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Supporter: The bike lane will make us all safer

for The Brooklyn Paper
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There are few things that my 18-month-old daughter Anna loves more than Prospect Park. Even before she could walk, my wife Zoe and I brought her to crawl in the grass and romp around the playgrounds. Of course, there’s one barrier between our home on 11th Street and the park we visit every day: Prospect Park West.

As a new parent, it’s the sort of street that scares me to the core. Any plan that slows down speeding cars and makes it safer to cross has my full support, and I’m glad the Department of Transportation is finally doing something that’ll let parents like me breathe easier.

The instinctive fear that many of us feel about this dangerous street is validated by the hard numbers. Put simply, Prospect Park West is too wide for the modest amount of traffic it carries. The result? A mini-highway where drivers weave in and out at high speed.

Earlier this year, Park Slope Neighbors, a local civic organization, took a radar gun out to the street and found 85 percent of cars exceeding the speed limit, with a startling 30 percent averaging 40 mph or more. At that speed, it’s all but certain that a pedestrian struck by a car won’t survive.

All of this brings me to the proposed plan to narrow Prospect Park West and add pedestrian refuges and a two-way physically separated bicycle lane on the park side of the street. This project will improve safety for everyone, especially walkers. Our most vulnerable pedestrians — children and senior citizens — won’t have to cross a dangerous 50-foot-wide street anymore. And by reducing the number of traffic lanes, the new design will finally get vehicles driving at or below the speed limit, making the road safer for drivers and passengers as well.

Park Slope has more bike commuters than almost any neighborhood in the city, and the bike lane is clearly a boon for cyclists; where a similar design was installed on Williamsburg’s Kent Avenue, we now see children and seniors riding safely — an indication of a truly safe cycling environment. These designs work; they’ve been reducing injuries and fatalities on streets across the city in recent years. It’s time we put them to work in our neighborhood.

I’ve heard grumbling from some of my neighbors — our borough president included — about the plan’s supposed impact on drivers. I remember the same “sky is falling” outcry when bike lanes were installed two years ago on Ninth Street nearby. Here we are in 2010, no “car-mageddon” on Ninth Street, just a safer street all-around.

I guarantee that after a few months of seeing a redesigned Prospect Park West at work, those arguments won’t hold much water.

It’s taken ages to convince the city to do something about Prospect Park West. Thousands of families like mine have been waiting for the day when we can cross this street without fear. We shouldn’t have to wait a single day longer.

Paul Steely White is the executive director of Transportation Alternatives and a resident of Park Slope.

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Reader Feedback

Thomas Michaels from Windsor Terrace says:
Is this person trying to make idiots of us all? There was an outcry to get all cars out of Prospect Park, so bikers, walkers, and runners could have a safe area by themselves. The park was closed to vehicle traffic.

Now they want Prospect Park West designated for bikers and walkers.

All you have to do is time the lights and put in cameras like they did on McDonald Avenue, and traffic will start slowing down to a snails pace, like it is during the entire summer.

There is so much traffic waiting to move, meanwhile during the day the park is underused . Bikers, walkers, and runners cannot have it all. Either open Prospect Park during the week for traffic, or leave Prospect Park West alone.

Thank you
May 5, 2010, 3:10 pm
Mike from Ft Greene says:
Thomas is spreading misinformation: 80% of the width of Prospect Park West will still be designated for the
May 5, 2010, 4:37 pm
Mike from Ft Greene says:
Reposting due to technical error with "less than" sign. Thomas is spreading misinformation: 80% of the width of Prospect Park West will still be designated for the less than 50% of area residents who have cars. No one is talking about designating the entire street "for bikers and walkers". The street desperately needs traffic calming, and the good news is it looks like it's about to get it.
May 5, 2010, 4:42 pm
Scott Kolber from Park Slope says:
I'm a bicyclist who regularly experiences the frustration and danger of there being no northbound bicycle route in Park Slope other than 5th Ave which is neither dedicated nor safe. Selfishly, I'd love to see dedicated bike lanes on PPW. But I'm sympathetic to the case made for using Prospect Park for this purpose. The solution? Ban motorized traffic in the park and install dedicated two-way bike lanes around Park Drive to protect bicyclists and pedestrians from each other.

Narrowing PPW and slowing down traffic won't make it safer for pedestrians who cross properly at traffic lights. The greatest danger there to pedestrians is from turning traffic, not speeding traffic, which can be further mitigated by pedestrian-only walk lights.
May 6, 2010, 8:20 am
Marc from Williamsburg says:
If speed is the issue, why not just put stop signs every block or two? I think that congesting traffic to control speed seems like a bad way to go about it. I'm not against bike lanes, but I don't think they should be used as a method of controlling car speeds. They also can produce safety hazards as well. In the piece he mentions Kent Avenue 3 blocks from where I live. On Kent avenue the City has reduced a 4 lane road (1 lane North, 1 South, and 2 curbside parking lanes) to a 2-way bike lane, put the bike lane on the left BETWEEN the parked cars and the curb, left one lane for northbound traffic. I have 2 kids 2 & 4, and I can tell you it's ridiculously dangerous trying to get both of them out of the car, hoping the 4 year old doesn't open the door into passing cars, dodging impatient drivers (often TRUCKS!) that had to wait behind me to park and open the door the door to lift one of the 2 pout of the car, then have the 4 yo wait directly behind me so that she doesn't get hit by bikers on the opposite side while I dodge them opening the other back door into their lane to get my son out. Ridiculous. I appreciate that the city is trying to create a more bicycle friendly climate, and a greener city, but I also think the planning hasn't really been thought out well.
May 6, 2010, 2:43 pm

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