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City: Bike lane will make Prospect Park West safer

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City officials shot back at opponents of the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane last Thursday, saying that the two-way protected bike path is all about making Park Slope’s notorious speedway safer.

The bike lane, which would run from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel Pritchard Square and require the removal of one lane of southbound car traffic, has enraged some residents because it would cause the removal of 22 parking spaces, result in more congestion from double-parked cars and create a potential hazard for pedestrians not accustomed to looking out for cyclists heading in two directions.

But the city defended its decision, saying that the lane would make Prospect Park West safer — for everyone.

“We prioritize safety above other types of considerat­ions,” said Josh Benson, director of the Department of Transporta­tion’s bicycle program. “Speeding is a problem on that stretch, and we’re going to keep people safe.”

The current bike lane inside Prospect Park is one-directional, which encourages northbound cyclists to ride on the wide sidewalk of Prospect Park West — endangering stroller pushers and other park users. As such, many Slopers hailed the city plan.

“Prioritizing biking is a great idea,” said Gina Vasoli. “You can get through Prospect Park on a bike one way, but the other way is impossible. [Prospect Park West] will be safer.”

Supporters came prepared, too. Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors, a community group, testified that a survey by the group revealed that at least 85 percent of drivers exceed the speed limit on Prospect Park West, 30 percent of them averaging 40 mph or more.

“It’s a dangerous road, and this plan is really going to change that,” said McClure.

But lane supporters shared the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee hearing with an equal number of cycling critics, many of them Prospect Park West residents, who grumbled that the city’s blueprints are great in theory, but not where the rubber hits the road.

“In the area of Grand Army Plaza, where it’s already unfriendly to traffic, why would you want to add more bikes?” said Dan O’Leary, 42-year resident of the strip. “When it doesn’t work, drivers will be affected.”

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Reader Feedback

j mork from prospect heights says:
This is really great. This will turn a dangerous speedway into a more pleasant space for everyone.

I understand that people are afraid of change, but PPW has spare capacity and, really, it's about time we (the people) acknowledge that cars are not the only valid participants in our streetscape.
April 30, 2010, 3:28 pm
david from park slope says:
what a bunch of morons live in this neighborhood. SPPEDWAY DOPES???? Traffic lights are4 and have been programed for 30 MPH since i can remember. Everyone get ready for exhust fumes, honking horns. and slower traffic for the 10 per hour users of the bike lanes. These lanes are nothing more than anti car zealots. Hey cars enabled the masses to escape the innner city, landlords and dirty politicians.
May 1, 2010, 5:03 pm
Gina from Crown Heights says:
To clarify the somewhat misquoted statement above: I think creating a 2-way bike lane WITHIN the park is an excellent idea, which, as revealed during the meeting, has yet to be proposed to the DOT. I think one of the 2 car lanes within the park should be transformed into a 2-way bike lane, leaving 2 lanes for pedestrians and slower moving wheeled things, and 1 lane for cars during peak times. I DO NOT think PPW will be safer with a 2-way bike lane installed. After attending the meeting, I realized this has nothing to do with promoting a bike-friendly Brooklyn. The DOT needs to slow cars down on PPW, so their idea is to close one lane to create more congestion, hence slower moving vehicles. But they can't just make an even huger sidewalk, so they're filling in the closed lane with a useless 2-way bike lane. To truly be concerned with biker safety would be to create a clearly demarcated 2-way bike lane WITHIN the park, where vehicle interference is MUCH less frequent. The 3rd lane on PPW is currently used all day every day for deliveries and pick up/drop off for Poly Prep and a huge assisted living residence at Union St., essentially already turning PPW into a 2 lane road. PPW is going to be a nightmare for everyone: pedestrians, bikers, and especially drivers. As a park Slope dog walker, bicyclist, AND driver, I'm probably going to end up just avoiding this road altogether.
May 1, 2010, 7:16 pm
thomas lawrence from brooklyn heights says:
I agree completely with Gina above. The whole "traffic calming" program is creating long lines of exhaust-spewing cars just sitting waiting for lights. The timing of lights has changed under Guiliani and Bloomberg, so that you can't drive anywhere very quickly anymore. In 1995 I could drive from PPW along Ninth St. all the way to Hamilton Ave on green lights at 30 mph. Now you can't get further than two blocks without stopping. Wasted gas and more pollution. BTW, riding a bicycle on NYC streets is an inherently dangerous, therefore stupid, thing to do. Parked drivers open their car doors at will, just as a cyclist is coming by. Happened to me.
May 1, 2010, 10:53 pm
Jabir ibn Hayyan from Park Slope says:
David, traffic lights may be timed for 30mph but that's not how people drive. They drive like maniacs in PPW, routinely exceeding the speed limit, which is precisely why DOT will implement this plan.

Gina, a two-way cycle path inside the park would not be particularly useful, because it is only accessible at park entrances. A 2-way path on PPW is accessible at every intersection.

Thomas, a great many of us cannot afford to maintain a private automobile in the city like you do. And cycling is getting ever safer thanks to improvements like the PPW lane. We may be poorer than you, but we're not "stupid". If anything, sitting in traffic, wasting gas, spewing pollution, and honking at people who are stopped at red lights sounds "stupid" to us.
May 1, 2010, 11:54 pm
Jade from Park Slope says:
It's about time we did something for those poor mexicans and gave them their bike lane. For a while it was as though you couldn't drive along the park without seeing another latino biker flattened by inconsiderate car drivers. Just because they are slower and perhaps not as aware as our native born american bikers doesn't mean they deserve to be flattened on our famous park slope speedway. No, not at all. ANyone who implies otherwise is not only a racist, but is also probably not one of us.
May 2, 2010, 5:14 am
Rob from Prospect Heights says:
Disappointed that this article didn't mention anything about DOT's proposals for Grand Army Plaza, presented at the same meeting:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/20100430_grand_army_plaza_improvements.pdf
May 2, 2010, 10:06 am
Ansonian from Slope says:
If this can stop the slip-streaming-stock-car racing style of driving, as drivers excitedly try to speed their way out of Park Slope and out to the prospect park expressway and ocean blvd, then please bring it on. I can't count the number of times I've gone 25 mph down ppw and caught up with people at the pavillion who have speed past me/caught me off on the way. I emailed Marty Markowitz about this...and of course, he's against the bike line and FOR "people who want to own their automobiles"...please, get with it.

People trundle along 7th avenue at a normal speed...not so on PPW. Also, we need to be able to bike up and down that side of the park.
May 3, 2010, 11:52 am
liam from kensington says:
I think it's a great plan - I used to be one of those drivers speeding down PPW in my v8 powered car; now I'm a cyclist who loves every inch of bike paths (just feels a lot safer, that's all). The design makes sense for drivers and cyclists, but I think pedestrians will like it the most, and that's the way it should be.
May 3, 2010, 1:37 pm
Seeley from Windsor Terrace says:
Bike lanes are nice. But someone was found dead in April not far from Prospect Park West, and I didn't see it in the blotter.

20th Street, between Seeley and Vanderbilt.

You guys are getting scooped by the NY Post?
May 4, 2010, 4:03 pm
Danilo Martinez from Sunset Park says:
I have recently noticed the new bike lane last week traveling on prospect park west. I must say that the experience was a disaster. The traffic created has backed-up to the prospect park circle and cause major congestion. Aside from that, there are only two car lanes now. But what the DOT failed to see is that NOW drivers have been double parking along side the parked cars therefore reducing two traveling lanes to one. Thank you NYC for creating a mess.
July 7, 2010, 12:34 pm

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