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Ride on! City wins Prospect Park West bike lane suit

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The controversial Prospect Park West bike lane survived a legal challenge this week, as a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of well-connected neighbors on technical grounds on Tuesday.

Still, Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan made it clear in his ruling that Neighbors for Better Bike Lane’s suit against the world’s most talked-about cycle path was “without merit.”

Supporters of the bike lane — including its controversial champion and target of opponents’ ire, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan — hailed the ruling.

“Merely not liking a change is no basis for a frivolous lawsuit,” Sadik-Khan said in a statement. “[They] were dead wrong.”

The ruling marks a historical moment for bike-centric Brooklyn — and for the Prospect Park West bike path, which made international headlines after the city removed a lane of car traffic on the busy thoroughfare to create a two-way protected route.

Opponents argued that the city had turned the peaceful street into a danger to pedestrians. The lawsuit also alleged that the city fudged data about the success of the lane and tried to squash opposition.

The city maintained that it installed the path only after extensive analysis and a process that was “rational and reasonable in all respects.” The lane, officials said, was installed at the request of Community Board 6. Also, the city argued, the lane has the the support most neighbors, according to two surveys.

In the end, Judge Bunyan ruled on the narrowest of grounds: That the foes’ lawsuit was filed after the deadline for citizens to challenge permanent changes to the cityscape.

But supporters of the lane were drawing a much-broader conclusion from the ruling.

“This decision is not just a victory for Park Slope, it’s a victory for all New Yorkers’ safety,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “This project is a great example of how neighborhoods can get relief from dangerous traffic. … The city has made Prospect Park West safer for everyone. The demise of this farcical public relations stunt confirms what the vast majority of New Yorkers already know: bike lanes are good for New York.”

Good, perhaps, but still under fire.

The lawyer for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes said on Tuesday night that an appeal is an option.

“This is just the first battle in what is inevitably going to be a longer war,” said the lawyer, Jim Walden, adding that he will likely refile court documents to obtain city records that could show that the lawsuit was not filed too late because the city never intended the bike lane to be permanent.

Meanwhile, Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), a lane supporter, hailed the judge’s ruling, but tried to play the diplomatic role by looking forward, not back.

“I’m glad to put this behind us,” he said. “I don’t think any of us — on either side of the debate — thought we would be spending so much time debating one mile of green paint.”

Updated 5:56 pm, August 17, 2011: Significant updates.
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Reader Feedback

Resident from PPW says:
Congrats to our Imperial Mayor. He finally has his legacy.
Aug. 17, 2011, 5:05 am
mike from GP says:
Congrats to all the residents of Park Slope, who worked so hard to make this happen!
Aug. 17, 2011, 7:28 am
Elainemonkey from South Park Slope says:
Hooray!
Aug. 17, 2011, 7:39 am
ilovebrooklyn from PPW says:
Yay! Now can NBBL please go away so the city doesn't have to waste any more money defending against their frivolous lawsuit? Most of us like the lane. Deal with it.

-- PPW resident (and car owner)
Aug. 17, 2011, 8:01 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
I is not a matter of "like" or "not like". The FACT is that PPW is safer if walkers, bikers AND car drivers. The problems has been that NBBL has been spreading misinformation to the contrary.
Aug. 17, 2011, 8:08 am
eliot from park slope says:
Finally this charade is over! Congratulations to all the neighborhood advocates who brought us this great bike lane and shame on the few politicos with a grudge who tried to take it away.
Aug. 17, 2011, 9:40 am
Gershlike from Park Slope says:
Yes, resident. Having one's day in court, which is what NBBL always wanted, is the hallmark of an imperial system.

They wanted an independent look at the bike lane and they got it. They lost. Time to pack it in. The war is over, if there ever was one.
Aug. 17, 2011, 12:14 pm
Driver from PPW says:
Jim Walden, please go away now. Brooklyn is tired of you.

NBBL, please let this be the end. Hopefully there's a member who's willing to stand up to Louise Hainline and say, "Okay, we lost our case, so that's it. This can't go on any longer." Hopefully someone in NBBL respects the facts, legal opinion, and finality of this case. An appear would really be a terrible idea for them and the community.

Let's build bridges -- or bike lanes! -- and make this issue go away!!!
Aug. 17, 2011, 12:57 pm
Observer from Brooklyn says:
I would welcome an appeal from Jim Walden and his clients. Their case is complete garbage and has no chance of winning either on technicalities or merits. The PR value is now gone. A continuation of their legal case would be a bad story for them, if it's a story at all.

A more definitive loss in court would only make it more likely that the redesign of PPW would stay through the next mayoral administration and would be good for legal challenges against bike infrastructure in general.

By the end of this case, the press corps that covered the case most closely stopped taking Walden seriously. By the final court hearing, folks sitting close the bench could hear Walden telling the judge, "I'll apologize for those things, but I won't apologize for..."

Walden's mindlessly aggressive tactics blew whatever slim chance this case ever had of getting past the starting line and antagonized numerous people who very well would have been his allies. Walden's clients had a tough case all along. But they were poorly represented.
Aug. 17, 2011, 2:41 pm
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
I am disappointed that the judge did a procedural duck and did not rule on the central issue: does the city have an obligation to waste more years and more money on more bureaucracy for street changes that benefit bicycles and pedestrians than it does for similar changes that speed motor vehicles?

That is what the plaintiffs want, but dare not say.

Right now, a ramp is being added so the rebuilt Willis Avenue Bridge can have a direct connection to the Major Deegan, rather than ending at a traffic light. This major, expensive investment is being made without a community request and without even a small fraction of the community review that accompanied the PPW bike lane.

Nor would I want to impose such excess costs and delays, in either case -- or for other improvements our governments used to be able to make but now seem incapable. There is a difference between a bike lane and Westway.
Aug. 17, 2011, 3:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I hope that NBBL does get their appeal. Afterall, a lost case didn't stop DDDB from still fighting against what they felt was right, so neither should they. I can remember when DDDB lost a case, some of the biggest AY supporters made personal attacks on them just like how bike lane supporters are doing right now at NBBL. I wouldn't be surprised that right now TA will call for a flash mob ride down the bike lane, and will probably never use it again until the next PR event they plan, which has been the only time it actually looked as if it was used a lot. The only reason it was rejected was because they were said they were too late too appeal. On a side note, this is starting to remind me of other rejected lawsuits besides the ones by DDDB where the judge that ruled for Ratner because he was probably going to get a special suite at the arena just like the judge who ruled in favor of Steinbrenner for the new stadium for the Yankees for his suite. Then again, there was a rejected lawsuit on not having a charter school, and I wouldn't be surprised if that judge was going to send any of his children there as well. It must be so great to have friends in high places so that you can get whatever you want whenever you want it.
Aug. 17, 2011, 5:50 pm
boof from brooklyn says:
Ah yes, a battle in the War on Safe Streets and More Transportation Options. Thanks Jim Walden.

Your metaphor has one thing right: there will be real blood on your hands if you ever succeed in reverting streets to more dangerous configurations.
Aug. 18, 2011, 9:43 am
Ian Turner from Long Island City says:
Tal Barzilai: Wait, you think it's the bike land proponents who have friends in high places? NBBL was started by a US Senator and former DOT commissioner.
Aug. 18, 2011, 10:40 am
Rob from Westchester says:
Walden's "war" rhetoric has cast a shadow far larger than PPW. Here in the suburbs and inner ring cities like Yonkers and Mount Vernon, efforts for safer streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit-users face insurmountable opposition. Government, fearful of the war rhetoric from PPW in the media, won't do anything to make our streets safer. Meanwhile...

-Our kids face worsening health problems like obesity due to the inability to walk and bike safely -- even to their schools.

-Our seniors are trapped in their homes b/c they can't drive or can't afford a car. And our roads are not safe for them because they don't walk fast enough to get across the wide streets. (Our government is afraid to create pedestrian refuges because a lawyer like Walden might sue.)

-Our poor, who can't afford cars, can't even ride a bicycle to their widely sprawled-out jobs or even a shelter at a bus stop. (Forget about ever getting bike lanes.)

To use Walden's "war" language, this is his collateral damage. Another generation of people will suffer as a result.
Aug. 18, 2011, 10:53 am
BrianVan from Kips Bay says:
Tal: Funny to see you here once again delivering unwavering condemnation to safe street infrastructure without an offer of compromise. Tell us why the NBBL should be supported in continuing to seek removal of the lane. Let me guess, it has something to do with cyclists' "attitudes". Because everyone who ever rides bicycles (more than 50% of everyone) develops an insufferable attitude such that they ought to take their chances dodging speeding SUVs and private garbage trucks every once in a while.
Aug. 18, 2011, 10:59 am
Jym from PLG says:
=v= The dismissal of the suit on procedural grounds is being used by the NBBL's sympathizers (e.g. the tabloid press and Grynbaum at the /Times/) to divert attention from the fact that NBBL's brief didn't actually contain any support for the claims it made.
Aug. 18, 2011, 11:48 am
Georgia from PPW says:
Battles? War?

Enough, Jim Walden. Enough. Lawsuits, subpoenas, outrageous claims that it's impossible to cross an empty bike lane, specious affidavits filed by Marty Markowitz..

We are tired of your scorched earth approach to fighting for your clients. If they want to participate in a discussion, they could come to the next community board meeting or offer suggestions how how to make this now permanent bike lane even better.

But why slum it by actually volunteering and working when you can just subpoena everything that moves?

We're really tired of you and want you to go away. The bike lane, minus your war-like analogies, is a very pleasant place!

Does this look like a battleground to anyone but the residents of 9 PPW?

http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/04/04/this-is-what-nbbl-and-jim-walden-want-to-sue-out-of-existence/
Aug. 18, 2011, 1:27 pm
Station44025 from Park Slope says:
Schumer: Jim Walden has sat up, begged, rolled over, and growled at everyone in Park Slope for a year now. Just give him his reward in the form of whatever corrupt, cushy appointment he's seeking, and don't make him (or the rest of us) jump through any more hoops. It's getting embarrassing for everyone. Especially you and your wife.
Aug. 18, 2011, 1:50 pm
S from PPW says:
Tal Barzlai in an old comment on a bike lane story:

"...if you bike lane zealouts are so confident then why are you afraid of NBBL having their right to have their case heard by a judge in a lawsuit? Let a judge tell you what to do with the bike lane and if he says it should come out don't cry to Streetsblog about it, which you will do."

The judge's ruling means it can stay. Forever.
Aug. 18, 2011, 2:43 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
BrianVan, whose name I find to be ironic, I suggest you read this editorial on the Daily News, because this one states the attitude of bike zealouts before you start saying how much road rage us drivers have, which I don't have for the record.

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/08/12/2011-08-12_letter_of_the_law.html
Aug. 18, 2011, 9 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
BrianVan, whose name I find to be ironic, I suggest you read this editorial on the Daily News, because this one states the attitude of bike zealouts before you start saying how much road rage us drivers have, which I don't have for the record.

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/08/12/2011-08-12_letter_of_the_law.html
Aug. 18, 2011, 9 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

Can you find the Manhattan Bridge on a map?
Aug. 18, 2011, 9:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Why Other Michael, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to find it. Afterall, I see it right across the East River all the time just by going down the FDR Drive alone. It can be reached from Canal Street in Manhattan to Flatbush Avenue Extension in Brooklyn. However, I have hardly ever walked on this bridge, just driven on it a number of time. On a side note, I don't even walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the only other East River crossing besides the RFK (orginally Triboro) Bridge that can be reached without leaving the FDR Drive for local streets.
Aug. 19, 2011, 5:35 pm
Mike says:
God forbid Tal Barzilai should ever be forced to detour his single-occupancy vehicle off the FDR.
Aug. 19, 2011, 8:27 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
That is great Tal,

But did you know where it was before the Daily News said that bikers were misbehaving there.

and if you ever need to you can cross the East River via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with out spending much time on local streets.
Aug. 19, 2011, 11:21 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
and Tal

You never answered my question. Have you actually ever seen the PPW Bike Lane? Have you been to Prospect Park or ever been to Park Slope? Or do you just get all your information from media you choose t believe??
Aug. 20, 2011, 3:43 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, you miss the entire point of that editorial from the Daily News. I gave the link to specifically show how there are cyclists who misbehave as well to disprove you and fellow Streetsbloggers that your kind is just as rude as you claim those like me are. Why do you attack Natalie O'Neill for this and say that she has no credibility for this? Would you say the exact opposite if she agreed with you? Don't forget that Louise Haineline keeps tabs on that bike lane with her camera. As for the BBT, that isn't accessible from the FDR Drive, that is off the West Side Hwy. Regaurdless, why does it matter if I have seen that bike lane or not? It's not that it makes any difference anyway.
Aug. 20, 2011, 7 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
No Tal,

The only time I commented on the quality of Ms O'Neils's work and that was when when she actually put WORDS IN MY MOUTH.

Other than that she seams to just reprint the stuff that NBBL makes up. You would know taht if you actually saw the bike lane.

I see the point. It is that you only pay attention to "journalists" that you agree with and you never actually saw the bike lane that you spend so much time typing about.
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, New York says:
Other Micheal, just stop it with the personal attacks. I know it is you, so don't bother even replying. You don't have a monopoly of truth on the subject. My best-friend's cousin's half sister lives in the area in question and so I hear these stories everytime I go out to the library to read back issues of the New York Post and to read up on the latest in the WNBA. On a side note, the other day when I was walking from the door of Kentucky Fried Chicken to my car parked on the road, I was hit by a cyclist on a bicycle. He wasen't watching where he was going, and he hit me right on my lower abdomin and legs, knocking my tub of chicken all over the road in the process. I now walk with a limp and have trouble going to the bathroom.

All you bike zealouts need to cut out the personal attacks and stick to the fact's. Fact 1: Bicyclists need to realize that they don't own the road, and that cars and walkers have right-of-way over bicyclists, because in my experience most bicyclits don't pay as much taxes as those who drive cars. I've talked to some people over at NY Times.com and they agree that for far too long, bikers intersts have run roughshod over the car driving majority. Fact 2: bikers mostly don't have real jobs. If they did, they wouldn't have time to ride around their bikes all day long, because they would be at work and not posting on this internet site all the time. Fact 3: All that besides, I still cannot understand why they think they need a separate, redundant road network for bikes when all they have to do is use the road or sidewalk.

I have debunked the counterarguments ad nauseum, but people keep attacking me and impersonating me, which is a low blow beneath the belt. Please, let's stick to the facts and avoid the personnel attacks. I've respected your view and I would ask that you do the same to me.

-Tal Barzilai
Aug. 29, 2011, 9:40 pm

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