PPW Bike Lane Lawsuit Will Be Decided on the Merits — Bring It On

Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bert Bunyan ruled yesterday that Prospect Park West bike lane opponents did indeed file suit before the six-month statute of limitations had run out. The case will proceed after all.

The outcome is a surprise, since Bunyan reversed his initial 2011 decision to dismiss the suit. The case only had legs because an appeals court kicked it back to Bunyan in 2012. But here we are.

What this means, as far as I can tell, is that there will now be a trial to rule on the actual merits of the bike lane opponents’ case. I’m waiting to hear back from the law department about whether the city can or will appeal this decision, but even if the city can appeal, why drag this out any longer? The lawsuit has no merits.

Years before DOT replaced a traffic lane on PPW with a two-way protected bike lane, Brooklyn Community Board 6 sent a letter asking the agency to study a two-way protected bike lane on PPW. Prospect Park West had a speeding problem and people wanted DOT to fix it. The bike lane-plus-road diet was the city’s response. The redesign went through the usual community board process and has worked as advertised since it was installed.

Knowing all that, the people suing the city, Louise Hainline and Norman Steisel, need their pro bono attorneys from Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to prove that DOT’s decision to implement the bike lane was “arbitrary and capricious.”

If it’s arbitrary and capricious to install a bike lane after such a thorough process, then it’s hard to think of a street redesign that would be safe under the law. Any crank with a skillful legal team could overturn any street overhaul.

Five years ago, Streetsblog showed the complaint against NYC DOT to some experts in this area of the law. NYU law professor Roderick Hills called it “largely public relations, with no more law behind it than is minimally necessary to avoid sanctions for frivolity.”

The lawsuit lost its value as a PR campaign years ago. At some point it became impossible for the bike lane opponents to mask the selfishness, resentment, and extraordinary access to power that propelled the lawsuit all along. It’s not a gigantic spectacle with friends-of-NBBL launching tabloid broadsides at DOT any more, it’s just sad and hard to comprehend. A ruling on the merits should finally put the whole thing to rest.

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