Bike-lash! City bails on plan for another two-way lane after PPW protests

Bike-lash! City bails on plan for another two-way lane after PPW protests
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city abandoned plans for a two-way bike path on Plaza Street West in the wake of a lawsuit over the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane — and seething cyclists say that transportation honchos were simply scared of another fight.

In April 2010, the Department of Transportation drafted its “Grand Army Plaza Enhancement” plan, which included a two-way connector lane on Plaza Street West that would link up with the about-to-be-built bike lane on Prospect Park West, where the city was set to remove a lane of car traffic to install a two-way protected cycle path.

The rest is history: The Prospect Park West bike lane became the subject of loud opposition — particularly from a wealthy and politically connected group of neighbors — prompting a lawsuit and plenty of bad press for the Department of Transportation. Then the city has quietly scrapped the connector path on Plaza Street West.

Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow said that the agency will not install the new lane this year due to “the scope” of a bigger Grand Army Plaza project, which includes a new stop light and an expansion of the farmer’s market area. But those elements have been part of the city’s plan since its inception, an indication that the choice to shelve the Plaza Street West portion is based on more complicated factors, cyclists charged.

“They’ve stopped because of the push back [from bike lane opponents],” said cycling advocate Eric McClure. “But a two-way lane on Plaza Street West really makes sense from a bike-connector perspective.”

Cyclists on the curved street, where a one-way bike lane is located, often end up on Plaza Street West as they leave the Prospect Park West bike lane because there are no signs directing cyclists to Plaza Street East, which actually provides the best connection to the Vanderbilt Avenue bike lane.

The decision to delay or completely abandon the lane comes nine months after a group of neighbors sued the city over the Prospect Park West bike lane, saying it turned the scenic street into a dangerous fishbowl of cars, cyclist and pedestrians, although it later lost.

Around that time, residents on Plaza Street West — some of whom have ties to the same group, Neighbors For Better Bike lanes — also wrote the city letters opposing the connector lane, saying it would taint the tree-lined street and make it difficult for drivers to maneuver around double-parked cars.

But cyclists and some residents say that a two-way lane would make the area safer and that more bike traffic on the street will send a message to the dollar vans — which double park there — that the space a meant for bikes, not mini-vans.

For now, the city won’t provide a timeline for when — or if — the two-way Plaza Street lane would be completed.

“We will continue to work with the community on ways to improve bike access at this location,” Solomonow said.

Some residents don’t want to wait.

“This is important,” said Plaza Street West resident Robert Minsky. “What happened to it?”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

Meanwhile, on Plaza Street West itself, trucks, cars and vans scramble for space on what should be a one-lane road.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini