A Refresher on How PPW Bike Lane Opponents Cherrypick Their Numbers

PPW bike lane opponents cherry-picked their own data-set to make the case that this redesign is less safe than the old three-lane speedway. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/11864802@N03/8931187488/sizes/z/in/set-72157633889506293/##hildagirl70/Flickr##

While parents and kids were out celebrating three years of safe, all-ages cycling at the Prospect Park West Family Bike Ride last week, the remnants of NBBL were apparently scouring their Rolodex for media contacts who still take them seriously.

A short item from Post columnist David Seifman notes that unidentified “critics” of the PPW redesign “insist that all of the DOT’s numbers are misleading.” That’s what Norman Steisel, Louise Hainline, and assorted other friends and acquaintances of former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall said when they sued the city to remove the PPW bike lane. In fact, DOT’s crash numbers for PPW — which show a small reduction in pedestrian injuries and a small uptick in total motor vehicle crashes involving injury in the two years after the redesign, according to Seifman — are collected using the same methods the agency has always used to measure the impact of traffic-calming projects. It was NBBL and their lawyer, Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden, who cherrypicked numbers and fabricated a bogus methodology to suit their needs.

As Streetsblog reported back in 2011:

For example, when NBBL and Walden alleged that DOT counted crashes that didn’t happen on Prospect Park West, the city explains, they failed to understand how NYPD records traffic crashes at intersections. In those cases, police record one street as the “on” street and the other street as the cross street. Because most crashes occur at intersections, it is standard DOT practice to count a crash as occurring on a given street if it is listed as a “cross street” in the police report. NYPD may, for instance, record a crash that happened at the intersection of PPW and Third Street as happening “on” Third Street, with PPW as the cross street. When studying safety on the PPW corridor, DOT counts such a crash as happening on PPW, while NBBL would have disregarded such a crash, en route to compiling a dataset that doesn’t adhere to the methodology employed by DOT all over the city.

Meanwhile, with speeding down drastically compared to the old three-lane highway set-up, people feel safe using PPW in ways they never would have considered before. But the NBBL crew keeps on plodding along, spending time and energy just to undermine projects that let people do this:

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/11864802@N03/8930596015/sizes/z/in/set-72157633889506293/##hildagirl70/Flickr##
  • J

    This is pretty funny. Apparently, the PPW opponents know their opinions are so unpopular and indefensible that they are no longer willing to even put their names behind attacks like this.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Those people were just being litigious, thinking that they could get quick money and win from a lawsuit. It had nothing to do with concerns of safety, better bike lanes or the notion of complete streets. Just like the people who sue for Citibike stations near their house. These people rarely win in court, since they site concerns that have been remedied by the very thing they’re suing against. And who suffers? John Q. Taxpayer because court matters cost money and backs up an overburden court system.

  • Mark Walker

    All mayoral candidates should be asked to take a no-Weinshall pledge for the next DOT chief. If this question is posed, I will not vote for anyone who answers wrong or refuses to answer.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Underestimating the opposition is a mistake. Opponents to PPW and Bikeshare station sitings do (wrongly) believe that they are right. Lawsuits are a common delaying technique to something that you oppose and are used effectively by all sides of all political issues.

    Rather than speculating on their ulterior motives (to get rich), we should either 1) show that their opinion is the minority opinion and/or 2) convince them that there opinion is either incomplete or based on faulty logic and that they should revise. This article does #2 quite nicely.

  • JK

    Most New Yorkers have GPS equipped smart phones and many have ultra precise route tracking apps like Strava. So, why isn’t NYPD digitally mapping exactly where crashes take place? There’s just no reason to speculate — or fabricate — anything about crash locations. Incidentally, does anybody spend anything on crash investigations, and technology, compared to the billions spent on terrorism? In Lower Manhattan, NYC has the $30m Total Domain Awareness system which ties together, license plate readers, surveillance camera and (probably) facial recognition software. Yet, police crash investigators are drawing tiny diagrams in little boxes on paper forms — forms which are filled out by hand and then digitized. Is it hard to guess which public safety issue the NYPD takes more seriously?


  • Keith Williams

    Every time I read one of these rehash posts on Streetsblog, I get a little annoyed, because I’ve seen all of these facts and arguments before. But then I realize Streetsblog is doing the right thing – beating the drum of statistics and reality over and over until the message sinks in for everyone.

    Thanks, Ben and crew, for keeping this up.

  • Anonymous

    Has the severity of crashes declined? I would imagine that lower speeds would bring that result.

    When is bikeshare scheduled to arrive in Park Slope?

    fwiw, I would love to have parking protected bike lanes in my town.

  • Same here. They’d be great on the concourse.

  • I don’t see how it is in the DOT’s interest to lie? This lane was very inexpensive and if it isn’t ideal they will revise it as they have done with other lanes.

    I was just there two days ago and I was impressed much nicer than what I remembered. Just made we wish there were more lanes like it on our part of town.

  • tyler

    When the “police” force is organized and managed as a paramilitary organization, crash investigation and traffic injuries do not compute. You have to have an “enemy.” So, we have things like Stop and Frisk and various other citizens being brutalized for looking at an officer the wrong way. Thus, you get things like this…
    Instead of increased safety on the streets.

  • Anonymous

    The sad part about the NBBL’ers is that they have helped seed an anti-bike movement in the entire region. Advocates for healthier and safer streets are terrified to ask for changes to the roads, especially since the wife of our senior US Senator is in their camp. And Jim Walden, the pro bono lawyer, has offered his anti-bike services elsewhere (as Streetsblog has covered).

  • Joe R.

    Three of my favorite things from the other side regarding the PPW lane are:

    1) The bikes going in both directions are dangerous because pedestrians are only used to looking in one direction.
    2) The lane is hardly used (that kind of contradicts #1 in that a bike lane which is “hardly used” shouldn’t represent a danger)
    3) Someone suggested installing traffic lights instead of flashing yellows for the bikes to “get them used to stopping”. Maybe it’s just me, but cyclists already have to stop a lot in this city. Most know when they need to without “getting used to it”. Adding yet more stopping for no valid safety reason serves no purpose but to make cycling more inefficient and less useful (then again that was probably the point).

    I get really annoyed at the ongoing criticism of this bike lane. This is actually one of the few pieces of bike infrastructure which DOT got completely right. I see no need to remove it or modify it (other than maybe to make the lanes a little wider to allow safer passing).

  • Joe R.

    It would be a pretty sad state of affairs if among all the potential candidates to head the DOT we recycle Iris Weinshall. If JSK isn’t wanted by the next mayor, or she doesn’t want the job any more, perhaps ask Ray La Hood if he’s interested. Weinshall would be a disaster for anyone who doesn’t drive.

  • Ian Turner

    I think Weinshall would be a disaster for drivers also. JSK has actually done an exceptional job keeping the DOT paving machine running at top speed. And fewer people driving means less congestion.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It doesn’t matter that theirs is a minority opinion or is incorrect. This is about who matters and who is in charge. Egos are involved.

    Why is this lawsuit being permitted to be dragged out? I almost think Bloomberg wants the next Mayor to have an opportunity to settle, rip it out, and deny responsibility. Bloomberg gets to blast them for it.

  • Eric McClure

    Here’s how we know that the PPW redesign has worked exactly as DOT and advocates predicted it would: if there had been a single serious injury to a pedestrian or cyclist, or a driver or passenger of a car, in the three years since the bike path was implemented, we can be sure that the people suing the city would’ve held a press conference. So far, no press conferences.

  • Yet the NBBL crowd and their lawyers have been shopping this data around for months to various community boards outside of Brooklyn, trying to convince those other communities to drink the “DoT Truther” Kool-Aid, without getting so much as a nibble…

    This is NBBL’s the last gasp until there is a new administration installed. Then they will try to get rid of this bike path again.

  • Anonymous

    The veterans of the Bike lane battle! It was a fantastic battle and we owe you a big one. This is where we could have lost the war. I get it . But why are we still talking – writing about this ? Let’s write about bike share, and reinforce the positive as the “new normal” .Let’s write about all the neighborhoods that want bike share. Let’s show momentum.. Citibike has decimated the opposition. It is not that they look dumb and angry, they look like luddites and neanderthals.

  • Anonymous

    But the battle’s not over, even for this specific lane. The lawsuit’s alive, as is the mentality that brought it.

    I’m happy to look into the future and all the great things you suggest, but having watched a fellow cyclist almost get crushed this morning by a driver right hooking into the Bedford bike lane, I’m going to keep focusing on fighting for safe road space for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    I stand corrected. Did not know the lawsuit was still alive.
    REally glad we are all focused on safety.


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