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It’s a bike lane war on Prospect Park West!

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The new Prospect Park West bike lane is so controversial that it has caused a war between the neighborhood’s icons of self-righteousness — parents and cyclists.

Drivers, of course, are up in arms, too (but who cares about them, anyway?).

The bike lane — still under construction from Grand Army Plaza to 15th Street

— has already eliminated one lane of car traffic, which has been converted into a two-way strip for bicycle travel.

That’s creating a problem for pedestrians, who are accustomed to only looking at the oncoming car traffic when crossing the street. Now, walkers have to worry about cyclists coming in both directions — and many of the two-wheelers are jerks.

“They think they own the road, they don’t stop when they’re crossing [an intersecti­on],” said Rita Martinez, pushing her 2-year-old son into the park. “They always think they have the right of way — sometimes they’ll just scream to get out of the way when I’m pushing a stroller!”

Other Slopers had similarly frayed nerves.

“Even with the ‘Walk’ sign, I’m afraid to cross because bikers will just zoom by,” said Miriam Stern, another local with a 5-month-old kid.

Sure, it’s always the biker’s fault, isn’t it, mocked the Bike Snob, who literally wrote the book on the cycling worldand sees the latest kerfuffle as just another opportunity for non-cyclists to bash the two-wheelers.

“Obviously, cyclists should not shout at pedestrians who have the right of way,” said the Snob, Eben Weiss. “[But] if a pedestrian jaywalks while listening to an iPod or jockeying a smartphone, that’s also stupid.

“I think people tend to want to rub new bike lanes in cyclists’ face whenever a rider does something stupid on them, which is unfortunate,” he added.

But cycling etiquette aside — the Prospect Park West bike lane was intended primarily as a “traffic calming” measure — albeit one that hasn’t calmed the stroller-pushers who can’t see over the parked cars that form a barrier between the two lanes of auto traffic and the Prospect Park West sidewalk.

“It’s hard to see cars in the street when you’re crossing with the stroller,” said Charlotte Barnett, a nanny in the neighborhood.

Yes, it’s war out there — but one that Department of Transportation spokesman Monty Dean predicted would reach a cease fire once everyone becomes accustomed to the new lane.

“These lanes can be instructive,” said Dean. “For instance, the city’s first protected bike path on Ninth Avenue [a Manhattan street] resulted in a 56-percent reduction of injuries to all street users — cyclists, pedestrians and motorists — and we’ve seen similar results along protected paths elsewhere [such as the Kent Avenue bike lane].”

Another agency spokesman added that 46 percent of bike traffic on Prospect Park West had been riding on the sidewalk on weekdays, presenting a danger to pedestrians. And 14 percent of cyclists were even riding against traffic, creating an even more hazardous situation.

“When complete, the new lanes will make bike travel more predictable and alleviate the chaotic patterns that long preceded the lane,” said the spokesman, Seth Solomonow.

Perhaps, but you do have to remember that we’re all New Yorkers here, added Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives, a cycling advocacy group.

“New Yorkers are always thinking about themselves — pushing their way onto the subway, or running red lights in their cars,” he said. “Failure to yield doesn’t only happen with cyclists.”

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Reader Feedback

Mike says:
The project isn't done yet. When it is, it's supposed to include better visibility where crosswalks cross the bike lane. Let's hold DOT to that promise, which is the best way to improve conditions at crosswalks.
June 23, 2010, 8:29 am
Ben K. from Park Slope says:
Bikes in their own lanes, still not more dangerous for your kids than cars going 50 down PPW. Any parent who thinks otherwise should probably get his or her head examined.
June 23, 2010, 9:39 am
Mom from Park Slope says:
I stepped in front of an oncoming cyclist, and he gave me what might have been an annoyed look as he went around me. It's outrageous!
June 23, 2010, 9:45 am
pser says:
God forbid, an annoyed look. New York City is clearly a scary, scary place. Is this what we've been reduced to complaining about?
June 23, 2010, 9:49 am
helen lovejoy from springfield says:
Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!?!?
June 23, 2010, 9:59 am
Amanda from Bed Stuy says:
Pser, Mom is joking.
June 23, 2010, 10 am
Pearl from River says:
Why not just relax and stop getting worked up over nothing - the bike lane will be fine, just let it be.
June 23, 2010, 10:21 am
Gary from Park Slope says:
Cars are still parking illegally in the pedestrian refuges, which really limits visibility between bikes and pedestrians. When the refuges are clear it is quite easy for bicyclists and pedestrians to see each other and avoid conflict. Why isn't everyone up in arms about the illegal parking that is the real safety hazard?
June 23, 2010, 10:38 am
paco from cobble hill says:
articles that claim a bike lane has caused a 'war' is pretty crappy reporting. Yes, there are some jerks on two wheels.... there are also many on foot. The flashing yellow lights at crosswalks are a bit high for cyclists to see, and should be moved down. Even if they aren't, cyclists should always yield when pedestrians have right of way. Even if the are crossing against the light, the 3 or 4 foot striped buffer gives pedestrians a lot of room to check for bikes in either direction before walking.

How about we simply wait till the design is completed and people get familiar with it for a few days before both sides tear apart a project that's been more than a year in the making with full DOT involvement and community board support.
June 23, 2010, 10:51 am
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
I've been up and down the bike lane on a bicycle almost every day since it became continuous, even though parts are still blocked by painting. I haven't seen any conflict at all.

I think the majority of those opposed are concerned about one thing -- parking -- and while the blame for their problems is targeted at bicycles, the cause is other cars.

More and more people having them and competing for limited on-street spaces.

Drivers in a hurry honking and cursing when they have to slow because someone is backing into a space.

Other drivers honking and cursing when someone double parks to drop off or pick up.

This was a problem before the bike lane, and will be a problem afterward. They's still have this problem even if they elimiated the sidewalks to put in angle parking, and prohibited walking. More people would just get cars and fill up the spaces.
June 23, 2010, 10:58 am
ch from bh says:
Cyclists need to STOP at red lights and stay OUT of crosswalks when they do.

So much good will would come of these two basic courtesies.

PS: Cyclists, it's what they do in Europe.

PPS: I'm a cyclist.
June 23, 2010, 10:59 am
Paul from The slope! says:
The real problem here is enforcement. Enforcement of cyclist, car drivers, and peds. Where is the NYPD? No where!! I do agree with those people here that say the problem we have here in the Slope is really about the over use of cars in Brooklyn. Unless people drive less this problem won't go away and probably get worst.
June 23, 2010, 11:24 am
richie rich from parkslope says:
As I remember correctly, before the bike lane crossing from prospect park west to the park was very dangerous. The cars zooming down the street over 60 mph and it encourage speeding. I don't ever recall a motorist being stop by police at prospect park west. It was chaos.
Thanks to the bike lane I feel safe crossing the street with my dog.
June 23, 2010, 11:47 am
Ivette from brooklyn says:
I don't understand??? Isn't there a bike lane in prospect park??? this is soooooooooooo stupid!!! The city waste so much money on things like this...there will be even more accidents now with people crossing than ever before!!!!! they can spend money on this but the can't spend money on keeping certain buses on the road for the PEOPLE of this town!!! Give me a break!!
June 23, 2010, 11:55 am
gROSS from Windsor Terrace says:
More traffic in Brooklyn is not sustainable regardless of which camp you belong. If the boro is to grow then traffic cannot exceed current levels.

The outrage to bicycle lanes is only the death throws of a mentality and lifestyle that simply will not be an option in the near future.

The use public space should not be determined solely by car drivers. Cars and their drivers, pound for pound offer up the biggest detriment to local business, city residents, the environment, safe streets, city infrastructure, and other travelers.
June 23, 2010, 12:01 pm
Foo from Park Slope says:
With the cuts in bus and train service it makes sense to encourage cycling. Nevertheless, the increasing bike lanes in the city have sparked no small amount of controversy. It seems that just about everyone that walks (a lot or a little) has experienced cyclists breaking the 'rules.' Why not require a cyclist license for those who wish to use these new lanes? Riders would need to pass a test proving that they know ‘most of the rules’ and then with a ‘passing grade’ they will be issued a bike plate and rider license. Even better: how about requiring biker insurance so that when a cyclist breaks someone’s arm, the victim can receive compensation from the real cause of the accident sort of like auto claims. Sadly I know of at least two walkers that had limbs broken by cyclists. Sure someone will say too expensive, too much trouble, unfair: but clearly there are too many riders that do not follow the rules. To make money, cops can issue non-licensed riders tickets and fines/citations for violating bike rules. At the same time, they can ticket folks who abuse the bike lanes as we hear a lot about that happening as well.
June 23, 2010, 2:04 pm
LZ from Park Slope says:
Everyone, everywhere gripes about change at first. Residents, cyclists & motorists all benefit, but will need time to adapt and get used to new ways of behaving.

Residents - you get one less lane of traffic to worry about, but at the lane you have to look both ways on a one-way street. (Signage could help with this.)

Motorists - you get one less lane of traffic on PPW, but no more cyclists weaving through lanes, trying to get into the Park. (This used to scare the pants off me every time I saw it.)

Cyclists - you now have a safe, straight shot into the Park. But it's not the same as the velodrome INSIDE the park. You've got to observe the lights & pedestrians.
June 23, 2010, 3:31 pm
another mom from park slope from park slope says:
I am a parent, I have 3 little kids, I am an occasional cyclist, I am married to a cyclist, I own a car, I drive often, I live on PPW, and I usually park my car on PPW. I feel I can understand almost every point of view in the bike lane controversy. Overall, I am in favor of the bike lane. The biggest problem, IMO, are the very many aggressive drivers. Speeding from light to light, honking for any delay of any kind. The drivers need to chill out and drive slower.
June 23, 2010, 3:35 pm
Adam from Park Slope just a block from the bike lane says:
The bike lane is the right move. However, changes will be needed for the Saturday farmers market at Grand Army Plaza. One, folks re complaining that they can no longer double park to shop at the market. Eh, too bad. You shouldn't have been double parking. 2) The juice/waffle/dumpling trucks that park on PPW have to be moved there is just no room for them.

The bike way provides a nice new barrier to protect farmers market shoppers and stands. However, pedestrians are using them as an excuse to head further into the traffic lanes and causing problems of their own.
June 23, 2010, 4:08 pm
Jooltman says:
Helen, "the children" want a safe place to ride their bikes.
June 23, 2010, 4:09 pm
Any Mouse from Any Where says:
Well, at least Marty lost this one! :D

What happened to the built-out median refuges the Community Board asked for?
June 23, 2010, 4:38 pm
richie rich from parkslope says:
@ FOO, that's a damn idea. bike license & plate? stupid foo
June 23, 2010, 4:38 pm
La Chiquis from Boerum Hill says:
I completely agree with CH, it's just a matter of cars, bikes and pedestrians obeying traffic rules; if that happened, everything would be alright.
June 23, 2010, 6:01 pm
Marty Barfowitz from An Outer Borough says:
I actually carry two kids on a bike and frequently ride them up to Prospect Park. The bike lane has radically improved the biking experience on PPW and, I believe, has also been extremely beneficial to pedestrians.

We used to have to bike on the sidewalk (slowly, carefully) because PPW was just so extremely dangerous for biking with kids. I hate biking on the sidewalk. I feel vaguely criminal when I do it. But if the choice is to put my entire brood in danger or ride on a sidewalk, I'm going to do the latter. So, that's what I used to do. Now we cruise along in that bike lane and, best of all, we finally have a convenient northbound route as well. We all love it. The new bike lane is fantastic. Whomever designed and built it deserves some sort of award.

I'll also just add: PPW is what the NYC of the future looks like folks. If you think the future is going to involve lots and lots of driving around in automobiles powered by inexpensive gasoline and belching greenhouse gases, you're, well... you're gonna be disappointed.
June 23, 2010, 11:18 pm
Howard from Park Slope says:
I live on Prospect Park West. The bike lane is a good idea. The problem is that any car that is trying to park or a PPW resident having something delivered by truck causes massive traffic backups. Not to mention the reduction of parking spots. It just seems that this bike lane was implemented without taking into account the impact of the residents of PPW.
June 24, 2010, 11:16 am
Sam from PPW says:
3 words: Residential Parking Permits
June 24, 2010, 1:23 pm
Ann from Park Slope says:
What will happen when the first big snow comes? The plows won't be able to clear the bike lane after the buffers are installed. Nor will the street cleaners be able to clean it. Why not close the park to vehicular traffic, put in a 2 way bike lane there, and add additional traffic lights to prospect park west? Much better for EVERYONE---bikers who pass through our neighborhood, pedestrians, and those of us who actually live in the neighborhood.
June 24, 2010, 4:26 pm
pedestrian from bay ridge says:
Bike riders who blow through those intersections should be ticketed.
June 24, 2010, 9:37 pm
Lex from Park Slope says:
richie rich from parkslope said:
"As I remember correctly, before the bike lane crossing from prospect park west to the park was very dangerous. The cars zooming down the street over 60 mph and it encourage speeding."

This point keeps being made over and over again and it's flat out wrong.

I used Crashstat, a website created by Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle advocacy group to see just how "unsafe" PPW is. Crashstat links pedestrian and bicycle crash statistics to a map showing where they occured. 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.
June 25, 2010, 9:14 am
mguralni from Park Slope says:
As a pedestrian, I think the changes to Prospect Park West are wonderful. I now have to cross only two lanes of autos rather than three. At PPW and Union Street, I feel so much safer and get across the intersection so much quicker now that there are less lanes for speeding cars coming out of the traffic circle.
June 25, 2010, 9:28 am
Jeremy from South Slope says:
What no one seems to be talking about is the traffic this has created. I live on Prospect Park West so Im all for slowing down traffic but this hasnt slowed down traffic, it has stopped traffic. I regularly see cars backed up 5 or 6 blocks from Bartel Pritchard sqaure down PPW and I know have to breath in fumes through my windows and wlak through them when I crss into the park as a result. That cant be good for the environment. Sure traffic police enforcement might help with the double parkers that contribute to this mess but we all know thats a canard, theres no mony to regularly put traffic police to monitor the situation. The law of unintended consequences is on display!!
June 25, 2010, 12:59 pm
Jeff from Windsor Terrace says:
Been living in the area for 35 years and things were ok with the bike lanes in the park. Now that PPW has this new bike lane, Traffic is horrible. Hope you all enjoy the fumes from the cars and buses from 9th street to 15th street. I drove PPW yesterday and that's the last time I will drive it during rush hour. Now I will just take a different route home no problem. I was a biker back in the 80's and never had a problem with cars. I respected the traffic flow of cars and people walking. Some bikers are just rude period. So are some drivers. I cant wait to see how everyone deals with all the summer concerts in the park this year! This is going to be fun to watch. Going to setup camp on one of those benches.
June 25, 2010, 3:03 pm
Jabir ibn Hayyan from Park Slope says:
Go up to PPW on any weekday afternoon during rush hour, and count the number of cars that come to a complete stop at any red light (i.e. how many cars "stack" at red lights). I have done this repeatedly since the bike lane was installed, and it is rare to see 4 cars wait at a red light. 4 cars! That's two cars per lane. I am simply not seeing the horrific traffic congestion that others are reporting.
June 26, 2010, 12:44 am
Pat K from South brooklyn. says:
Does nayone know where Racoon national cemetery is located?
June 26, 2010, 11:50 am
Joan from Parkslope says:
The bike riders can ride through prospect park. Cars barely have enough space especially with parked cars. I think it will create more accidents.
It is a nightmare. People blame motorists, but bikers hardly ever obey the traffic rules
June 28, 2010, 2:13 pm
Mike says:
"Cars barely have enough space"? So should we take the sidewalks away to put in more lanes for cars?

The very small percentage of local residents with cars were allocated about 2/3 of the public right of way. That's not fair or just, especially when they abuse it by driving like maniacs. The safety problem here isn't cyclists -- it was speeding, aggressive drivers. Calming them and taking space away from them is a step in the right direction.
June 28, 2010, 11:18 pm
Adam from in Park Slope just a block from the bike lane says:
Two recent reports:

Saturday July 3d: Saw a female bike down at the head of the lane at the farmers market. Not sure what took her down. (Lots of good help from passers by and ice that could only have come from the market vendors.)

Monday July 5th: Two lanes of PPW west completely blocked at GAP. An illegally parked ice cream truck in front of the fire hydrant on the corner further clogging up matters leaving only on PPW west open. Terrible.

I am all for the 2-way bike lane but traffic enforcement has to get the parking (double parking, standing) vehicles in order. Right now it is chaos.
July 5, 2010, 7:43 pm
Maggie from Park Slope says:
Wait until school starts. School buses, kids being dropped off----it's going to get worse.
July 6, 2010, 10:10 am
George K from Park Slope says:
The new bike lane is a bad design! A few firemen complained that the loss of the lane on PPW will slow down response time. Think about that next emergency, hope it isn't your house or mine.
Aug. 1, 2010, 1:28 am
Mikes Mom from Park Slope says:
Someone please help me get Mike out of the house once in a while?
Jan. 26, 2011, 3:13 am

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