Guess what? City says its Prospect Park West bike lane is a success!

Dueling rallies over bike lane! Supporters out-spoke foes
Photo by Paul Martinka

The Prospect Park West bike lane has aced the city’s first test — though opponents claim that officials cheated.

The Department of Transportation has announced that car traffic along Prospect Park West has slowed, while bike usage has skyrocketed since the controversial bike lane’s construction this spring.

The findings suggest that the lane is passing its first scrutiny with flying colors, since it was designed to calm traffic and encourage cycling.

The study, quietly released on Oct. 19, compared data from this summer to the pre-bike lane days of September, 2009. The results:

• During peak hours, cars are driving at an average speed of 25.8 miles per hour, which is seven miles per hour slower than last year’s speeds, and well below the 30 mile-per-hour speed limit. One in seven cars exceeded the speed limit this year, whereas three in four cars did in 2009.

• The number of weekend cyclists doubled from 2009 levels.

• Weekday cycling tripled.

• The number of bikers who illegally ride on the sidewalk dropped drastically from an average of 33 percent of riders in 2009 to less than 4 percent in 2010.

The traffic calming portion of the study follows an earlier, though hardly independent, August study by the pro–bike lane group, Park Slope Neighbors, which reported a 95-percent reduction in the number of cars going more than 40 miles per hour.

The numbers are good news for bike lane proponents, but opponents say the study may have been falsified, and question whether or not Prospect Park West traffic needed to be calmed in the first place.

“We are calling for an objective analysis,” said Louise Hainlain, president of Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane.

Hainlain believes some of the numbers collected by the department were inaccurate. For example, one section of the study states that over a 12-hour period on Aug. 17, a total of 1,131 cyclists used the bike lane — which translates to an average of nearly 95 bikers an hour.

“We’re not seeing [those numbers] on the bike path,” Hainlain said, adding that the biker data caused her and her group to doubt the veracity of the entire study.

That said, her group claims that the bike lane is unsafe for pedestrians.

Hainlain believes that the department artificially gave the lane a favorable review in order to reach Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of building 1,800 miles of new bike lanes throughout the city.

But city officials said they stand by their numbers, and that they’re only giving residents what they want.

“As far back as 2007, the community board had specifically requested that we address speeding on Prospect Park West, and to implement a protected bike path,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow. “And we will present further findings to the local community early next year.”

The city is currently conducting a final study, the outcome of which will decide whether the bike lane will become permanent, or be dismantled.

But opponents hate it.
Photo by Paul Martinka