The controversial Prospect Park West bike lane survived a legal challenge this week, as a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of well-connected neighbors on technical grounds on Tuesday.
Still, Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan made it clear in his ruling that Neighbors for Better Bike Lane’s suit against the world’s most talked-about cycle path was “without merit.”
Supporters of the bike lane — including its controversial champion and target of opponents’ ire, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan — hailed the ruling.
“Merely not liking a change is no basis for a frivolous lawsuit,” Sadik-Khan said in a statement. “[They] were dead wrong.”
The ruling marks a historical moment for bike-centric Brooklyn — and for the Prospect Park West bike path, which made international headlines after the city removed a lane of car traffic on the busy thoroughfare to create a two-way protected route.
Opponents argued that the city had turned the peaceful street into a danger to pedestrians. The lawsuit also alleged that the city fudged data about the success of the lane and tried to squash opposition.
The city maintained that it installed the path only after extensive analysis and a process that was “rational and reasonable in all respects.” The lane, officials said, was installed at the request of Community Board 6. Also, the city argued, the lane has the the support most neighbors, according to two surveys.
In the end, Judge Bunyan ruled on the narrowest of grounds: That the foes’ lawsuit was filed after the deadline for citizens to challenge permanent changes to the cityscape.
But supporters of the lane were drawing a much-broader conclusion from the ruling.
“This decision is not just a victory for Park Slope, it’s a victory for all New Yorkers’ safety,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “This project is a great example of how neighborhoods can get relief from dangerous traffic. … The city has made Prospect Park West safer for everyone. The demise of this farcical public relations stunt confirms what the vast majority of New Yorkers already know: bike lanes are good for New York.”
Good, perhaps, but still under fire.
The lawyer for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes said on Tuesday night that an appeal is an option.
“This is just the first battle in what is inevitably going to be a longer war,” said the lawyer, Jim Walden, adding that he will likely refile court documents to obtain city records that could show that the lawsuit was not filed too late because the city never intended the bike lane to be permanent.
Meanwhile, Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), a lane supporter, hailed the judge’s ruling, but tried to play the diplomatic role by looking forward, not back.
“I’m glad to put this behind us,” he said. “I don’t think any of us — on either side of the debate — thought we would be spending so much time debating one mile of green paint.”