If there was one story that captured the imaginations and spleens of our readers this year, it was the loathed and loved Prospect Park West bike lane. There was a lawsuit, several mass rallies, and even a Sphinx-like, bike-riding senator who happens to be married to the bike lane’s biggest opponent. Here’s a look back at how the 17-block path became the most controversial slab of cement outside of the Gaza Strip.
Battle is on!: A well-connected group of bike lane foes — headed by former Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall and former Sanitation Commissioner Norman Steisel — launch a plan to sue the city after it removed a lane of car traffic to install a two-way bike lane.
Rough riders: Cyclists stick up for their embattled bike path, saying the well-connected group of opponents doesn’t represent bike-lovin’ Brooklyn. “It’s a small group of wealthy, powerful people,” says Park Slope cycling advocate Eric McClure. “They are trying to play on political connections.”
Court day cometh: Bike foes — dubbed Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes — file a lawsuit against the city, demanding the lane be dismantled, claiming it turned the scenic street into a treacherous war zone. They also allege the city lied to make the bike lane seem more popular than it really is. Media from Los Angeles to London pick up the story.
Lane lovers: Hundreds of cyclists stage a ride in Park Slope to show support for their beloved bike route, handing out buttons that read, “We ride the lane!” Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) releases a study that backs that up.
Bring it on!: The city defends itself in court, saying the bike lane is a safe, traffic-calming device installed at the request of the community — and only after extensive analysis. Installing the lane was “rational and reasonable in all respects,” court documents declare.
Beep’s two sense: Borough President Markowitz — long famous for his opposition to the lane — claims the city is lying to protect the controversial path. He notes in a sworn statement that Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told him it was simply a “trial” project — legal minutia that could make or break the court case.
Swear to tell: Lawyers subpoena Lander and Khan — who both backed the lane — to testify in court about fudged bike lane data.
Ride on!: A judge rules bike lane foe’s lawsuit is “without merit” — and the city wins the mammoth case on a minor statue of limitations technicality. The bike lane stays — for now. Lane foes say they intend to file another suit.
Party time: Celebration, bragging ensues.
Wheely scary!: Rubber-burning editor Gersh Kuntzman dresses up like a bike lane for Halloween in what many believe is the scariest costume of all time.
Uneasy rider: Bianchi bike-riding Sen. Charles Schumer — who is married to lane foe Weinshall — stonewalls a Brooklyn Paper reporter who asks if he rides on Prospect Park West. “I haven’t been commenting on that,” he says.
Bikelash: Cyclists slam the city for abandoning a planned bike path on Plaza Street West that was supposed to link up with the Prospect Park West lane. Many wonder if the city was simply scared of another year-long fight.
Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.