklyn, like Marty promised? Perhaps a mandate for street level retail, three lanes to two, change the traffic light timing to more like Park Ave (you can really speed down 4th ave for quite a ways, but Park Ave is seemingly random), big fat pedestrian medians…

  • car free nation

    Yeah let’s add protected bike lanes to the west side of 4th avenue. How about something like sands street. There’s a lot less car traffic on the west side (going south) and two lanes would easily suffice. (If it were up to me, I’d put it in the center lane, so people can still double park and do deliveries. )

  • JBK, the lights on park turn green simultaneously, about 20 blocks at a time, then all turn red simultaneously. This “block timing” scheme promotes speeding, because the faster you go above 30 MPH while the lights are green, the farther you get before they all turn red.

  • I agree JBK that is a good next target, maybe we can point out how awful 4th ave is and it’s supposed to be Marty’s pride.

  • I would love to see a DOT radar-gun survey of the speeds on 4th Ave. That street makes PPW seem like a garden path.

  • JBK

    Wasn’t aware of that, BO. From the pedestrian perspective, I only know that you don’t step onto 4th ave until you see the car stop, because everyone runs the lights in both directions.

  • tom

    You should also note the extreme width of Manhattan’s Park Avenue in midtown(not Brooklyn’s Park Avenue or Manhattan’s Park Avenue South or uptown with the El). Lots of travel lanes, two lanes for parking at the curb, nice medians maintained privately, no turn lanes, no bike lanes, no corner curb-extensions for pedestrians. I’ve not heard of any plans, or any suggestions of a plan, for any changes. Maybe it’s landmarked?

    BBL?: Brad Lander IS a bright star and IS a great rep today and every day. That’s why he was elected to the CC. Where have you been?

  • I got your plan for Park Avenue in Midtown. And it better not be landmarked!

  • See also this photo.


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