Supporters vastly outnumbered opponents in dueling rallies over the Prospect Park West bike lane on Thursday morning, as 250 cyclists rallied in Grand Army Plaza and then took a victory lap roughly four dozen opponents gathered just to the south.
The supporters first gathered at Grand Army Plaza, pledging their love for the four-month-old two-way lane, which has been controversial because it eliminated one lane of car traffic, as well as 22 parking spaces, and changed the stately look of the boulevard.
Cyclists praised the lane because it provides them with a protected link between Grand Army Plaza and points south, and because it has made Prospect Park West safer for everyone because it has slowed down automobile speeds.
“As a traffic-calming measure, it’s been like night and day [compared to before the lane was in place],” said Cory Bruce, who lives on Montgomery Place. “Prospect Park West was really hectic before, I would never bike on it — it was unsafe! Now, people obey the speed limit.”
But protesters say the lane has done just the opposite and made the lane more frustrating for drivers and more dangerous for pedestrians.
“I raised two children here, we never had problems crossing the street,” said Carol Linn, who lives on Prospect Park West and helped organize the opposition rally. “If you’re worried about speeding, putting in more traffic lights is much more effective.”
Linn complained that the now two-lane Prospect Park West is often blocked by double-parked cars and trucks.
“Congestion does calm traffic, but that’s not a good solution!” she said.
Linn conceded that the anti-bike lane crowd was strongly outnumbered, but that she and her comrades — mostly seniors — had still “gotten our message out there.”
She added that she wasn’t surprised by the large turnout of lane supporters.
“They’re a very organized and vocal group — they have an almost religious feeling about this,” said Linn. “Who knows where all those people come from.”
Many bike lane critics — including Marty Markowitz — said the existing roadway inside Prospect Park is perfect for cyclists, especially if it is made two-way.
Bruce scoffed at the suggestion.
“It irks me that they keep saying, ‘Use the park,’ ” said Bruce. “The park is only open until 1 am, so it’s closed for much of the night. And there aren’t exits everywhere!”
The debate over the lane is certain to rage on at least until next year when the Department of Transportation will present statistics on usage as well as the affect it has had on traffic.
Supporters of the lane say they have evidence that drivers have slowed since the lane was installed — and they expect that the city’s data will bear that out.
“The numbers will show what everyone already knows: cyclists are using it, the street is safer and calmer, and it has reduced speeding,” said Bruce.