The city is moving ahead with its long-stalled plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Prospect Park West — despite the continued opposition of Borough President Markowitz and the drivers he says he represents.
The lane, which was approved last year, will stretch from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel Pritchard Square, and will run along the eastern curb alongside a lane of parked cars that will protect cyclists from car traffic.
But the new bike lane comes at a price — one that many opponents say is too steep: one lane of southbound car traffic will be eliminated from Park Slope’s speedway, and 22 parking spaces will be lost.
“It’s going to impact traffic terribly,” Jack Nayer, a Park Slope local, said at a public hearing on the subject on Monday night. “Just a few yards away is a bike lane — it’s called Prospect Park! Why not use that?”
Nayer echoed the concerns of perhaps half in the crowd of roughly 75 people who came to the informational “open house” at Congregation Beth Elohim on Eighth Avenue to learn about the looming project.
But city officials said that the lane would alleviate a pressing problem on the street: speeding traffic.
Many drivers are using Prospect Park West as if it were the Daytona Speedway — a claim backed up by recent research. On the eve of Monday night’s meeting, Park Slope Neighbors, a civic group that supports the bike lane, released a report that showed outrageous speeding on Prospect Park.
Volunteers from the group recently clocked cars and discovered that 85 percent exceeded the speed limit, with a startling 30 percent averaging 40 miles per hour or more.
A survey by the Department of Transportation also hinted at another problem that would be alleviated by the bike lane on Prospect Park West: cyclists riding where they aren’t supposed to.
A tally of 349 cyclists last year revealed that nearly half were riding on the sidewalk — a result of having no way to legally bicycle northbound in Prospect Park.
Borough President Markowitz doesn’t think the bike lane will fix these supposed problems. In an interview with WNYC earlier on Monday, he not only said he opposed the cycle path, but also took a swipe at Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
“We just disagree on certain instances where I’m acutely aware that she wants to make it hard for those who choose to own automobiles,” Markowitz said. “I really believe that … she would like to see more people stop car usage and use their bicycles or walk.”
Markowitz later reiterated that he has supported some bike lanes in the past — including one on Ninth Street — but remains convinced that the Prospect Park West bike lane would cause traffic congestion and exacerbate the already woeful parking situation in Park Slope.
But supporters of the project sought to allay opponents’ fear over lost parking spaces, saying that the traffic-calming effect of the lane was worth the loss — an effect that drew some scoffs. Advocates also noted that the cuts proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would eliminate the B69 bus, which runs along Prospect Park West.
Eliminating the bus stops on that portion of the route should cover all of the 22 lost spaces, said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).
“I am completely opposed to the MTA [service] cuts,” Lander said. “But that is a silver lining — if there is one.”
The Department of Transportation says that construction of the bike lane will begin in June, though it said the same thing last fall before Markowitz interceded, causing the near year-long delay.
©2010 Community News Group
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