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Paper to city: No to bike lane

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As cyclists, we have been genuinely impressed by the efforts of the Department of Transportation to encourage bike riding and commuting in the city. No other agency has been as pro-active in its work, and few have shown as much forethought in devising innovative solutions to long-standing problems.

But the Prospect Park West bike lane is just a bad idea.

As part of its reasonable assault on Park Slope’s major quality of life problem — speeding on three-lane Prospect Park West — the agency seeks to install a two-way bike path along the eastern edge of the boulevard, protected by a row of parked cars.

To accommodate and protect the cyclists, one lane of car traffic would have to be removed.

The city says that such a configuration, which already exists along Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, would make Prospect Park West safer for everyone. But we’re not convinced. Unlike Kent Avenue, Prospect Park West has significant pedestrian traffic that will have to cross that bike lane. Now, instead of merely looking out for speeding car traffic from the north, pedestrians will have to be alert for bike traffic zipping from the south.

If the issue was simply traffic-calming along Prospect Park West, the city already has many old-fashioned tools at its disposal: altering traffic light timing, enforcing speed limits better, narrowing car lanes, or even making Prospect Park West two-way.

Instead, the agency is using an elephant gun to take down a mouse — and, in doing so, ignored some of the realities about life on Brooklyn’s version of Central Park West.

Trucks making deliveries and soccer moms and dads dropping off their charges for sporting events often double-park on the stretch. With three full lanes, drivers can easily get around the blockage. But eliminating one lane for cars will cause congestion — and inflame, rather than calm, traffic.

And there’s something else that has been lost in this whole debate: Prospect Park West already has a great bike lane. It’s called Prospect Park.

There’s no reason why the Department of Transportation can’t simply reconfigure the existing roadway inside the park to allow cyclists to circulate in both directions, thereby achieving the north-south bike flow that the agency is hoping to create.

If it wants to be more radical, the agency could simply ban car traffic in the park. Such a move would allow cyclists to ride from Kensington to Grand Army Plaza inside the greatest protected bike lane of all: Prospect Park.

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Reader Feedback

Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
Why does Prospect Park West have to be as wide as Ocean Parkway? It does not get that much traffic.

and

Why are you defending people who double park? Maybe when PPW is not 3 lanes wide they wont see it as an OK place to double park.

and

Enforcing speed limits does not stop people from speeding it just punishes the speeders.
May 7, 2010, 6:36 am
thfs from greenpoint says:
Kent Avenue has significant pedestrian traffic in front of the new developments and it works ok. This plan will have clearer crossing places than that one, so addresses your concerns. Why not try it? People are already riding on the sidewalk.
May 7, 2010, 8:36 am
Michael from Boerum Hill says:
I'm shocked that the Paper would take this stance. I guess being owned by the Post is taking its toll. Soon you'll want to offer free parking for limos in the bike lanes.
May 7, 2010, 9:16 am
Aaron from Park Slope says:
Unfortunately, you're getting this one completely wrong.

1) illegal parkers shouldn't get a pass - loading zones for drop offs
2) this will slow down cars, which is necessary. If we're narrowing the lanes to slow traffic... why not add a bike lane with the extra space?
3) Oh no! mom's and kids will have to pivot their heads twice to cross the street!!!
4) Prospect park is not a good alternative bike lane. Why is it that the car gets all the street space? Yet someone wants to bike to work and they're supposed to go into a park and take a hilly, winding route through the woods?

welcome late to the debate. Nothing better than letting an issue pass and then jumping on board when a loud minority hasn't gotten their way.
May 7, 2010, 9:30 am
Jacob from Park Slope says:
This is a travesty, and a VERY poor decision on the part of the paper. If there may be aspects of this plan that you don't like, why not try to find ways to make them work. DOT has certainly worked with the community to address the very concerns you bring up, tweaking the plan so it works for everybody. This paper, however is going the opposite route of finding reason that it won't work. That is neither progress nor compromise, and it represents a narrow view of things.

If you want to see this setup, go to the Hudson River Greenway. There's a ton of pedestrians and bikes, yet somehow they manage to get along.

What is the paper's goal here? If you do succeed, the current status quo will remain. Do you seriously believe that a 200lb bike rider going 15mph is more dangerous to pedestrians than a 4,000lb car going 50mph?
May 7, 2010, 9:34 am
M to the I from Prospect Heights says:
The West Side bike path in Manhattan sees way more bike and ped traffic than Prospect Park W ever will and yet it works with signals, cyclists and peds looking out for one another, and separation from traffic.

Double parking is not legal so noone should encourage street configurations that make it convenient. Additionally, in response to community concerns, the DOT has provided for loading/unloading areas near entrances to the park in their plan, which maybe you need to take another look at.

The Prospect Park W bike lane will provide an important north south path in the Park Slope bike network that will link bike lanes on 9th St, 2nd/3rd St and Grand Army Plaza.
May 7, 2010, 9:36 am
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
That's a red herring. No one who is against the two-way bike lane on Prospect Park West would be in favor of removing cars from the part to let cyclists travel in the other direction there. No one. So it won't happen, as this paper is aware.

The two way bike lane won't cost much money, so I have a suggestion. After it is installed, wait a year and then start a campaign to remove it and close the part at the same time. You'll see how far you get.
May 7, 2010, 9:40 am
Gary from Park Slope says:
PPW has massive excess capacity that encourages speeding. This is a safety issue! Narrowing PPW to 2 lanes will remove the feeling for drives that PPW is a highway. Shortening the crossing for pedestrians will be much safer, I am sure they can handle a brief pause, on designated refuges, to check for bikes, which move relatively slowly. The Park loop, even if reconfigured to be two-way is only useful for through trip with access points only at GAP, 3rd and 15th Street. It is useless for any bikes approaching or leaving PPW at other points. And the bikes are already there, in the roadway and on the sidewalk. It will be much safer for everyone for each mode of transportation to have its own designated space. Double parked vehicles on PPW will be no different than double parked vehicles on 8th Avenue, which has similar levels of vehicular use. Traffic will slow for a moment and then move one. I live on PPW and this is a much needed improvement.
May 7, 2010, 9:44 am
Kelley from Upper West Side says:
The comparison of PPW to Central Park West is flawed: CPW *has* a bike lane, and all the moms and strollers and joggers as well as the cyclists manage just fine.
May 7, 2010, 9:54 am
Eric from Union Square says:
So the paper is for two-way car traffic on PPW but against two-way bike traffic. Does not compute.
May 7, 2010, 10:05 am
AlexB from Astoria says:
I don't think that the writer of this paper is aware of some basic principles of car transportation: 1) cars will drive as fast as the design of the road allows; 2) getting run over by a speeding car will do exponentially more damage to a pedestrian than a speeding bicycle.

If you narrow a road from three lanes to two, cars will adjust to the change and drive more slowly i.e. the speed limit. If someone is double parked, they should be ticketed. I've never understood why everyone in NYC thinks double parking is OK for anything other than a major emergency. Parking directly in front of your destination is not a god-given right. Find a real parking spot and walk like a responsible human being. If a double-parker isn't ticketed and removed, there isn't enough traffic on the street that another car can't get around them.

The lane of parked cars buffering the bike lanes will also allow for a pedestrian island, meaning a pedestrian will have to walk across one parking lane and two driving lanes before arriving at a safe place, and then just the bike lane before getting to the opposite side of the street. This allows much fewer chances of being injured than the current situation where a pedestrian must walk across two parking lanes and three driving lanes where cars often speed.

Furthermore, this is a road between Brooklyn's prettiest park and one of its most beautiful neighborhoods. It just makes sense that it would be more designed for recreation and aesthetics than to speed cars along it as fast as the right of way allows.
May 7, 2010, 10:06 am
Rob from Prospect Heights says:
The Park is for recreation; the streets are for commuting. Cars should not commute through the park; nor should bikes.

Such fear mongering is inflammatory. As posters above have pointed out, this arrangement works throughout the city. Any change from the status quo will take some getting used to, but after a year no one will miss the way it is now.
May 7, 2010, 10:39 am
Marty Barfowitz from An Outer Borough says:
This editorial is moronic and I'm pretty sure that Gersh Kuntzman knows that.
May 7, 2010, 10:47 am
William from Prospect Heights says:
You just don't get it. Look around. Bicycling has become basic transportation for a rapidly growing proportion of people in Brooklyn, and NYC in general. Yet you would maintain the status quo of giving maximum road surface and more to the minority that owns/drives cars. Bicyclists pay the same taxes as car owners to maintain the roads, yet they are second-class users; forced to ride in the gutter for fear of being run over, forced to swerve into traffic around those same (illegaly) double-parked cars that you worry would slow down drivers who're already speeding down PPW.
Oh, but cyclists can have Propsect Park! Gee, thanks.
May 7, 2010, 11:09 am
Danny from Queens says:
From what I understand, the point of this project is to reduce speeding on PPW by removing a lane of vehicular traffic. Neither police enforcement nor changing the timing of lights have prevented people from being hit by cars, so physical changes to the actual streetscape are necessary. Judge this success of this project by whether it lowers or raises the rate of traffic death and injury.
May 7, 2010, 11:34 am
Mike from Bklyn says:
Streetsblog just posted a great takedown of this moronic editorial:
http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/05/07/brooklyn-paper-on-ppw-double-parking-takes-precedence-over-safety/
May 7, 2010, 12:12 pm
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
What a shame for a major newspaper to support the extremely dangerous and illegal practices of speeding and double parking.
May 7, 2010, 12:38 pm
SG from Park Slope says:
What about introducing diagonal parallel parking on one side only of PPW? Perhaps this would allow enough room for a bike lane without removing a lane of vehicular traffic. And it makes parking easier.
May 7, 2010, 12:50 pm
Danny from Queens says:
SG,

I may be wrong, but I think the point of this project is to remove a lane of vehicular traffic in order to reduce speeding and make the street safer. The two-way bike lane is merely the means to accomplish that end.
May 7, 2010, 12:54 pm
Joanna from Park Slope says:
No where in the city that has bike lanes has seen increased car congestion. That is a fact backed up by lots of scientific data. Believe me, the DOT has made very sure of this before rolling out their bike lane plans. Park Slope is "special," yes, but our traffic behaves the same as any where else.

Also, a person hit by a car has a lot less chance of surviving than a person hit by a bike. This is why countries like The Netherlands have an always-at-fault law for accidents involving cars and bikes or pedestrians. Cars are lethal weapons so it us up to the driver to avoid an accident at all costs. Fewer speeding cars = safer streets for everyone: walkers, bikers, and other drivers.
May 7, 2010, 1:13 pm
Dave from Reality says:
Stupid argument 1:
"pedestrians will have to be alert for bike traffic zipping from the south."
Okay. So those "zipping" bikes are some immutable force of physics, utterly incapable of slowing, stopping or changing course? When a bike and a ped are on a possible collision course, the ped is the only one capable of doing anything to prevent the collison? No! Wrong! Stupid!

Stupid argument 2:
"Trucks...and soccer moms....often double-park.... Eliminating one lane for cars will cause congestion — and inflame, rather than calm, traffic."
Okay. So it's important to preserve, protect, and enable this ILLEGAL act? I understand the logic of the argument, but its values are F#$%d, and that is a poor reflection on the Brooklyn Paper. Better to convince these paranoid soccer parents that driving their kids is worse for everyone.
May 7, 2010, 1:48 pm
Peter Bray from Park Slope says:
I can't disagree more. Traffic on PPW is not of sufficient volume to warrant three lanes. The bicycle route in the park should not be used to attract more cyclists as a means of getting from one end of the park to the other, because of the already existing potential for conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. Having a two-way bicycle lane on PPW would clearly exist for transportation purposes versus the use of the park by bicyclists for recreational purposes.

If short term, drop off parking is the issue, an appropriate solutions can be devised for it. But an entire lane of PPW should not be reserved for motorists for this purpose alone. And the car traffic does not warrant it.
May 7, 2010, 3:24 pm
Lex from Park Slope says:
The proponents of the bike lane claim that PPW in it's current form is unsafe. I decided to check this using Crashstat, a website created by Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle advocacy group. Crashstat links pedestrian and bicycle crash statistics to a map showing where they occurred. I compared PPW from President St. over to 15th St. (a 19 block span) with the matching sections of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th avenues. The results were amazing.

For the 10 year period from 1995 to 2005 (the last year covered) Crashstat shows the following accident statistics -

5th Ave. - 234 (1.23 accidents per block per year)

6th Ave. - 73 (.38 accidents per block per year)

7th Ave. - 114 (.6 accidents per block per year)

8th Ave. - 63 (.33 accidents per block per year)

PPW - 27 (.14 accidents per block per year)

The "safety" argument for the PPW bike lane is a lie. Prospect Park West is by far the safest major street in the neighborhood.
May 7, 2010, 3:35 pm
nostradamus from bay ridge says:
"Enforcing speed limits does not stop people from speeding it just punishes the speeders."

Yes it does. No one in their right mind is going to speed in a well known speed trap area, especially once they get a speeding ticket.

"Why is it that the car gets all the street space?"

Because the car owner is the one who contributes financially to maintain the public roadways. What $$ do bike riders contribute? Nothing. What is going to happen when auto traffic is reduced by 20% in NYC?
Bikes owners are going to regulated, taxed, and gorged the way car owners are now to make up for the lost income. Every new bike lane brings that day closer.
May 7, 2010, 7:59 pm
Marty Barfowitz from An Outer Borough says:
There may be fewer fender benders on Prospect Park West than busier two-way avenues further down the Slope. But the endemic and extreme speeding on that overly wide street produces much more horrifying and dangerous crashes than anything you'd ever see on 5th or 7th Avenues. For example...

http://bit.ly/bkpvA4

As for Nostradamus: You are a complete moron re: the tax discussion. You have no idea what you're talking about. Your gas taxes do not pay for NYC streets. First off, these bike projects cost almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. Second, NYC streets are mostly maintained through general revenues. I typically ride a bike to get around Brooklyn. But I also own a car and a house. I pay property taxes. I pay income taxes. I pay sales taxes. Therefore, I pay for NYC streets just like every other New Yorker and I demand that my streets no longer be oriented solely toward horn-honking, exhaust-spewing, child-killing, planet-broiling, Gulf of Mexico-destroying Brooklyn motorists such as yourself.

While I've got you here: You need to answer for all of the unnecessary honking and sociopathic driving I witnessed on Fifth Avenue this afternoon as I biked my kid home from school... What do you have to say for yourself and your fellow a-hole drivers? Do you really think it's acceptable to crap all over a neighborhood with your vehicle and just drive off? Apparently you guys do think that's acceptable. Because that's what you do EVERY F'ING DAY.

I'm so tired of the way you selfish, careless motor-morons treat our neighborhoods and public spaces. If you want anyone to take you seriously or listen to your point of view then police yourselves. Learn how to drive. Learn how to be good citizens. Wean yourselves from your Chevy Carcrushers and stopped endangering your neighbors' lives. Otherwise, go F yourself and your loud, obnoxious, dangerous crapmobiles. Know that you are deeply, profoundly despised. And history will view you as a monster.
May 7, 2010, 8:34 pm
Michael from UWS says:
@nostradamus,

You have this completely wrong: car owner do not contribute more than bike owners (or pedestrians) to the costs of city streets as these are mostly paid from general funds. Even highways are far from fully paid by car related usage fees and taxes. Given the space requirements (don't forget also free street parking!!) and wear and tear, it seems to me it is rather the car owners who get the bargain ...
May 7, 2010, 8:41 pm
nostradamus from bay ridge says:
Yeah Barf, of course, I should have to answer for every a**hole you come across. You also own a car, you say. How about you answer your own questions, moron.

When, let's say, 20% of automobile traffic is gone, and the city is missing all the $$ it collects in gas taxes, tolls, registration, parking tix, moving violations, etc, who do you think they are going to come after to make up the lost revenue?

Bike riders that are using the roads and not contributing anything while using that mode of transportation. Guess what, judging by the ticket blitzes near the Brooklyn Bridge, it's already happening.
May 7, 2010, 9:05 pm
david from fort greene says:
Bye Bye Brooklyn Paper -- just as much a backwards looking entity as the increasingly clownish and embarrassing Marty. Thankfully, the new bike lane will be around long after BP is long gone.
May 7, 2010, 10:59 pm
nina from park slope says:
I live on PPW and am in the park almost every day. I can't wait for the bike lane and am annoyed at the delays. Why? Because I am tired of having to deal with the hordes of bike riders on the "walking" paths in the park, particularly as bikers try to access the ring road. They swear and shout, even at my kids, as we walk on the sidewalks, walking paths, or try to cross the ring road. I understand that they are moving fast and are justifiably annoyed at all the people wandering around paying no attention. Still, rather than worry about where all the cars are going to go, my worry is bikers all over the pedestrian or shared areas of the park. So, please, give the bikers their own lane. And bikers, please STOP when you have a red light and let the people cross. (and I do have a car, and park on the street, and also have a bike and ride it). Also, we can stand to lose 22 parking spaces. For anyone who moved here from Manhattan, as we did 5 years ago, parking is not that bad, much as people like to complain about it.
May 9, 2010, 9:35 pm
Paul from Park Slope says:
And the BP continues its slide into oblivion...Can't wait for the next editorial endorsing work camps and poor houses, or whatever your owner Murdoch has told you to push.
May 10, 2010, 3:37 pm
Bob DeAmbra from Park Slope says:
I love Marty Barfowitz! This is my last time at this horrendous site. Boycott this crap paper/site -- it'll be painless I promise.
June 2, 2010, 10:05 am
James from slope says:
this editorial has just made me vow to NEVER read the brooklyn paper again.
Aug. 3, 2010, 10:44 am
Mike says:
Glad to see the Brooklyn Paper has since come to their senses and admitted that this project is a success:

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/27/bp_bikelaneedit.html
Aug. 14, 2010, 4:40 pm

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