Prospect Park is being turned into a velodrome under the new bike lanes being proposed for the park.
The changes, recently unveiled by the Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force, are supposedly in response to a series of very serious accidents that have occurred between pedestrians and cyclists. But the situation will very likely be made worse if implemented because it does not address the heart of the problem: the park is being used as a training facility by cyclists who are moving way too fast and endanger the lives of park users.
Creating exclusive lanes for cyclists, including a fast lane without any restrictions, will simply make this activity more accommodating and will not help.
While separating each user group — with no physical separation, just paint — each group would have its own travel lane. However this does not begin to address the speeding or the accidents.
This “solution” treats this problem as if its a lateral issue between bikes and pedestrians when we know its a perpendicular issue — people crossing the Drive and getting struck by speeding bikes.
The proposed plan eliminates a vehicle lane, which is a step closer to achieving the dream of a car-free park. But it’s not car accidents with pedestrians that are sending people to the hospital, its bikes, and the reluctance of bicyclists to take responsibly for the situation represents a major part of the problem.
A walk in the park is not supposed to be Death Race 2000 or as Forrest Cicogni, the husband of a woman who recently suffered brain damage and spent two weeks in ICU after colliding with a bike while walking in the park put it, a game of “Frogger.”
The City must weigh if Prospect Park is a public recreational facility that serves many uses or a training facility. The current plan makes it very clear that the public safety needs for non-cyclists are not being properly balanced.
Is there a need to accommodate competitive cycling and create more facilities to train? Absolutely. Just not in Prospect Park and not in this fashion where the public safety risks are too high.
Geoffrey Croft is the president of NYC Park Advocates.