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.
©2010 Community News Group
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