Prospect Park West Bike Lane Target of Lawsuit

Dedicated bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West (Courtesy Steven Vance)

Dedicated bike lane along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West (Courtesy Steven Vance)

That thin ribbon of green paint along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West sure is a touchy subject for residents of the Park Slope neighborhood, and beyond–they’re even talking about it in London. Many love the new separated bike lane installed in June 2010–the “pro-laners”–but a vocal group packing some political power would rather see the lane removed–the “anti-laners.”

Dedicated bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West (Courtesy Steven Vance)

Dedicated bike lane along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West (Courtesy Steven Vance)

We’re not kidding when we say the anti-laners are up in arms, either. According to a Gothamist report, one resident wielding a bullhorn shouted to bystanders that the new bike path “mutilated” the broad boulevard. After threatening legal action for a month, two area organizations, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety, have now filed a lawsuit requesting the lane’s removal, which should make CB6’s public hearing on Thursday night more lively than usual. StreetsBlog summarizes the complaint:

It argues that DOT acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, with conclusions made irrationally or in bad faith. It argues that the bike lane did not properly go through the necessary processes given the landmarked status of the Park Slope neighborhood and Prospect Park. And finally, it argues that an environmental review was necessary to assess the impact of the lane on the historic character of the area.

Among the anti-laners are Iris Weinshall, a former NYC DOT commissioner who just happens to be married to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, and former Sanitation Commissioner Norman Steisel. Anti-laners have also argued that the Prospect Park bike lane has remade crossing the street as a pedestrian into an urban adventure. Local resident and Huffington Post blogger Paul LaRosa wrote that Prospect Park West “now resembles that old video game Frogger where you need to keep looking and back and forth to avoid getting splattered by a car or a bike.”

Opposing the lawsuit, Councilman Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope, said a survey of the neighborhood shows the majority of residents support for the bike lane. The Park Slope Civic Association also falls in the pro-laner camp. Association president Michael Cairl told Transportation Nation, “Prospect Park West before the reconfiguration had been a speedway. It was unsafe to cross, it was unsafe to cycle on, it wasn’t all that safe to drive on.”

The anti-laners submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the DOT’s raw data, finding flaws with the results. Their sentiments are echoed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz who also questioned the validity of the DOT data. He suggested that the original study to determine the feasibility of the bike lane should have been done by an outside agency to make it more impartial.

As different parts of the city create new bike-car combinations, it’s inevitable that there will be some clashes. We’ll keep an eye out for the implications for our built environment as cases like these plays out in court and on the street.

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