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An Open Letter to CB6 on the PPW Bike Lane

The attorney for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety pens an open letter to Community Board 6.

Dear Messrs Hammerman and Kummer:

I represent Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety.  My clients ask that you read the following at tonight's meeting.

As you know, the current bike lane configuration on Prospect Park West is very rare.  Only one other lane like it in the City exists, and that lane does not border a public park.

For this reason, the Department of Transportation ("DOT") promised this community (and this Community Board) a rigorous study.  DOT's study was anything but rigorous. Our expert witness - who actually looked through all the data - highlighted many problems with DOT's data collection and analysis, not the least of which was DOT's decision to hide the trend line for crashes and injuries.  When the expert examined the data, he found that crashes and injuries were falling precipitously until the installation of the bike lane - and then spiked after its installation.

DOT has failed to explain, let alone justify, why it decided not to present all the data at the meeting on January 20.  DOT failed to explain, let alone justify, why it used "averaged" pre-installation numbers, which hid the actual trend.  Even if it believed averaging was appropriate, do you think it was an accident that DOT did not plot the data, describe the trend, and explain why they used an "average"?  Of course it was no mistake. DOT withheld the data until after the meeting for a single purpose: DOT did not want to be challenged about the obvious and troubling impact of the bike lane on the numbers.

This is consistent with DOT's decision to enlist an individual (the "Blogger") to wage a viral campaign against critics of the PPW configuration, many of whom support bike lanes generally, including on Prospect Park West.  You have seen the emails yourself. There is no dispute about what happened: DOT said "counterattack" and “neutralize."  The Blogger responded by posting blog commentary (directly and through intermediaries) containing the most unseemly and inappropriate attacks, some of which were anti-senior citizen in word and spirit. Having read the blogs, DOT found them "quite enjoyable."  The Blogger then promised to continue to "smack [critics] down hard."

Is this Community Board prepared to tolerate this conduct from public officials, with whom it has regular dealings and on whom it relies?  The Community Board has remained silent, which suggests the Board has determined (without any public discussion) DOT need not be called to account for this action.  The silence suggests that the Community Board has determined (without any public discussion) that DOT's conduct does not have bearing on the reliability of the data these same officials put out to the community.

If the Community Board has, in fact, made such conclusions, my clients believe the conclusions are inconsistent with the greater public good. 

As you know, I wrote earlier this week to try to have a meaningful discussion about the other alternatives to the current bike-lane configuration on PPW, of which there are several.  We have heard nothing from you.  Again, this inaction is inconsistent with the greater public good. 

We hope you appreciate the following: my clients are not alone in our outrage over DOT's data manipulation.  Editorials in the Daily News and NY Post have decried DOT's data manipulations in other contexts.  Indeed, many people believe it is modus operandi for the DOT. Even today, NYU published data suggesting that DOT's bike count information is woefully unreliable.  Not surprisingly, DOT is resisting our efforts to obtain more documents through the Freedom of Information process.  Again, the contradictions and opacity should concern the Community Board.

At some later point, CB6's actions, and inaction, will be judged against a broader context, including the evident problems with DOT's data.  We hope the Board makes the right decision tonight by deferring any vote until after a full and meaningful discussion about alternative configurations, which will include more pointed questions for DOT about the various decisions it made to "sell" a dangerous bike lane to your community.

Very truly yours,

Jim Walden
On behalf of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety

The Community Board 6 General Board met on Wednesday evening. This letter was not read aloud at the meeting.


Park Lover April 16, 2011 at 03:51 PM
One day was the longest time period available to the DOT to collect the data? Wow, they must have a lot on their plates... ride 'em Janette!!!
Mark April 16, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, Tyler! I went back to the city's report and it specifically says, "The Health Department, in partnership with Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College, City University of New York, is collecting air samples at 150 LOCATIONS THROUGHOUT THE CITY." (emphasis added) Are you misreading or are you deliberately stating the same invalid argument again and again in attempt to make it seem true? There is nothing at all in the report to indicate that the city deliberately tried to measure pollution on the "new" bus routes or on streets where there has been increased traffic. The fact that they found decreased solution in the times Sq area, when traffic was diverted elsewhere is not exactly surprising. I'm not sure how you could read, "When the expert examined the data, he found that crashes and injuries were falling precipitously until the installation of the bike lane - and then spiked after its installation" and come to the conclusion that, "Walden's preferred methods ... still shows improvements!!" Chill, tyler!
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 04:27 PM
THERE ARE THREE LINES on the graphs for the Times Square reconfiguration report! (a) Times Square, (b) Midtown Sites, and (c) THE NON-MIDTOWN CITY AVERAGE. These are subsets of the total number of sampling sites. Is this really that hard to grasp?! Something happens in (a), and they look at (b) and (c) to see if there is impact. (a) is improved. and (b) and (c) is not really impacted. Get it?! YES, like I said, there are 150 sampling site around the city. Your emphasis is just stupid. Sorry, it is.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Injuries did not "spike" after the installation of the bike lane... that is simply not in the data. It really isn't. It really really really isn't. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/prospectparkwest.shtml Second PDF -- "with underlying data". The crash data is at at the end. But since you can't even figure out how the air monitoring comparison works... I'm thinking you're not going to be able to make anything of the source data (from the NYPD).
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 04:56 PM
And here is how the monitors work... www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/eode/nyccas-faq.pdf
Mark April 16, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Tyler, I hate to say that you are dense, but.... Where are these "midtown sites"? With the many tall buildings in Manhattan, each street is like a specific mini-climate. How many "midtown sites" are there out of 150 for the ENTIRE CITY and exactly where are they? No specifics means that erroneous or misleading conclusions can easily be drawn. As to spiking or not spiking, the DOT article to which you link gives some data to support your point, but also shows large increases, year-to-year, in bike crashes for August, September, and )especially) November. Not exactly straightforward. Of course, the DOT "before" data is the average over a 3 year period, so how valid their conclusions are is a matter of debate. I believe this, as well as other questions, is causing Walden, NBBL, and S4S to bring their lawsuit.
Chicken Underwear April 16, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Yes, steadier. Three lanes leads to weaving and everybody races to each read light. and I cross PPW at Carroll Street and I have noticed that there is less speeding traffic and that it is only bumper to bumper when someone is double parked.
Mark April 16, 2011 at 05:04 PM
No one is questioning the actual working of the monitors. Well, who knows, perhaps someone is, but I am not. However, the link you cite talks about "random" placement of monitors. A relatively small random sample is unlikely to detect differences in SPECIFIC locations, especially when those locations are mini-environments.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 05:07 PM
What if the monitoring sites were exactly where the traffic was redirected? I still don't think you'd "buy" the results. If you're as intelligent as I think you may actually be... the "as well as other questions" are the basis of the NBBL/SFS lawsuit. The DOT data is just a trumped up charge to pretend credibility.
Chicken Underwear April 16, 2011 at 05:09 PM
" Of course, the DOT "before" data is the average over a 3 year period, so how valid their conclusions are is a matter of debate." When comparing data over time one should use the longest periods of time available and use the average.
Mark April 16, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Actually, Chicken, data collected over the longest period of time is not necessarily the best. One could go back a century and average that period. Almost surely, there would be a HUGE percentage increase in crashes when that is the reference period. A year to year comparison, however, might be more valid. I can't tell since the data are not there, but there still remains that pesky 133% increase for November as well as the two other months of fairly large increases. Tyler, since those other monitoring sites are NOT exactly where the traffic was redirected, your point is moot. One cannot draw firm conclusions based on questionable data just as one does not pave roads over quicksand. The fact that I believe the DOT does whatever it can to obfuscate the situation (many situations, not just Times Sq and PPW) makes me highly dubious of whatever they say. You know, in court, if the judge catches you in a lie your credibility is pretty much shot. Do I and NBBL/S4S/Walden want to see these lanes shot down? Yes, but that does not mean that our arguments are invalid.
Chicken Underwear April 16, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Going back 100 years is as unreasonable as only using 6 months.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Mark - Why do you want PPW to go away? Really why?
Park Lover April 16, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Six months WAS the longest period available for comparison after the lane was put in and they were examining the data. Comparing previous data to six months worth of available data after installation.
Park Lover April 16, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Who has more to lose? The pro-bike movement or the wealthy, well-connected old people on PPW? I would like someone who supports the project to acknowledge that it's not perfect and that we ought to be working together to find a way to make sure it's actually is safer out there, not just for bikers and the tots they shamelessly parade at the CB6 meetings, but for everyone. I agree that we should look for ways to reduce auto use and increase viable alternatives' infrastructure, but how can you be so smug in your assertions that it's safer when the evidence, empirical and anecdotal, suggests otherwise? What the bikers don't seem to realize that by betting everything on this configuration and being so intransigent about wanting to even consider possibility that it could be made safer, could end up costing them far more than this bike land. If NBBL/SFS lose, they simply go away. But if the bike advocates lose, it's going to cast a long shadow over any future bike lane innovations. Wouldn't it be smarter to consider making this lane more conventional so NBBL and SFS will just go away and we can continue building the infrastructure in other locations around the city? I'm sensing from reading the newspapers that the people who have generally accepted the installation of bike lanes as an immovable object are beginning to realize that they might just be able to push back, and they like it. Just a thought.
Kevin Beers April 16, 2011 at 06:17 PM
What is this thing you have with double parking? Did you have some sort of traumatic incident in your childhood where somebody had the family car boxed in? You need to see somebody about it. (Oh and I think in one comment you missed mentioning it.)
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 06:17 PM
What do you mean by "more conventional"? Do you mean something like an on-street, unprotected lane? Like these? http://nyc.mybikelane.com/ The fact is that improvements and tweaks were approved by CB6 just the other day. You heard about that, right? Again -- as I stated above. What empirical evidence has shown the bike lane has made the street MORE DANGEROUS? It has reduced the speeds of cars. Fact. The capacity of the road has not been negatively impacted. Fact. On the contrary, it is now a more "complete street" and the overall usage of the roadway has actually *increased* Do you know who has MOST to lose? The city. Not "bikers," but everyone. Larger roads (more lanes) does not equal better, more efficient roads. In fact, it's usually the opposite. 9th Street is a great example of this. How you remove two lanes, add a center left-turn lane and the traffic moves BETTER and cars don't continually change lanes, jockey for position, feel they have freedom to drive much too fast, etc. etc. THIS was the primary purpose of the PPW bike lane -- a "road diet" -- this is what the community called for!
Peter April 16, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Park Lover, The alternatives that have been suggested aren't viable. Returning PPW to a 3-lane configuration, and putting a class II bike lane in its' place fails for the following reasons: 1) It does not solve the problem of rampant speeding, which existed in the previous 3-lane configuration. 2) It does not solve the problem of riding on the sidewalk on PPW, which occurred with great frequency (bike lane would be 1-way, and would not be safe for children to ride on). 3) It does not solve the problem of a lack of a safe northbound route for bicyclists. A northbound class II bike lane cannot be put on 8th avenue, simply because 8th avenue is not wide enough, and again, drivers are too reckless for that road to be ridden upon safely. Paint stripes do not protect pedestrians or bicyclists. The so-called "2-way Prospect Park" solution is not workable because: 1) The loop is open to traffic during rush hours. 2) The roadway is too wide to have uncontrolled bi-directional traffic - it would be impossible for pedestrians to cross. 3) The park is closed at night. 4) The park has limited exits. Along PPW, there are only exits at GAP, 3rd street, and 15th street. It is not part of the urban grid, it is a park. NBBL/SFS have simply *failed* to provide alternatives that work anywhere near as well as the PPW bike lane. And my anecdotal evidence suggests the lane is beautiful, safe, and extremely popular.
Kevin Beers April 16, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Tyler you need to get out of your room and go for a bike ride.
Paula April 16, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Jim Walden absolutely should be disbarred because of this. I hope a full investigation shows why he chose to take this case pro bono and what political connections he hoped to please. The case has little to no merit, even from the perspective of someone whonis agnostic on the subject of bike lanes.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 08:45 PM
I don't know if you can be disbarred for doing pro bono work that doesn't fall under the "of limited means" definition of the NYS Bar Association. And he's probably within Gibson Dunn's policy... even though they do state on their website that their committment to pro bono work is "our attorneys have provided access to justice for those who could not otherwise afford it." I guess that's not a requirement, just that they've done it. However, for the image of his law firm, Jim Walden should not have characterized this as pro bono work. He should have simply called this legal counsel "at a reduced rate" because he feel personally invested or whatever reason he could come up with. Calling this work pro bono (given the nature of his clients) really does harm to the idea of pro bono work.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 08:46 PM
And shouldn't you be in Maine?
Kevin Beers April 16, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Are you a stalker Tyler? That kinda creeps me out.
Tyler April 16, 2011 at 09:27 PM
No, I vaguely recognized your name, so I googled you. You website says you spend your summers away from Brooklyn and all of this paternalistic, anti-community government overreach.
Mark April 16, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Apparently, Chicken, you do not recognize sarcasm. I think that the lanes are really unnecessary and part of Bloomie's paternalistic approach to government with Bloomie being the all-knowing father. I would rather live my life without a billionaire overlord. It is perfectly possible to ride bikes southbound along PPW even during rush hours without bike lanes. We're talking PPW here, not Flatbush Ave from GAP to the Manhattan Bridge! During off-peak hours, there simply is not so much vehicular traffic. I've been down PPW during that time and really, the roads are pretty clear and the northbound avenues are also not very busy. The only problem I've encountered, and in a very limited fashion, is of cars pulling out into the lane I was using. It simply means that you cannot race down PPW without a care. Unfortunately, this is the city, not a country lane. As to the nighttime (discussed by a later poster), during the wee hours there is so little traffic that a blind person could ride PPW unmolested.
Mark April 16, 2011 at 11:28 PM
That sounds like stalking behavior to me.
Joanna Smith April 17, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Okay, stop right now, All. Googling somebody does not constitute stalking. Filing a lawsuit is not the way to solve a neighborhood issue. I think you should all meet up for coffee at Tea Lounge and reaffirm that you are all people who care about the neighborhood...and most essentially, that you are all real flesh & blood humans who shouldn't rely exclusively on this kind of virtual discourse to talk about something very important.
Chicken Underwear April 17, 2011 at 01:59 AM
I am really good at sarcasm. and yes it was possible to ride a bike on PPW, but not safe. Now it is better.
Paula April 17, 2011 at 02:57 AM
I agree. Maybe everyone should meet for a walk down Prospect Park West and have a civil conversation and stop this stubbornness.
mjd April 19, 2011 at 01:59 PM
My wife, my kids and I totally enjoyed our safe ride north on the PPW bike lane to the greenmarket on Sat, then turned into the park for the ride south home where a rude spandexista snapped at my kids for not steering straight even though they were. Would a smile kill you, Lance? I commend CB6 members and their dedicated, volunteer service to the community. Jim Walden's law firm ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting him take the case pro bono (if it's because of a political relationship, then admit it), and then phoning it in---not bothering to appear in person : "At some later point, CB6's actions, and inaction, will be judged against a broader context, including the evident problems with DOT's data. " This veiled threat is unconscionable.

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