Road rage! Accidents prompt new look at bike and ped safety in Prospect Park

Road rage! Accidents prompt new look at bike and ped safety in Prospect Park
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A group of cyclists is demanding that the city paint bike symbols on the car lanes in Prospect Park in the wake of several bicycle crashes — and park officials are listening.

To clear up hazy bike-and-walking path rules — which shift during the park’s car-free hours — cyclists are circulating a petition to rejigger street symbols to reflect how the park loop is most often used.

Petitioner Mark Simpson — who broke his elbow in a collision with a rogue skater — says the street has become a chaotic mix of joggers, bikers and rollerbladers, who simply don’t know the “bike lane” is actually reserved for walkers 90 percent of the time.

“It’s not clear at all,” Simpson said. “You should be able to walk into the park and know what to do.”

At least three “serious” accidents have occurred in the park this year, one of which involved a cyclist who collided with a pedestrian, according to Prospect Park Alliance, which has formed a task force to explore such recommendations.

The roadway is closed to cars at all times — except for four hours each weekday. Those are the hours when confusion reigns: Cyclists must use the street and pedestrians must use the lane marked with a bike symbol.

It’s not only counterintuitive, petitioners say, but potentially fatal. Simpson’s solution: Paint over the current bike symbol with a walking symbol, then mark the street with new bike symbols.

Other park users say new symbols would make the park’s car hours precarious — and that it’s not worth it on a street where pedestrians amass by the hundreds and assume they can walk where they please.

“You can label the roads all you want, but pedestrians are going do whatever they want,” said park-goer Ryan Morrison.

The petition comes at a tense time for drivers who have for months been fighting for street turf with cyclists, a battle that began anew with the construction of the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane, which removed a lane of vehicular traffic to make way for bikes last year.

It also comes as drivers fight legislation that would ban cars from Prospect Park completely.

Simpson’s petition, which tallied about 70 signatures in a week also asks for more signs, lighting and crosswalks.

A few green signs are already up on the southeast side of the park, indicating the car free lane rules — but they are not permanent and easy to miss.

The collisions and calls for improvements led the Prospect Park Alliance to announce last week that it would form a “road sharing task force … to foster safer behavior.”

“We’re very aware of the collisions,” said Eugene Patron of Prospect Park Alliance, adding it will soon hold a public hearing. “We’ll bring groups together to talk about solutions.”