Prospect Park West bike lane foes win appeal

Dueling rallies over bike lane! Supporters out-spoke foes
Photo by Paul Martinka

Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane won a last-chance appeal on Wednesday in their fight to remove the controversial cycling route.

A judge erroneously used a technicality to dismiss an August 2011 lawsuit filed by the bike lane foes, a state supreme court appellate panel ruled in a decision that will leave the fate of the path to be decided by the courts.

The panel rejected three of four claims seeking to undermine the divided cycling route by the anti-bike lane group Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, but found that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan made a mistake when he booted the case for missing the statute of limitations without first determining if the lane was installed as a “trial” street fixture, or as a “permanent” piece of infrastructure.

The lane foes missed the deadline to sue the city over a permanent street change, but not a temporary one.

The jurists ordered a new hearing to determine whether the city built the Prospect Park West bike lane as an experiment, or as a enduring roadway redesign.

Opponents of the popular path — which removed one lane of automotive traffic to make space for two-wheelers — called the decision a triumph.

“It’s an enormous victory,” said Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes lawyer Jim Walden, who contests city data indicating the lane has reduced speeding and made the roadway safer. “We will finally get our day in court and we will get to develop the evidence that will show the Department of Transportation has been lying about and manipulating the safety data from the beginning.”

City officials promised bike riders that they have nothing to worry about.

“We’re confident that the Prospect Park West bike lane is here to stay,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow in a statement.

“We are fully confident that the trial court will decide that there is absolutely no merit to what is left of this case. In the meantime, local residents will continue to enjoy the safety that this community-requested and supported lane has provided every day for the last two and a half years,” he said.

The city has spent more than $140,000 defending the buffered bike lane in court — and cycling boosters say the case against the path is frivolous.

“It’s really quite irrational,” said Park Slope resident and cycling advocate Eric McClure. “They have this obsession with trying to get rid of something that the vast majority of the neighborhood has embraced … it’s a bit perplexing what’s motivating them.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.