Hundreds demand: Park must be safer!

Prospect Park needs stepped-up enforcement of roadway speed limits, better signage and more cops, park-goers demanded at a packed hearing on Wednesday night, less than two weeks after a park pedestrian was nearly killed in a crash with a cyclist.

Nearly 100 park-goers — tearful friends of crash victims, angry parents and passionate cyclists among them — gathered to slam reckless street users and alert city officials of possible solutions to the free-for-all on the heavily trafficked roadway loop inside Brooklyn’s green heart.

Cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers — even horseback riders — have had one too many close calls, park-goers said.

At the Prospect Park Alliance-led hearing, suggested ranged from rational (“There has to be more police presence”) to creative (“Why don’t we have a designated time for speed cycling?”) to far-fetched (“I would eliminate all bikes all together”).

Others stressed the need for a car-free park, saying the shared roadway confuses right of way rules — although cops noted most of the crashes occurred during car-free hours.

Nearly everyone agreed on one thing: The roadway needs attention from the city — both from the Department of Transportation and the Police Department.

“Enforcement is paramount,” said Forrest Cicogni, whose wife, Dana, was badly injured in the park by cyclist in June.

Others suggested signs — warning cyclists to slow down — particularly on West Lake Drive, which is downhill, curvy and can create a dangerous blind spot.

“I know bikers will respect rules if they’re more clearly marked,” said cyclist Johanna Clearfield.

Others noted there aren’t enough crossing paths for pedestrians — and that creates a sense of chaos.

“So many times you get people walking in the middle of the road or counter clockwise,” said park-goer Clare Vogel. “We need signage.”

Others pointed fingers at careless bikers, noting they should be ticketed for speeding just like cars.

“I’m enraged at the way some of these so-called serious cyclists yell at my kids to get out of the way,” said Henry Astor, who added he rides bikes himself. “Just because you wear spandex and shave your legs doesn’t mean you’re a good cyclist. Some of these guys are out of control.”

The Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force meeting — which was held at the Prospect Park Picnic House as president Emily Lloyd listened — aimed to examine safety solutions on the busy street.

The hearing comes two weeks after park volunteer and frequent power walker Linda Cohen was struck by by a 61-year-old cyclist on West Lake Drive. She suffered a medically-induced coma and is now conscious but slowly recovering.

It also comes after at least three cycling-related accidents plagued the park this past summer — and after park-goers complained to the city about hazy bike-and-walking path rules on the very same loop.

At the meeting, Nancy Moccaldi — a tearful friend of Cohen — said such accidents can happen to anyone.

“It happened to her — and she knows the park intimately,” she said between sobs. “Now, her skull is fractured. She is bruised and battered.”

That’s why advocates stressed the urgency of taking action now.

“Education has to be backed up by enforcement,” said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates. “Our parks need to be safe.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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