Bicycle boosters say a city plan to install raised concrete islands on the Prospect Park West bike lane proves the cycling path is there for good — but lane opponents claim the cement lumps actually provide a new legal outlet in their fight against the route.
The Department of Transportation will begin building nine pedestrian islands along the bikeway on April 23, literally setting in stone the controversial cycling path in an attempt to increase visibility and make it easier for walkers to cross the road.
The medians — which are similar to ones already in use on Ninth Avenue between West 23rd and West 31st streets in Manhattan — are the cherry on top of a long-in-the-works project that’s now a wildly successful community hit, according to Community Board 6 member Gary Reilly.
“The paint was like a down payment — and this finishes it off,” Reilly said. “It’s nice to see it’s here to stay.”
But bike lane critics, who already unsuccessfully sued the city to remove the path, say the planned concrete infrastructure makes what is now an “experimental” configuration a “permanent” street fixture — a factor that could bring new life to their case against the lane.
“It allows us to refile the lawsuit,” said attorney Jim Walden, who lost his first case against the city with the group Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes on a technicality and appealed that decision in February.
Norman Steisel, a former city transportation commissioner and lane neighbor, has long claimed the bike path creates dangerously inconsistent traffic patterns and limited visibility for everyone on the busy street — and he says the soon-to-be-installed medians will do little to fix a roadway he describes as chaotic.
“The basic problems are still the same,” Steisel said. “It’s disturbing.”
The tweaks come at the request of CB6, which last year recommended modifications including rumble strips along with medians featuring granite curbs and greenery.
The city will install the raised islands next to crosswalks at nine intersections including First, Fifth, and 11th streets, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.
The raised islands also keep cars from double parking in areas where pedestrians wait to cross, said cycling advocate Eric McClure.
“It will add quite a bit to Prospect Park West, overall,” he said.
Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.