City no longer hitting brakes on Slope bike lanes stalled by PPW controversy

The city is rolling out a pair of new Park Slope bike lanes after hitting the brakes on the paths last year amid the controversy over the Prospect Park West cycling route.

On June 21, the Department of Transportation will unveil a plan for two new bike paths — running east on 14th Street and west on 15th Street between Third Avenue and Prospect Park West — sixteen months after the agency abruptly scrubbed a public meeting to present the same roadway proposal while a lawsuit over the nearby Park-side lane brewed.

The long-in-the-works traffic-calming plan pleases cyclists who say the infrastructure is one more sign the protected Prospect Park West viaduct is here to stay.

The proposed lanes on 14th and 15th streets have also earned support from neighbors, who say the paths gives bikers a straight-shot route from Gowanus to Prospect Park and help slow speeding drivers on the mostly residential streets.

“It’s a great path to the park,” said 14th Street resident David Garcia. “There will be less room for cars to pass — but that’s okay; it makes drivers more cautious.”

Bike boosters say added the lane will also help slow drivers on 15th Street, which is downhill and becomes wide west of Eighth Avenue.

“They are very appropriate places for bike lanes,” said Park Slope cycling enthusiast Eric McClure.

The plan began in 2010, when Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) asked the city to study the feasibility of bike lanes on the streets as part of a traffic calming measure at Bartel-Pritchard Square and 15th Street.

The city had already classified 14th and 15th streets as “potential bicycle routes” in a bicycle master plan, making them likely spots for pedaling paths.

Then in February 2011 — amid backlash and a brewing lawsuit over the then-new Prospect Park West bike lane — Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee posted an online agenda item indicating the city would present a plan for the paths.

But after a reporter from this newspaper called the city with questions, the item was abruptly removed from the agenda.

Now, even the most vocal bike lane opponents offer little criticism about the proposed routes on 14th and 15th streets — which will ferry cyclists to the high-profile lane on Prospect Park West.

“Our issue was with the specific means by which the Prospect Park West lane was created — not other bike lanes in Park Slope,” said Louise Hainline of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, which last year sued the city over the Prospect Park West bike lane.

The plan comes on the heels of two other city projects that bike boosters say indicate the controversial path is here to stay: the installation of cement pedestrian islands on Prospect Park West and a new two-way bike lane on Plaza Street West that links to the path.

A spokeswoman for the city offered few details about the new plan, saying only that “the agency will be presenting a proposal to the community board.”

But Lander had plenty to say.

“[It] will make our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike,” he said.

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