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

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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.”

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Reader Feedback

Steve from Bklyn says:
"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."

Huh? None of this graph makes sense. Which are the hours when confusion reigns? When the roadway is closed or during the four hours per day it's open?

Close the park to cars 100% and there will be little to no confusion from pedestrians, cyclists, and journalists.
July 13, 2011, 7:16 am
Steve from Bklyn says:
Of course, the big question is what Tal Barzilai thinks of all this.
July 13, 2011, 7:25 am
Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
The rules confusing. The marked bike lane is only a bike lane when cars are allowed in the park. Do bikes have to stop at red lights when the park is closed to cars? Which way should bikes go? It is hard to tell the difference between a road and sidewalk. But, they are really no different than Central Park.

However, In Central Park every crosswalk has a sign telling bikers to yield to pedestrians and that cyclists should travel counter clockwise. There are there are signs at the entrances to the paths telling bikers to dismount.

I posted photos here

http://whatyourdonotknowbecauseyouarenotme.blogspot.com/2011/07/signs-that-make-sense-in-central-park.html

The Prospect Park Alliance Community Committee has already brought "groups together to talk about solutions.” It is time to actually do something, before more people get hurt.
July 13, 2011, 7:38 am
Moocow from Slope says:
Brooklyn Paper, do you get some sort of bonus everytime you use the word "controversial" even when something is not?
July 13, 2011, 8:20 am
Jerry from PPW says:
I believe the Prospect Park Alliance is not fulfilling its obligation to preserve the park and protect its users by allowing cars for even a few hours a day - especially since car hours coincide with prime time for people who like to enjoy the park before and after work or school.

Painting bike symbols on the loop will only create more confusion when the park is open to cars. Will people think that cyclists need to ride with cars at all times? A broken elbow is one thing. A cyclist run over by a car or a driver swerving and hitting a pedestrian is another.

The volume of cars in the park is low enough that banning them would have little to no impact on surrounding neighborhoods. But it's high enough to make walking, running, or biking on the loop unpleasant and dangerous. It only takes one speeding car -- and most of the cars speed -- to create a disaster.

I'm glad that people are starting to look at safety, but until the PPA takes a stronger stance on getting cars out for good, it has little legitimacy in asking those of us fighting over the scraps to share.
July 13, 2011, 8:29 am
Phil from Park slope says:
Why are there cars in a park to start with? There aren't enough to help traffic outside park, but more than enough c to make the park unpleasant and dangerous during the busiest hours of the day. It's a lose-lose situation: cars should be banned.
July 13, 2011, 8:35 am
Daniel from Brooklyn says:
I'm with Jerry and Phil.

After work I like to ride the park loop and when I time it wrong and I get there during car-hours I am always shocked at how crazy dangerous it seems.

There aren't so many vehicles that it's obvious they're there, until suddenly they come up behind you honking. But I'm like "Where am I supposed to go?" There's joggers and skaters filling the narrow "bike" lanes, and two minivans bearing down on me horns a blaring in the "driving" lanes. It's terrible. It's a PARK for Pete's sake. They have no business being in there to begin with.
July 13, 2011, 9:40 am
rules says:
the park is open to cars 7 am -9 am and 5pm- 7 pm.

that's four hours each weekday.
July 13, 2011, 9:50 am
wkgreen from Park Slope says:
@Jerry from PPW, I agree with you 100%. I'm sympathetic to the goals expressed in the petition to make the park road less confusing but painting bike symbols in car lanes, unless they could somehow be made to disappear during car hours, is an invitation to tragedy.

I don't know what there is to study here. As long as cars are allowed in the park, even for an hour a week, cars will rule. The only way around it is to ban them completely.
July 13, 2011, 9:51 am
Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
@rules

You are about half correct.

7 am - 9 am from Park Circle to GAP
5 pm - 7 pm from GAP to Park Circle

Confused, I am and I know the rules
July 13, 2011, 9:56 am
John from Greenpoint says:
Close the park to cars. There are actually relatively few drivers entering the park during their allotted hours, but it's just enough to make jogging or riding a bike unpleasant for the hundreds of people who exercise there. Closing the park to cars would have no impact on traffic on surrounding streets.
July 13, 2011, 10:29 am
Tal Barzilai from Far, far away says:
But what about Iris Weinshall? What does she think?
July 13, 2011, 10:42 am
Billy Gray from Greenpoint says:
It's telling that none of those rich, and politically connected Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes is offering to help out.
July 13, 2011, 12:04 pm
Joy from PPW says:
Where is Seniors for Safety? Or do they only care about safe speeding and double parking?
July 13, 2011, 12:15 pm
tom from park slope says:
close the park to cars and bikes.
July 13, 2011, 1:49 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasnatville, NY says:
First off, cut the impersonations. The only time cars are allowed in is just durring the morning and evening rush hours, not any other times. How many cyclists actually use the lanes to begin with? I wouldn't be surprised if more cars were using the the parts they were allowed to when they were opened up to them. I don't see why cyclists can't adapt when cars are using the road. I will make a fair deal here, if cars are to be banned from Prospect Park at all times, then the PPW bike lane must be removed.
July 13, 2011, 4:16 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

If you would ever have been in Prospect Park you would know how confusing the rules are. (Maybe the fact that the article is about the fact that the rules are confusing would have tipped you off.)

The reality is that very few cars use Prospect Park and when they do they force the bikers and the runners to use a very small area.

The PPW Bike Lane covers about a fifth of the outside of Prospect Park and has nothing to do with the drivers who drive through the park.

The least you could do is look at a map before you use the word "must".
July 13, 2011, 4:50 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, I did read the article, I didn't skim through it only reading what agreed with me. When it comes to rush hours, whatever gets traffic moving efficiently works even if you don't like it. I don't see what's wrong with the proposed swap. You cyclists get 100% of the park, while us drivers get 100% of the street. What is so bad about that idea? I am sure those on NBBL would be willing to swap for that. Reguardless, rules are rules and everyone must follow them, and I mean everyone hence no exemptions to anyone.
July 13, 2011, 5:50 pm
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
Ah, Tal! Once again, The Sage of Pleasantville comes forth. This time he offers a Faustian bargain based on his expert analysis.

Forget it, Other Michael. My guess is that Tal has no need to read a map or actually visit Prospect Park. He probably has a "situation room" set up in the bowels of his parent's basement that provides the source of all his great insight.
July 13, 2011, 9:19 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

The point is that the rules are confusing and even the people who want to follow them don't know what they are.

But Tal, what you fail to understand is that there is absolutely no reason to "swap" anything.

Believe it or not, I dive my car a hell of a lot more than I ride my bike on PPW and the Bike lane has not inconvenienced me at all.
July 13, 2011, 9:21 pm
Steve from Bklyn says:
Other Michael, stop engaging Tal. He's a very sad person who lives with his parents in Long Island and has little to do but comment on projects and spaces in Brooklyn he has never seen or visited. Even if you could provide solid evidence that only ten cars used the park per hour while 1000 cyclists did in the same amount of time, he'd never agree with you.

It's truly time to start ignoring him. The only reason he keeps showing up is because people engage him here. I know, because he told me.
July 14, 2011, 8:04 am
Park Sloper from Park slope says:
The most serious collision ---between a biker and a pedestrian--was on a Saturday, when cars are not permitted in the park. The pedestrian was quite seriously injured. I do not believe the biker was ever identified. It's been my observation as a regular runner in the park that many bikers seem to be training for races and travel at very high speeds. In a public place that's meant to accomodate all different types of users, this is an extremely dangerous situation. I agree that the situation is exacerbated when cars are there---bikers who want to maintain their speed come perilously close to runners and walkers. Not sure what the solution should be.
July 14, 2011, 10:58 am
Morice from Born in the Slope says:
All things considered, I think cars should be totally banned in the Park. As many here have said, there aren't a lot of cars using the Park roads during the rush hours, and the ones that do seem to think that it's a fast shortcut for avoiding regular street traffic - so they speed dangerously through the Park. 5~7pm on weekdays is precisely the time when post-work folk are running/biking on the Park roads, and the way the roads are currently set up, this is a very treacherous time to all using them. If the Alliance truly wants to make the Park people-friendly and safe, they should BAN ALL CARS AT ALL TIMES.

And on a related topic, I think the PPW bike lanes should be removed. Not because it's a bad idea, but because they are terribly designed. Pedestrians just DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO! And it's NOT THEIR FAULT, it's THE CITY'S FAULT for designing a FLAWED BIKE LANE.

1ST: pedestrians constantly cross in the middle of the block and between parked cars, as they have been doing for years, and many of them don't know or remember there's a bike lane there. And why should they? When you cross a street anywhere in the city and pass through the line of parked cars on the other side, everyone INSTINCTIVELY lets their guard down and doesn't think to look out for any more wheeled traffic. Add the fact that the parked cars block the view of both ped's and bikers from each other, and you have MANY ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN!

2ND: People who park their cars along the bike lane and exit/enter on the sidewalk side - which is the normal, INSTINCTIVELY SAFE thing to do anywhere else in the city ( dare I say 'world'?) - find themselves dangerously in the middle of BOTH directions of bike traffic. People just don't look both ways when exiting cars on the sidewalk side! While riding this lane I have seen a never-ending stream of families with children exiting their car for a nice day in the Park - only to be surprised by 2 bikes bearing down on them in opposite directions! They duck out of the way of one and step directly into the path of the other, almost getting hit in the process!!! And then you have the people trying to get to their parked cars doing the same dance in reverse!

Let me be clear: I ALWAYS STOP in these situations - but last week I had to stop 5 times in 5 blocks for pedestrians. HOW IS THIS BIKE LANE MORE CONVENIENT FOR ME?!? The design is RIDICULOUS!!! Why should we bikers and pedestrians have to go through this!!! I have been all over the world - including the biking capital, Amsterdam - and have never seen any lane like this disaster. Just put a one-way lane on the right side where IT BELONGS!

( And let me tell you, SPEEDING BIKERS ARE AS BIG A MENACE AS SPEEDING DRIVERS. They should be ticketed for not yielding to ped's. And yes, that was me yelling at you last week if you're the one that almost hit that nice couple at full speed without a shout or sound of warning! )

The goal is to make everywhere safer for EVERYBODY, yes? GET RID OF THIS MADDENING, TREACHEROUS, DOUBLY DANGEROUS BIKE LANE ON PPW.
Thank you.
July 14, 2011, 11:47 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
@ Moriice

Yes, pedestrians constantly cross from between parked cars.

Isn't it good there is a 2 and a half foot wide buffer between the parked cars and the bike lane so a biker can see them.

Most bike lanes (and almost all driving lanes) are up against the parked cars so this design is a lot safer for pedestrians and bikers.

If it makes you feel better you can always ride you bike on the right side of the road. Just watch out you don't get doored.
July 15, 2011, 7:20 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off, I live in Westchester County, not LI, so enough with the misinformation Steve. Just today on the City Room, I was look at a video on whether it's right or wrong to have cars going through Central Park. I think that it should be allowed, because they will help in easing traffic, and the same goes for Prospect Park. Anyone who says that drivers go at intense speeds on park drives, I can easily the same for cyclists. I can still remember when I was going to cross a park drive to get the Delecorte Theater, some cyclists whizzed by at high speeds despite the fact that the light was red, and I had the walk signal, which shows how little respect they have for the rules. It's about time cyclists start practicing what they preach rather than try to be execeptions to the rule.
July 15, 2011, 2:24 pm
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
Bikes at "high speeds?" What high speeds? 20mph as opposed to the 35 mph that cabs routinely exceed in Central Park?

Your hatred of bicyclists and fear of life has really turned you into a moron incapable of any logic. Steve from Brooklyn's right; you're over and done with.
July 15, 2011, 2:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Can I please ask what is with the personal attacks here? How old are you anyway? Also, you didn't hear me calling you something like that. Where I come from, only little children act like that. Then again, I have always heard about cyclists behaving like Peter Pans acting as if they never grow up. I never said that I hate cyclists, just the way how some tend to act such as what you are doing right now. Such an attitude is what gives the good cyclists a bad name. Perhaps, you need to stop drinking that Haterade you like so much.
July 15, 2011, 4:59 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

You are getting attacked because you are talking about something that actually affects US. You are misinformed and uninformed and commenting on issues that actually affect the live of the people who are "attacking" you.

Go away ant tell them how to paint the parking spot lines in your nearest mall.
July 15, 2011, 7:04 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

Do you understand that people are taking time out of their lives to make things better.

It is not about giving out tickets, it is about posting and enforcing rules that are clear and make sense.

So if you get upset because people are calling you names for butting in in areas that you do not understand then GO AWAY.
July 15, 2011, 7:14 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, cut it out already! I don't stop anyone here from commenting, so neither should you. Too bad if I disagree with you, but live with it. Some parks are so big, that they can create traffic on the surrounding streets. Allowing for cars to use the park drives durring the morning and evening rush hours eases that traffic. I won't argue with you that the park predates motor vehicles, but that doesn't mean that they can't be adapted to use them. Before there were cars that people had to watch for, there were horses, and don't tell me that there were no accidents with them. I am so tired of cyclists such as you always acting as if this was Animal Farms and you are those special animals that are exempt from the rules. For the record, I don't paint lines at a parking lot, I work at a recycling center. It would be very interesting for what you do for a living, but you probably don't have a job or even a life.
July 15, 2011, 9:19 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Tal

I don't care what you really do.

I am trying to say that your opinion is uninformed and often misinformed.

You are also commenting on things that hardly affect you.

I can't stop you, and I am not arguing with you. I just wanna make sure the other people reading this know that you don't know what you are talking about.
July 15, 2011, 9:28 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville says:
Other Michael, that coulnd't have been me posting at 10:19 because I was busy shaving my mother's legs! On a side note, I don't stop anyone here from commenting, so neither should you. Too bad if I disagree with you, but live with it. The purpose of debating is to debunk what deserves to be debunked, and only the undebunkables fail to see this. Whether the issue is Israel, Bloomberg, Chad Kroeger's excellent voice, the Twin Towers, or the WNBA (of which I am a world class expert). Disagreeing with the person posing as myself, I don't work in a recycling center, but deliver expired Kentucky fried chicken to homeless people in my nieghborhood. Car owners pay for the roads for cars. If bicyclists want to build separate lanes for bikes, let them do it out of their own pocket.

Please stop with the name calling. I respected your views and I would ask that you do the same for me.
Aug. 12, 2011, 12:59 pm
liam from kensington says:
I stopped cycling in the park during car hours because of the chaos in the bike lanes (completely overrun by pedestrians, all of whom are wearing earphones so they can't hear you ask them to move).

I can't for the life of me understand why there are cars there at all. Maybe in 70's when the park was viewed as 'dangerous' it made sense to open it to cars, but it really shouldn't be part of a someone's commute. I also don't see such a heavy volume of cars to suggest the park route is even necessary.

I personally think if cars are allowed at all they should roll single file; the left car lane should be appropriated for bikes and the bike/ped lanes should be a ped lane only.
Nov. 12, 2011, 12:01 pm
bklyndave62 from dufto (down under F train overpass) says:
Cars should be out of the park 100% of the time.
Bicyclists should adhere to ALL TRAFFIC REGULATIONS!
Pedestrians should adhere to ALL TRAFFIC REGULATIONS.

Why have signs and regs/laws if there is no enforcement.

doh!!

Praying for you Ms. Cohen
Nov. 14, 2011, 12:24 pm

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