Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prospect Park West Bike Lane, Tonight's Community Board 6 Meeting

 I attended tonight's meeting, which easily drew several hundred community members from Park Slope and some neighboring areas.  The meeting literally and figuratively started at about 90 degrees, but the heat did come down, though the passions stayed high.  Approximately 40-60 people spoke for and against the bike lanes and, as someone who was not very familiar with the history of the lanes and current concerns, I found the discussion to be very constructive and informative.  While the focus of the meeting was to discuss the DOT's proposed safety and aesthetic improvements to the lane, much of the opposition was arguing for outright removal of the lane, or a compromise which would involve replacing the two-way lane with a one-way lane that flows with the one-way traffic, and then opening another lane inside the park to travel in the other direction. This was rather non-spontaneously proposed by most of the opponents, several of which were from organized advocacy groups like Seniors for Safety and Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes (who are currently suing the DOT to remove the lanes).  The current bike lane set up, although with some modifications, was largely supported by residents at the meeting, and also evidenced by a recent survey conducted by CB6 and local City Council Members.

One of the most interesting perspectives came out of an exchange with a resident from Carrol Gardens who was lightly heckled by at least one audience member with words to the effect of "you don't live here", when he spoke in support of the lanes. While the meeting was largely passionate, but civil, this heckler's comment brought about responses from other speakers who essentially made the point that Prospect Park belongs to all of us, including residents from outside the Slope. Interestingly, according to the surveys, support for the lanes is highest among residents who live further away from the lanes (approximately 50% on PPW, 70% in Park Slope and higher outside of Park Slope).  Yet many of us like me who grew up in other parts of Brooklyn, or even outside of Brooklyn, may have used the park since we were kids and have an interest in safety and the quality of the park and the bike lanes. It's a part of our life, though perhaps to a less extent than someone who views the park from their kitchen window. Overall, I got the sense that most people at the meeting agreed that the park belongs to the people of Brooklyn at a minimum, if not the whole city.  The roughly 50% of the PPW neighbors who oppose the lanes will clearly not have a veto in this debate, unless the courts side with them.

As a non-board member of the CB6 Public Safety, Environmental and Permits/Licensing Committee I look forward to further discussions on how to improve the lanes, though I am leaning toward supporting improvements to the current configuration that will enhance pedestrian safety and address traffic issues.  There were important concerns raised about double parking, visibility of bikes to pedestrians crossing, and enforcement of both vehicular and bicycle traffic on PPW. There certainly needs to be a strong education and enforcement strategy in place moving forward.

Here's some recent press on the CB6 meeting and lawsuit challenging the lane under Article 78 as "arbitrary and capricious". There will be many articles tomorrow and I will post some links:

1 comment:

  1. As someone who bikes both for commuting and for recreation, I strongly support the current bike lane. Not only does it improve cyclist safety but it also improves safety for pedestrians. Further, the calming effect it has had on the traffic down PPW (which was formerly replete with speeders) improves safety for motorists as well.

    - Byron