OK, keep cars in Prospect Park

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A biking advocacy group that called for a complete ban on cars in Prospect Park has pulled back from that vehicular demand and is now asking that auto traffic to be limited to one lane in the currently two-lane park loop.

Transportation Alternatives admitted that its pitch to give joggers and cyclists extra space was a compromise to ease the concerns of Windsor Terrace residents who say their streets would be inundated by rush-hour commuters forced to drive around, rather than through, “Brooklyn’s Backyard.”

“Pedestrians and cyclists feel very unsafe on the Park Drive. This [proposal] gives them some breathing room,” said Lindsey Lusher, a Transportation Alternatives official after presenting the latest initiative to Community Board 7, which includes Windsor Terrace.

Nonetheless, some members of the board remained skeptical, saying that the latest attempt to reduce car volume in the Olmsted and Vaux masterpiece would bring them one step closer to an auto-less park, and thus, more clogged streets.

“They’re just chipping away and chipping away at [park vehicular traffic],” said Randy Peers, chairman of CB7.

About 600 motorists use the park drive each hour that the roadway is open, according to Transportation Alternatives — a number seized upon by board member Cynthia Gonzalez.

“They want us to redirect 1,200 cars [each morning and evening] onto our streets, for how many bike riders?” she exclaimed.

The city first limited car traffic in the park in the 1970s, when cars got the boot on Sundays. Now, the park is open to motor vehicles from 7 to 9 am for northbound traffic and 5 to 7 pm for southbound vehicles.

Peers said that the city should conduct a full review of the impacts of any new permanent change.

Oddly, the Prospect Park Alliance, which manages the park, said it’s neutral in the current battle for control of the greensward’s main arteries.

“There are so many communities of people who use the park and that includes people who drive and people who use it for recreation,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Alliance. “They all have legitimate concerns.”

Supporters of the comprise say that one lane of car traffic is enough to handle all the roadsters during the rush hours.

“We’re not seeing gridlock conditions through the park now,” Michael Cairl, a member of the Park Slope Civic Council, told The Brooklyn Paper.

The advocacy group’s pullback from its earlier call for a car-free park is a bit of a surprise, given that momentum seemed to be on its side. In August, for example, Mayor Bloomberg created a hysteria when he casually mentioned that “it would be great if we could keep cars out of all parks.”

But Transportation Alternatives’ Holy Grail was followed by a rally to keep the loop open by groups based south of the park.

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Reader Feedback

nobody from ph says:
About 600 motorists use the park drive each hour that the roadway is open, according to Transportation Alternatives — a number seized upon by board member Cynthia Gonzalez.

“They want us to redirect 1,200 cars [each morning and evening] onto our streets, for how many bike riders?” she exclaimed.


See, that's not how traffic works, Cynthia. Traffic is not water. In every case where fewer roads are available, traffic volumes *decrease*, and are not simply diverted. It's kinda sad that the public doesn't get the basics of what traffic engineers have known for 50 years.

And, Cynthia, your view that this is just for a few bike riders is terribly simplistic (not to mention false).
Dec. 4, 2008, 8:38 am
Gridlock Stan from Downtown says:
Nobody from ph:

I am sick of all you pseudo traffic engineers at TransAlt and their lackies spouting the nonsense you are spouting here.
Like Goebels, you believe that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.

Traffic is fluid, it moves, like water. Sometimes it becomes viscous, but it it a fluid.

If you are not a certified traffic engineer, get back on your bike and ride back to the suburbs you came from
Dec. 4, 2008, 9:41 am
Doc Barnett from Downtown says:
People that drive in steel cages shouldn't throw suburban stones, Stan. Nor should non-certified traffic engineers through traffic engineer stones. Is there an appeal to authority or dismissive generalization you can come up with that isn't hypocritical?
Dec. 4, 2008, 10:55 am
D from Brooklyn says:
I am a traffic engineer, and one lane will easily carry 600 cars per hour. The only reason people could be upset by this compromise is if they want to continue to drive 45 mph through the park.
Dec. 4, 2008, 10:57 am
Jen from Windsor terrace says:
Sell out. Shame on TA! what $ deal have they obtained?? No Cars In Prospect Park!
Dec. 4, 2008, 11:16 am
Gary from Park Slope says:
some research:

Evidence on the Effects of Road Capacity Reduction on Traffic Levels

Available evidence showed a very wide range of results. The sample of case-studies for which complete traffic information was provided showed an unweighted average reduction in traffic on the treated road or area of 41 per cent. Less than half of this reappeared as increased traffic on alternative roads, at the same or different times of the day. Thus the average overall reduction in traffic was 25 per cent of that which used to use the affected road or area. These averages were influenced by a few extreme results - in two cases the overall reduction in traffic was greater than all of the traffic originally travelling on the treated roads, and in seven cases there was an overall traffic increase.

The median result, which is less affected by outlying figures, indicates that 50 per cent of cases showed overall traffic reductions, taking affected and alternative roads altogether, which were greater than 14 per cent of the traffic which originally used the affected road. If the nine exceptional cases mentioned are excluded, 50 per cent of the remaining locations showed overall reductions of more than 16 per cent of the original traffic on the affected roads.
Dec. 4, 2008, 11:19 am
Jon from Crown Heights says:
“They want us to redirect 1,200 cars [each morning and evening] onto our streets, for how many bike riders?”

I can't believe we are here in 2008 and people are still making this argument. Again, like "Nobody" said, traffic does not work that way. They closed 5th Avenue through Washington Square Park to vehicles in 1959, and everyone saw that the dire predictions of traffic backing up into the surrounding neighborhood were completely wrong. Drivers will choose to take another route. Traffic in the neighborhoods around Prospect Park will DECREASE if you close the park to vehicles. It doesn't take a traffic engineer to figure this out. It was demonstrated in Washington Square Park almost 50 years ago.
Dec. 4, 2008, 11:26 am
JM from Kensington says:
Cynthia Gonzalez is a fool looking for a sound bite -- 600 more cars per rush hour on surrounding streets will make no appreciable difference in local traffic conditions. Driving sucks in this city and always will.

600 less cars in the park during rush hours, however, will make a monumental difference to the park and its users at all hours.
Dec. 4, 2008, 11:43 am
Bob from Prospect-lefferts Gardens says:
"The only reason people could be upset by this compromise is if they want to continue to drive 45 mph through the park"

I'm surprised a "traffic engineer" would write this. With the synchronized lights in Prospect Park driving that fast would mean stopping at most lights, if the driver managed to avoid a speeding ticket. Driving at the speed limit lets you avoid making stops and is functionally as fast as 45 (or 60, or 100).
Dec. 4, 2008, 4:47 pm
murray lantner from mill basin says:
I cycle to work from Mill Basin to Lower Manhattan and ride through the park during rush hour. What should be the best part of my ride is often ruined by traffic, and speeding cars. On any given day it appears that there are more than 600 runners, walkers,cyclists, children, etc. per hour that use the park. Also, motor vehicles have access to thousands of miles of New York City Streets, they are not entitled to also have access to NYC small amounts of parklands. Parks are for people not for motor vehicles. Its time to get the cars out of the parks.
Dec. 5, 2008, 12:56 pm
Eric from Park Slope says:
Bob from P-LG,

Sorry, but you're flat wrong. The Prospect Park Youth Advocates ( measured a large sample of cars with a radar gun this summer, and 90% (90%!!!) of the drivers exceeded the speed limit.

Get the damned cars out of the park!
Dec. 5, 2008, 5:51 pm
Dan from Brooklyn says:
Bob from P-LG,

You've got zero idea what you're talking about.

The traffic signals in the Park are spaced too far apart for signal timing to have any meaningful impact on vehicular speeds. The cops and the DOT have both said this over and over again.

A few years ago I personally went out with a radar gun and timed cars in the Park. We regularly clocked drivers exceeding 45 mph. I clocked a guy going 63 mph up the East Drive at the skinniest point of the road where cyclists, joggers and cars are all squashed together.

Let's face facts: Driver behavior in Brooklyn is just disgusting. You south Brooklyn motorists, your lard asses attached to plush bucket seats, have zero regard for the neighborhood life that takes places beyond the confines of your personal motor vehicles. Your roll down the street honking your horns, aggressively turning into pedestrians crossing the street, totally ignoring the existence of cyclists. The fact that you think you have a god-given right to drive your private vehicle through a public park is just mind-boggling.

Move out to Long Island or Jersey or pretty much anywhere else in the United States if you want to get around by car. This is a city. You belong elsewhere. The f
Dec. 5, 2008, 7:24 pm
Robert from Prospect Hts. says:
Having driven a car AT THE SPEED LIMIT in The Park, I can attest to the fact that no other cars around me obey the speed limit. I would have been part of that 10% under the speed limit.

As a Park runner, cyclist, in-line skater, driver, walker, bird-watcher, picnicker, painter and 19 year area resident, I have no question that the cars create dangerous conditions in the park. Also, they decrease the quality of the park and they pollute the air in the park.

When the issue is taken on its own merits, aside from any issue about traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods, the park and all users of the park would be better off without the cars. Furthermore, the existing roadway would be better used by non-motorized citizens if there were no cars.

Mind you, a PARK was built in that location, and designed for non-motorized activities. The neighborhood is better served by reserving the park for non-motorized transport.
Dec. 9, 2008, 12:33 am
Joe from Park Slope says:
How many lanes do these tour de france wannabes need? Stop already! Did you ever clock a biker? I'm afraid to take my kids biking any where near the park. It's just too dangerous. Now you want to take another lane from inside the park.
Dec. 13, 2010, 9:44 pm
jay from pslope says:
I am cool with getting the cars out of the park, but the reality is that the bikers are WAAAAY more dangerous than cars, I see people getting hit by bikes at least one a week in the park, and sometimes more, I have NEVER seen a car hit person in the park, but I have seen bike and cars get tangleed up, seems to me they are they same kind of mentality.
I would really like to see the police start giving tickets to the jack ass bikers who pretty much ignore all the traffic laws in the park, it would be a great way for the city to earn money and make the park safer, and marty markowitz could take credit for it (like everything else) but I am sure the bike nazis (yes, you are nazis) will howl that they should be able to break teh law like the facist pigs that they are.
Dec. 15, 2010, 9:25 pm

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