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The number of bikers has tripled and speeding has more than halved, but crashes and anti-bike-lane activists are still a fact of life on the world’s most controversial stretch of road

UPDATED WITH FULL DATA SET: Crash test shows Prospect Park West fender-benders holding steady

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The city’s plan to slow down cars on Prospect Park West by replacing a lane of traffic with a two-way bike lane hasn’t decreased the amount of accidents in the area, city data shows.

The number of bicyclists in the area has tripled since the protected lane was installed in 2010, according to Department of Transportation data made public as part of a lawsuit by a group seeking to rip out the pedal-pusher highway, but crashes actually increased slightly in the two years after the lane’s installation.

There were 126 crashes in the immediate area over the two years after the controversial path was installed — up from 117 in the two years before — but the Department of Transportation claimed the group behind the lawsuit, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, is looking for pot holes where none exist.

“The same flawed interpretations of data are being used to prop up the remnants of the merit-less lawsuit against this community-requested and supported project,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Nicholas Mosquera. “Yet there is no arguing the fact that the litigants have failed in all this time to get any court to order even a single modification to the project, which the community continues to enjoy every day.”

The dedicated haters may not have undone the lane changes, but the numbers depict a more complicated reality than the hunky-dory story touted by the city and safe streets advocates. In the two years before the road re-jiggering, the thoroughfare registered 117 crashes, including 18 that caused injuries, according to the stats. In the two years after the installation, those figures ticked up slightly, to 126 crashes, also causing 18 injuries, the records show, though the Department of Transportation contends that the data say less than they could because the department does not record the severity of wounds.

But the crashes were largely car-on-car, with only three cyclists struck by drivers in the two years after the installation, up one from the two years before despite the 1,150 bikers plying the path daily nowadays, according to the data. Instances of drivers hitting pedestrians dropped to four in the same period, from six pre-bike path. And no bikes hit walkers in the entire four-year period, at least not hard enough to merit a police report, the numbers show.

The data do not record crashes in 2013, but in October of this year, a van driver killed a 12-year-old boy who tripped in the road, prompting his parents and activists to demand the speed limit be lowered to 20 miles-per-hour on Prospect Park West and residential streets citywide.

Tragedy and go-slow campaign aside, path proponents remain adamant that Prospect Park West is now a much less stressful place to pedal and walk along.

“We could argue about data until the cows come home, but what purpose would that serve?” said Craig Hammerman, district manager for Community Board 6. “Do people feel safer on Prospect Park West right now, as opposed to prior to the installation? Numbers only tell half the story — perception the other half.”

City statistics compiled in the six months after the installation show that the path has done plenty to make the park-side stretch a haven for pedestrians and cyclists, if not an absolutely safe one. Speeding on the roadway is down from three-quarters of all cars to one-fifth and, in addition to the tripling of bike traffic, sidewalk riding has all but disappeared, according to city figures.

When asked to react to facts that paint the green route as anything other than a Xanadu for walkers and bikers, path partisans inevitably redirected the conversation to their foes.

“The folks suing the Department of Transportation over the bike lane have a very odd way of interpreting data,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, at a town hall meeting on Dec. 2. “It’s basically that they exclude anything that makes their point of view look worse and only include things that make their point of view seem like it’s true.”

Two thirds of New Yorkers voiced their support for outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s bike lane blitz in an August New York Times poll.

Full data set here.

Updated 5:52 pm, December 11, 2013: Story updated with link to full data set and edited to clarify that the Department of Transportation compiled all the data referred to herein.
Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
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Reader Feedback

Shurl from Brooklyn says:
Shame on Louise Hainline. What a true coward.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:05 am
diehipster from Slicing Cyclists says:
I agree - get rid of these effin bike lanes already and send these Wiscohiosotta people back to their states where there is PLEEEEEENNNNNNTTTYYYY of room to bike all day.

When was the last time you heard a story of real Brooklynites going to the Midwest and demanding that the corn and cow fields have car lanes running through them?

If these lanes remain, I'll have no other choice but to sprinkle thumb tacks on them every night until the message gets across.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:25 am
VLM from Park Slope says:
I'm sure diehipster - who I bet has impeccable New York credentials - would be shocked to hear about all of the native New Yorkers supporting bike lanes. But then again, he's just an anonymous troll who's long been too much of a coward to step forward.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:27 am
Larry Littlefield from Windsor Terrace says:
“The folks suing the Department of Transportation over the bike lane have a very odd way of interpreting data,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, at a town hall meeting on Dec. 2. “It’s basically that they exclude anything that makes their point of view look worse and only include things that make their point of view seem like it’s true.”

That's only odd to normal people. Everyone in the political crowd uses data that way, if they use it at all. Same with all lawyers.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:28 am
Rob from NY says:
"Speeding on the roadway is down from three-quarters of all cars to one-fifth and, in addition to the aforementioned doubling of cyclist volume, sidewalk riding has all but disappeared, according to city figures."

This statement from the article, buried in the bottom half of the story, says it all.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:29 am
Jay from Nyc says:
Ok first no Tal bot, this does not prove you are right Second, sidewalk ridding has in no way disappeared and that claim is 10000% false. Just this mornin on my way to the train station I saw two peole on the sidewalk ridding along. I dont know about the amount of speeders but I still see alot of em. To me it seems that the bike lane has had a basically an neutral effect overall, but now this lawsuit wants us to spend more money to take it back out? Simply because there are a few more car accidents? To me this is just troubling trouble. The bike lane does not have a huge benefit overall, but it also does not have a huge negative effect either, whats done is done and taking it back out is senseless given that its not some death zone, its time to move forward and deal with something else, like getting the police to enforce the laws, or for our schools to stop sucking, etc, etc
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:57 am
Doug G. from Park Slope says:
"the path opponents have gone silent, citing the ongoing litigation..."

Let's be clear. This is complete baloney, to use a polite word. This litigation has been "ongoing" for years now yet only recently have the members of NBBL "gone silent." (Except for getting this story in the Brooklyn Paper, of course.) While the lawsuit's first round was making its way through the court system, these safety opponents wasted no opportunity to get their name and agenda in this and many other news outlets, commenting not only on the PPW bike lane but on Plaza Street, Citi Bike, and many other bike-related stories.

Perhaps their newfound reticence reflects their awareness that their appeal has little chance of succeeding, least of all in the court of public opinion.
Dec. 9, 2013, 9:58 am
S from PPW says:
."..sidewalk ridding has in no way disappeared and that claim is 10000% false."

I don't think anyone is arguing that it has completely disappeared. But it has gone from about half of all riders to only 3%. And this is with an overall increase in the number of people riding bikes on PPW.

http://jonathansoma.com/ppw/
Dec. 9, 2013, 10:57 am
Jim from Park Slope says:
People are still fighting the PPW Bike lane? Really? Why? Makes no sense. Can anyone explain their issue with it?
Dec. 9, 2013, 11 am
Dave from PPW says:
I love the bike lane, use it every day to commute to and from work. Before that, I rode in the street and cars had to go around me. Now they don't have to. You'd think it was win win but for some, they want to win it all.
Dec. 9, 2013, 11:12 am
S from PPW says:
Jim,

Here are their issues, in no particular order:

1. Parking.
2. Double-parking.
3. Privilege.
4. Power.
5. Change.
Dec. 9, 2013, 11:22 am
Bklyn Native from Park Slope says:
So...why was this story written? WHO requested that it be written? Did our reporter just stumble over this data, or was it sent to her by Jim Walden, the attorney for those kooks opposing the bike lane and calling themselves "Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes"? You know, the opponents who have NOT gone silent, just typically (and farcically!) sneaky.

We all know this rag is owned by the NY Post. You don't have to prove it every darn day!
Dec. 9, 2013, 11:39 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Jay from Nyc says:

"Ok first no Tal bot, this does not prove you are right Second, sidewalk ridding has in no way disappeared and that claim is 10000% false. Just this mornin on my way to the train station I saw two peole on the sidewalk ridding along. I dont know about the amount of speeders but I still see alot of em. To me it seems that the bike lane has had a basically an neutral effect overall, but now this lawsuit wants us to spend more money to take it back out? Simply because there are a few more car accidents? To me this is just troubling trouble. The bike lane does not have a huge benefit overall, but it also does not have a huge negative effect either, whats done is done and taking it back out is senseless given that its not some death zone, its time to move forward and deal with something else, like getting the police to enforce the laws, or for our schools to stop sucking, etc, etc".

Just a gentle reminder.
Dec. 9, 2013, 12:57 pm
Jym from PLG says:
• When reporting statistics, you must at bare minimum work out any missing denominators. So here we have 3x as many bicyclists on the road but no increase in crashes. Motorists have had a minor increase in crashes, with how many more, or less, on the road? Bueller? Bueller?

Another way to have statistics make sense is to situate them within a relevant context. Are car crashes on the increase all over Brooklyn or just on one street? Anyone? Anyone?

Seems to me it's the reporter's job to seek this information out. Or just phone in what Jim Walden puts in a press release.
Dec. 9, 2013, 2:25 pm
Peter from Brooklyn Heights says:
The PPW bike lane was not designed to make PPW less crash-prone.

It was designed to:

a) keep cyclists off the sidewalk
b) reduce speeding on PPW

It has accomplished both.

Reducing crashes would be a bonus. That said, reducing the speeding on PPW, I suspect, could reduce the severity of crashes when they do occur.
Dec. 9, 2013, 2:47 pm
Norman Lois Weinline from 9 Prospect Park West says:
OK. Let's say these awful people are successful with their law suit and they somehow manage to convince a judge that the DOT's process for installing the PPW bike lane was, in fact, "arbitrary and capricious." I know, I know... it's far-fetched that these clowns will win, but let's just game it out.

What would happen after that?

Well... the 80% of the community that is happy with the redesign of PPW can simply follow the court's guidance and initiate a new public process to redesign PPW. You want a new public process? You got it.

A new public process will undoubtedly show, once again, that the people who oppose the bike lane on PPW are a small, wealthy, elderly, out-of-touch minority of this community. They can afford to hire Gibson Dunn & Crutcher to do their bidding but they will lose in any open, rational, democratic forum where it's their three-lane highway vs. kids' and families' complete street.
Dec. 9, 2013, 3:49 pm
Iris Weinshall, Former NYC DOT Commissioner from 9 Prospect Park West says:
"People are still fighting the PPW Bike lane? Really? Why? Makes no sense. Can anyone explain their issue with it?"

Sure. I can explain it. Every time I look out of my apartment window at 9 PPW, I no longer see a beautiful view of Prospect Park. I see a garish green bike lane that pretty much screams: "Janette Sadik-Khan!!!!" Do you think I really want or need a reminder of how much better a job she did than me as transportation commissioner, of how much of a failure my tenure was, of how much more I could have been doing to improve NYC streets? Let Janette have all the other streets for her "visionary" transformative livable streets baloney. Prospect Park West is mine. What good is being married to a U.S. Senator and having power and connections if you can't even stop a bike lane from being built on your own street?

That's what this fight is about. Make no mistake.
Dec. 9, 2013, 3:57 pm
Lois Carsbad from PPW says:
"What would happen after that?"

What would happen after that is perhaps the biggest protest the neighborhood has seen.

You think the 2010 rally on PPW was big? Imagine how big it will be when all of those people are joined by the growing ranks of people who have come to love and depend on this bike lane. There are people who have moved to the neighborhood having no idea that a small group of rich cranks want it removed and would be shocked to learn that its future is in jeopardy.

So imagine the mob scene in front of 9 PPW when hundreds of kids ride their bikes up to the front door and demand to talk to Senator Schumer and his wife and ask why they're in favor of dangerous streets.

I double dog dare NBBL to continue this lawsuit and see where it gets them in the eyes of the community.

Good luck, Norman, Iris, and Louise. Good luck.
Dec. 9, 2013, 4:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Disregarding the personal attack at me at someone who's name I won't share but is probably on Santa's naughty list anyway, I feel that the success of the PPW bike lane can be questioned. Let's not forget that a picture is worth 1,000 words here. How do we know that this a picture showing a bunch of cyclists wasn't just a flash mop orchestrated by Transportation Alternatives that day for a photo-op? I am always hearing about those living right by that bike lane seeing it empty for most of the time, and Louise Hainline has evidence from her camera. Another thing is that agencies have a history of fudging data just to make it look like it goes in their favor. On a side note, the Daily News did have a number of recent letters and even comments to articles opposing bike lanes rather than supporting them. As usual the comments to those said articles supporting the bike lanes are most likely transplanted from the leading bike zealot website known as Streetsblog especially by their names, while the opponents are long time members of that website hence homegrown.
Dec. 9, 2013, 4:10 pm
Lark from Park Slope says:
I live next to this and I love the bike lane. I cross PPW 4-8 times a day on foot and that aspect of it is far safer. Before, the light barely gave me (able-bodied person) time to cross and with many cars running the lights it was often terrifying. Now there's actually time to cross safely.

I also have a car and used to avoid it because of the crazy speeds but now I don't mind driving it at all.

As I'm crossing the street all those times, I see tons of cyclists (mostly commuters, not racers) using it and I think it's great that they have a safer route.
Dec. 9, 2013, 5:42 pm
Brian Van from Gramercy says:
I just want to say, I found this via Streetsblog, and I am a TA member and volunteer, and I'm happily conspiring to get journalists and commenters from Pleasantville NY to agree with these organizations that people who use PPW should generally be allowed to survive it.

Unfortunately, drivers are voting every day with their cars to not let people pass by unharmed or alive, mostly because it suits their agenda to get somewhere a little faster. I agree that not all drivers think like this, but there's a pretty low bar to having a driver's license in the United States, so the road designs really have to assume the worst about the drivers who use them. And I think the current PPW does a lot more to protect pedestrians from the very worst drivers. The studies show it. Tal or Louise didn't do any studies. They're just trying to hide the truth with their own claims about the data being bad. Sorry, but two dead kids in the last month or so in that area... that's not bad data. That's bad driving.
Dec. 9, 2013, 6:05 pm
Charles Darwin from HMS Beagle says:
If the number of fender-benders is unchanged, that's just vehicular Darwinism. If drivers can't adapt to having two lanes rather than three, then some fender-benders is the price they'll have to pay.
Dec. 9, 2013, 6:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Some of these groups have a history of hiring certain people to make the studies go in their favor, and I won't be surprised if those such as Mark Gorton or even Paul Steely White did just that. Before talking about how cars always hit people, which Streetsblog always likes to mention, I can talk about how bicycles do the very same thing. The only difference is that when cyclists hit people they go unreported especially because the cyclist has a history of quickly fleeing the scene forcing the person they hit to pay for their injuries. BTW, making fun of the opposition is very insulting and unprofessional, and I know many who did that especially to those that opposed the Atlantic Yards at numerous hearings. Bottom line, if you have the right to support a bike lane, others have the right to opposing it, and I know that's the downside of democracy for some of those fanatical groups such as the bike zealots. As for fender benders, it's not about the number of lanes, it's about those who driving recklessly, and they are a minority in that group. Seriously, I can picture the next generation saying that the roads are too slow, and will place back the lanes to make it go more efficiently hence removing the sporadically used bike lanes for that.
Dec. 9, 2013, 7:13 pm
David from LES says:
@Tal
"Before talking about how cars always hit people, which Streetsblog always likes to mention, I can talk about how bicycles do the very same thing. The only difference is that when cyclists hit people they go unreported.. "

The other difference is that when cars hit people they die...
Dec. 9, 2013, 10:04 pm
ty from pps says:
Again... Let's repeat what SHOULD be the major point of the article buried deep...

"Speeding on the roadway is down from three-quarters of all cars to one-fifth and, in addition to the aforementioned tripling of cyclist volume, sidewalk riding has all but disappeared, according to city figures."
Dec. 10, 2013, 10:55 am
Jim from Bay Ridge says:
I personally hate the bike lane and what it represents: People ONLY ride in it to flaunt their bikes in the faces of those of use who NEED to drive around the neighborhood! It's rather like saying "look at me, I'm spending my time leisurely while you're trying to get to your job." Look kid, this ain't Colorado, or worse, Amsterdam. The backbone of the city is car drivers.

I think we need to rip that bike lane out, rip out the sidewalk next to it and pave the street back to the full potential of what it could be, a FIVE lane superhighway. Pave right up to the park. And then pave the road in the park wider because we can use that as a faster way to cut through this part of brooklyn, which would make everything more accessible for all. Increase the speed to 40 and just put up more signs alerting pedestrians to watch out for the on coming cars. It's a ROAD after all, it's not a beach for sitting around.

Now, I admit I don't live on PPW and don't have kids who want to run around in the park, but my opinion should still count since I pay taxes in a different part of the city and might one day want to drive through that other part to go somewhere. Like to work maybe. Or just for a driver, which is, my tax-given right after all.
Dec. 10, 2013, 12:46 pm
ty from pps says:
Jim... What's sad is that the content of your comment (and perhaps even a more extreme version) is what clogs the thick brains of many members of this city's Community Boards (and their transportation committees).
Dec. 10, 2013, 1:16 pm
Adamben from Bedstuy says:
If cyclist numbers have doubled and there are no significant increase in accidents then it is twice as safe. You are welcome.
Dec. 10, 2013, 1:50 pm
Mustache Pete from Fort Greene says:
Ty, you may want to lighten up. I think Jim from Bay Ridge is satirizing a south Brooklyn motorhead.
Dec. 12, 2013, 3:02 am
ty from pps says:
Mustache - That was pretty darn clear. And I was agreeing with him/expanding on his thought.
Dec. 12, 2013, 9:53 am
Mustache Pete from Fort Greene says:
OK, got it.
Dec. 13, 2013, 11:10 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, I was out of the house for the most of the day, so that comment had to be someone, and I know who the suspects are. I feel that all of you are just reading a reflection in the mirror, because it's all backwards, plus I have never called anyone an idiot or stupid just for disagreeing, that was something you guys did with your comments as proof. Also, if you have nothing nice to say to someone, then don't say anything at all. . I learned that in kindergarten which is more than I can say for some of you bloggers. Even though I do tend to disagree with a lot of things here, I don't attack the person, I just disagree with the viewpoint as Michael Moore does especially when he mentions conservatives like George W Bush with what they believe on, but he doesn't hate them personally.
Seriously, lowering will the speed limits will hardly do anything to make the streets safer, because it will either hardly ever be enforced or there will always be pedestrians and cyclists that will get hit after even placing themselves into harm's way. As for those stats, keep in mind that some groups have a history of fudging data, which does throw some of it into question, while they only state the effects rather than the causes. When talking about giving tickets, motorists actually got a lot more than most cyclists and pedestrians combined, and a lot of them are for even minor violations that to can result in points or a suspended license not to mention being very high in fines that I find has taking it out to the little guy. I think that a lot of cyclists and pedestrians are known for constantly flouting the laws, because they know that for the most part they can either get away with it or just get a slap on the wrist even if they did get caught. In the end, it's us motorists who get the royal screw job as we are considered the cash cow. Trying to explain you biased anti-car haters tends to have the equivalence of trying to get the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Israel as a nation for the Jews, and we all know how that goes.
Dec. 20, 2013, 4:16 pm

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