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.

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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