Prospect Park West bike foes pushing ‘Eighth Avenue’ solution

There’s a better path than this

Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane say they have a solution to the long-running bike lane conundrum: move the controversy one block away.

Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, the group of lane opponents that last week sued the city, wants to push the path to Eighth Avenue — but critics contend the group’s self-described “proposed compromise” will never fly on a street that is far too narrow.

Group President Louise Hainline pitches the “improvement” this way: Park Slope should turn the two-way bike lane on Prospect Park West into a one-way lane, then move the row of parked cars back to the curb and paint a new, northbound one-way bike lane on Eighth Avenue.

The group claims the Prospect Park West bike lane turns the street into a war zone for pedestrians, who risk getting mauled by cyclists zipping in the opposite direction of car traffic, and a nightmare for drivers, who must dodge everything from joggers to ambulances on a throughway that was trimmed from three lanes to two last year.

Under the plan, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes wants the two traffic lanes on Eighth Avenue to be further narrowed to accommodate a bike lane. On Prospect Park West, two traffic lanes would be widened “to give some lateral room for getting around double-parked vehicles,” Hainline said.

“It will make crossing the street easier and safer for pedestrians,” she said, explaining a one-way bike path will make the street less chaotic. “[And] provide some space for entering and exiting [parked] vehicles, which is too dangerous now.”

But people who live on Eighth Avenue don’t think that’s realistic, considering that the street narrows between Montgomery Place and Flatbush Avenue.

“There’s just not enough room,” said Michael Ring, an avid cyclist, who lives near Union Street. “They’re not thinking.”

Other critics familiar with transportation issues point out that Eighth Avenue is narrower than Fifth Avenue, where the tight bike lane was implicated in a 2009 fatality and many more crashes.

Eighth Avenue — which serves as a shortcut for cars barreling off the Prospect Expressway to Flatbush Avenue towards the Manhattan Bridge — is nearly the same length as Sixth Avenue, which cyclists sometimes use, despite several reported accidents in the past year.

To come up with the idea, the group reviewed the city’s “Bicycle Master Plan,” which examines where bike lanes would be a good fit.

But residents of Eighth Avenue say that the “compromise” would bottleneck their roadway — the very kind of tie-up that Prospect Park West residents have been complaining about for months.

“Can you image the traffic jams?” said Mark Guralnick, who lives on Eighth Avenue near President Street. “It would be a catastrophe.”

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) is in the same camp. He refused to talk about the Eighth Avenue proposal, saying only, “I believe that the current traffic calming configuration is working … and that the significant majority of neighborhood residents agree.”

For now, Hainline is putting her faith in the Department of Transportation — the very agency that her group sued earlier this month.

“Ultimately, this would need to be planned and tested by the DOT,” Hainline said.

The lawsuit charges that the city fudged data and colluded with lane lovers to squash opposition, ultimately putting pedestrians in harms way. But the city has consistently said that the data show that fewer cars exceed the speed limit, fewer bicyclists ride on the sidewalk and fewer cyclists get into accidents.

As such, the city isn’t excited about Hainline’s “compromise.”

“It’s not clear what this proposal would do to address speeding on Prospect Park West, which is what the community asked us to [fix],” said Seth Solomonow, a spokesperson for the department. “The ‘compromise’ doesn’t hold up.”