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Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West Bike Lane Sparks Fierce Local Debate

Posted By Jessica Dailey On March 24, 2011 @ 1:20 pm In Brooklyn,News,Politics,Transportation | No Comments

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Unless you’ve been living (in New York) under a rock for the last nine months, you’ve probably heard about the Prospect Park West bike lane. Installed last June, the lane seemed to be just another positive step forward for Department of Transportation [3] commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn [4]‘s pro-bike agenda. But local residents began protesting the lane almost immediately, and now the fight has erupted into a full-blown battle that will be decided in court. On March 7th, two anti-PPW bike lane groups filed a lawsuit [5] against the DOT and Sadik-Kahn, seeking to have the bike lane removed.

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What started as a seemingly harmless nimby argument [6] has become a high-profile case being discussed around the world [7]. Matt Seaton of The Guardian [7] writes that the career of Sadik-Kahn, who has “been an effective and high-profile champion of public transportation, pedestrianisation projects and pro-cycling measures” is at stake, along with the future of a greener New York:

And on her fate rests the whole future of transportation and traffic management public policy in the city of New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is under considerable pressure to admit that the lieutenant he once charged with delivering his own ambitious “greenprint” for a sustainable city, PlaNYC [8], has become a PR liability. If he now hangs Sadik-Khan out to dry, it will be a huge setback for PlaNYC, and a major reversal for progressive transport policy.

To create the PPW bike lane [9], the DOT reconfigured the boulevard to have two lanes of traffic instead of three. The third has been converted in the bright green, two-way bike lane. A row of parking spaces protects cyclists from drivers; six parking spaces were eliminated in the conversion.. The lane runs 19-blocks through Park Slope from Grand Army Plaza at the tip of Prospect Park to Bartel-Pritchard Square. Flashing lights and reflective signs help modulate new traffic patterns.

New York Cyclists rejoiced [10] when the lane was laid down. Anti-laners complained [11] that the lane was an eyesore and a safety hazard that was forced on them without proper community input, even though it was officially approved by the neighborhood’s community board before it was built. In January, the DOT declared the bike lane a success [12], saying that the number of weekday riders nearly tripled and the number of speeding vehicles decreased from three in four to one in five. A different survey, issued by the community board and council members, found that neighborhood residents approved of the bike lane by a 3 to 1 margin [13]. Additional community board meetings [14] have shown similar approval.

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The disgruntled residents insist that the DOT manipulated data and suppressed criticism to ensure the lane’s approval. To formalize their protesting, they formed a group called Neighbors for Better Bikes Lanes (NBBL), which, along with Seniors for Safety, filed the lawsuit. They are being represented by Jim Walden of the highly-regarded law firm Gibson Dunn, and Park Slope’s councilman Brad Lander is representing the opposition.

One member of NBBL, Louise Hainline, a dean at Brooklyn College, has set up a camera to record activity on the bike lane. She told New York Magazine [15] that she has collected hundreds of hours of footage that prove the DOT inflated figures about the lane’s usage and benefits, which is the basis of their lawsuit.

If the lawsuit succeeds, which many believe it will not [16], it could effect the future of cycling not only in New York, but around the world. After all, many see New York is the world’s greatest city, looking to it as an example of how urban life should be. It is the template for all other cities. Seaton says it best [7]: “If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim.”

Images via PPW Bike Lane Support Group [17]


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[1] Share on Tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://inhabitat.com/nyc/brooklyns-prospect-park-west-bike-lane-sparks-fierce-local-debate/

[3] Department of Transportation: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/home/home.shtml

[4] Janette Sadik-Kahn: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/commbio.shtml

[5] two anti-PPW bike lane groups filed a lawsuit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/08/group-files-suit-over-pro_n_832803.html

[6] nimby argument: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/weekinreview/13nimby.html?_r=1

[7] discussed around the world: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2011/mar/09/new-york-bike-lane-cycling

[8] his own ambitious “greenprint” for a sustainable city, PlaNYC: http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/html/home/home.shtml

[9] create the PPW bike lane: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/23/ps_ppwbikelane_2010_06_04_bk.html

[10] New York Cyclists rejoiced: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/32/dtg_ppwbikelane_2010_08_06_bk.html

[11] Anti-laners complained: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/26/ps_ppwbikelane_2010_06_25_bk.html

[12] the DOT declared the bike lane a success: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/prospectparkwest.shtml

[13] residents approved of the bike lane by a 3 to 1 margin: http://bradlander.com/ppwsurvey

[14] community board meetings: http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/03/11/who-supports-the-prospect-park-west-bike-lane/

[15] New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/news/features/bike-wars-2011-3/

[16] many believe it will not: http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/03/23/law-profs-ppw-lawsuit-unlikely-to-succeed/

[17] PPW Bike Lane Support Group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=133290126693460&v=photos#!/group.php?gid=133290126693460&v=wall

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