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A Park Slope group voted on Wednesday to support a revolutionary proposal for a two-way bike lane on the park-side of Prospect Park West that would be protected from traffic by a row of parked cars — but demanded that the city delay the project and separate the bikers from the parked cars with a raised median instead of the less-protective painted buffer.
Community Board 6 first voted 18-9 to add the bike path — and take away one lane of car traffic — on the three-lane throughway between Grand Army Plaza and Bartel Pritchard Square.
Then the board voted 16-14 to ask the city to delay the construction of the lane until further study could be done.
Essentially, the board disputed the city’s contention that a four-foot-wide painted median between the bike lane and parked cars on the eastern side of Prospect Park West would sufficiently protect cyclists, motorists, and walkers.
“We don’t like the paint idea and feel that a curb would add more safety for pedestrians — having a physical separation is an important component,” said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of the board.
The city’s current plan calls for raised concrete islands to provide refuge for pedestrians crossing the bike path, but the board would like to extend the concrete islands into lengthy sidewalks that might prevent drivers from encroaching on the cycling lanes, and protect car passengers — especially children — who are accustomed to exiting vehicles beside the park without crossing a bike lane.
Board member and bike lane opponent James Bernard focussed on this portion of the debate.
“This is a crazy idea that doesn’t make any sense,” said Bernard, who fears that children might exit cars and dash towards the park — and into the cycling path — without looking both ways.
“People want to do something good for bikes, but you are robbing Peter to pay Paul — and Peter in this case is safety of the children,” he added.
Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solmonow told The Brooklyn Paper that the painted buffer would adequately protect cyclists, motorists, pedestrians — and even car passengers.
“We definitely took into account that people would be exiting on the curbside — that’s why we put in the four-foot buffer,” noted Solomonow, who added that his agency would look into the board’s suggestions.
“We want to make sure the project works, and we want it to work in the best way possible,” he said.
The city maintains that constructing the bike lane and eliminating one lane of traffic on the 49-foot wide street — where 58 accidents involving motorists, cyclists and pedestrians were reported between 2005 and 2007 — will make the road safer for all users.
Department of Transportation officials claim that nixing one lane of traffic could also have the benefit of slowing drivers on Prospect Park West, where more than 15 percent of drivers roared down the straightaway at speeds exceeding 39 miles per hour — nine miles per hour above the speed limit, according to a Department of Transportation study in March.
After the second vote to delay the lane construction, bike lane boosters were baffled.
“It’s safer to have bike lanes on Prospect Park West than it is to have bikes on the sidewalk, which is what we have now,” said Jeff Strabone. “If we believe that this will make our lives safer, why delay safety?”
The board’s vote to delay the bike lane was meaningless anyway because the Department of Transportation said it did not plan to install the cycling routes until September.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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