Plan cuts Prospect Park car lane, makes more room bikes and peds

Cone rangers! City installs traffic barriers to deter Park cyclists
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A revolutionary roadway redesign will bring transportation equality to Prospect Park’s main street by removing a lane of car traffic and giving the space to pedestrians and cyclists, park officials say.

The street revamp will provide roughly the same amount of asphalt to all modes of transit by repurposing the road’s center lane — which is used by motorists during rush hour — and dedicating it entirely to cyclists, under a proposal unveiled by a panel of city officials on Tuesday.

Cars would keep the right lane while pedestrians would gain full use of the left lane, which is currently split between cyclists and walkers during the hours that automobiles are allowed in the park.

“We think it’s an opportunity to improve safety,” said Prospect Park administrator Emily Lloyd, who is president of the Prospect Park Alliance and heads the panel of parks and transportation officials, cycling advocates and cops that hatched the plan. “It’s one lane for each group — all the time.”

The egalitarian new roadway revamp, which could hit the street as soon as late spring, comes after several serious crashes — some of them nearly fatal — between cyclists and walkers on the tree-flanked street. It also comes after park critics called the road’s current markings confusing and pushed for an all-out elimination of automotive traffic in the greensward.

The design, crafted by the Prospect Park Road Sharing Taskforce, dedicates 10 feet of roadway to cars, 10 feet to cyclists, and 14 feet of roadway to pedestrians and child cyclists who aren’t comfortable riding on the grown-up lane.

Bikers and runners cheered the plan — which closely resembles a 2008 proposal by bicycle advocates — at a public meeting at the park’s picnic house, saying it will save lives and bring order to the sometimes chaotic path.

But they also used the forum as an opportunity to ask for a total ban on cars in the park.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said longtime cycling supporter Eric McClure. “However, I don’t think it quite goes far enough.”

McClure called for a trial period in which the city closes the park to cars during summer months — an idea echoed by other park-goers who praised the plan, but eventually want a roadway with no automobiles.

“Think about how many streets we have in New York and how few places like Prospect Park there are,” said Joanna Oltman Smith. “This is a national treasure [and] I’m horrified about the way cars speed on the drive.”

Motorists, however, claim the proposal and the mentality of cycling advocates makes them feel persecuted.

“It’s another plan that demonizes drivers,” said Marc Russo, a driver from Park Slope. “Not everybody lives [the cyclist] lifestyle.”

He said motorists have already given up plenty of street space to make way for bike lanes, as was the case on the controversial bike path on Prospect Park West.

Thanks to the plan, the city says drivers who enter the park on weekdays from 7 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 7 pm should expect their jaunts to take about seven seconds longer.

That delay sparked fear among some neighbors, who worry that the 700 autos that use the park each hour in the morning would flood streets in surrounding neighborhoods.

“I’m concerned we’re gonna have traffic backing up,” said Windsor Terrace resident Joan Botti.

Lloyd said the plan also calls for increased enforcement, outreach and better signage on the street, and said the panel would meet to discuss feedback from the hearing — and potentially make tweaks.

A new plan eliminates a lane of car traffic to make room for more cyclists on the Prospect Park loop.
Courtesy of Prospect Park Road Sharing Taskforce