Ding dong, the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit is dead

Ding dong, the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit is dead
Eric McClure on the Prospect Park West bike lane, now unoficially co-named for him
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The years-long fight over the world’s most controversial bike lane is finally over, after the cadre of politically connected Park Slopers that has been trying to kill the two-way protected pedaling path along Prospect Park West dropped its lawsuit against the lane on Sept. 21.

The high-powered neighbors — whose ranks originally included former Transportation Commissioner and current wife to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–Park Slope) Iris Weinshall, former Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel, and former Brooklyn College dean Louise Hainline — balked at what they saw as the city shoving the 19-block bike lane down their throats six years ago, and sued arguing officials installed the passage on a trial basis then cherry-picked crash and safety data to justify making it permanent.

But as the case dragged on for years, several of the backers backed off — one, Lois Carswell of Seniors for Safety, died — and the lane became a fixture of the neighborhood, as documented by a candid 2012 photo of Schumer riding down the pathway with apparent glee. Now, the remaining critics say they have to accept that it is just not practical to get rid of the bikeway at this point.

“We acknowledge that, for better or worse, and despite the disingenuous means by which we believe it was installed, the Prospect Park West bike lane is here to stay,” the litigants said in a statement.

The litigious locals did find some vindication when city data released as part of the suit showed the number of car-on-car crashes actually increased slightly in the two years after the lane’s installation, though it also found drivers hit few cyclists even as bike traffic tripled, speeding went down, and bikers stopped riding on sidewalks.

While it lasted, the court battle was huge news, with former Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, former Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) all testifying, media outlets across the city spilling plenty of ink on coverage and editorials, and bike activists rallying to show their support for the lane.

Lane pain: A critic rails against the bike lane.
Photo by Paul Martinka

At the height of the drama, this paper’s then-editor Gersh Kuntzman famously dressed as the bike lane for the Park Slope Civic Council Halloween Parade, while Markowitz — who didn’t support the lane — rode into his 2011 State of the Borough address on a tricycle to mock the path and the pro-cycling activists supporting it.

As of 2012, the city had spent more than $140,000 on legal fees fighting the suit.

Still, some local bike lovers are disappointed to see the case fizzle out instead of finish with the bang of a judge’s gavel.

“There was a part of me that wanted to see this decided in a court room, because I think their case was without merit,” said Eric McClure, co-chair of Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee and a longtime defender of the lane.

Lander, meanwhile, says he’s glad the opponents waved the white flag — and he hopes the Citi Bike haters he is currently battling after the blue bike rental stations rolled out across his district last month follow suit.

“Thrilled that PPW bike lane opponents have voluntarily withdrawn their lawsuit!” he tweeted after the announcement. “Hoping opposition to Citi Bike abates a little more quickly.”

Easy rider: Former Borough President Marty Markowitz, an opponent of the lane, mocked bike activists by riding into his 2011 State of the Borough address on a tricycle.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.