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After Accident, Petition Calls to Make Prospect Park Roadways Safer

After a bicycle-pedestrian collision, a petitioner says the park needs clearer road rules.

Prospect Park is out of control—at least according to a new petition that calls for better-defined road rules on the park’s main thoroughfare.

After a cyclist-pedestrian accident in the park last month left the pedestrian hospitalized with broken bones and a brain injury, Kensington resident Mark Simpson, 44, decided to draft a petition calling for roadway safety in the park.

“Since park use seems to be growing, more and more incidents seem to be happening,” said Simpson, a lighting designer and avid cyclist. “A few accidents seem to have put more of a burden on cyclists breaking the rules, but going around the park I’ve also dodged so many pedestrian who didn’t look before crossing.”

Simpson’s petition calls for several measures that he says would help improve park traffic safety, including painting lanes on the main drive to more accurately reflect which lanes are for cyclists and which are for runners and pedestrians (the current painted bicycle lane is meant to be used only when the park is open to car traffic). He would also like to add more signage clearly displaying intended lane usage, move fast bikes to the center lanes, double the number of crosswalks and place yellow flashing lights into the crosswalk lines at the traffic signal crosswalks, where cyclists would be required to stop and wait for any pedestrians to cross before moving onward.

“The current signage is confusing,” he said. “The bike lane isn’t where bikes are supposed to be. Right now it’s every man for himself. There seems to be one school of pedestrians who think they have the right of way and its up to cyclist to avoid them. Others are scared to cross even when they have the light.”

Simpson hopes that his petition will provide a more moderate plan for improving park safety than that some of the ideas that have been proposed on the local Kensington-Windsor Terrace Yahoo! group, which include banning all fast cycle riders from the park.

“There were people calling to ban fast riders from the park,” he said.  “I was looking for a more rational approach to how to make the park safer.

Simpson plans to present the petition to the Prospect Park Alliance and Councilmember Brad Lander once enough signatures have been gathered.

Prospect Park did not respond to a request for comment before our deadline.

Lauren Thompson July 03, 2011 at 02:23 PM
The problem of bike riders, skate boarders, etc. going the wrong way on the park drive needs to be addressed also. How about a few signs directing the wrong way riders to the bike lane on PPW; that's an easy section to deal with. Other sections of the park drive don't have safe or convenient alternatives. It's also possible that some people don't know they shouldn't be riding against traffic, so how about signs especially for them: 1. Yo, does this look like a two way street to you? 2. You're going the wrong way! 3. Please don't ride against traffic. Use the street or bike lane outside the park! 4. Riding against traffic = [crash symbol] 5. Bikers, if you can read this sign, you are riding against traffic! 6. Don't ride against traffic! These would work! Or come up with better ones. Robert Thompson
Tom July 03, 2011 at 02:31 PM
"There seems to be one school of pedestrians who think they have the right of way and its up to cyclist to avoid them. Others are scared to cross even when they have the light.” Read the Vehicle and Traffic Law, Pedetrians DO HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY, the VTL, covers Motor Vehicles, as well as bicycles. The liability is simple, it will come down to who was at greater fault.
Parksloper July 03, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Bikes need to follow the rules of the road. Stop at red lights. Period. Inside the park they ride anywhere from 5 to 20 close together like they're Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France and never do they stop or even slow down for pedestrians. Even the solo riders are a**holes. Add to that the regular bike riders who ride in the small lane sectioned off for pedestrians. Then about 2x a week you now have the runners with their little numbers on their backs who never move over as they are running right towards you. Last week one girl was sitting in the back of an ambulance and 2 days later I saw two bikes collide. It's a nightmare. One father was crossing the road carrying all his bbq stuff yelling at his little kid to run faster as they were crossing the road. It's ridiculous. No way could those bikes stop in time if that kid fell.
Czerny July 03, 2011 at 03:58 PM
How about some "traffic calming" measures for cyllsts? Rather than having the cylists share the open park road where they can ride willy-nilly, a dedicated two-way lane can be built with extra parking (for bar-b-quers) on one side and a sidewalk for pedestrians on the other side. How's that for delineating turf? Oh, wait! Isn't there a bike lane just like that on PPW already? Oh, but wait again! How will pedestrians cross the road? Why don't we build bridges like those over the FDR Drive for pedestrians to cross with pylons to accommodate elevators for the disabled? Alternatively, why don't we just have a schedule designating the times when pedestrians are banned from the park for their own safety and the park is exclusive for the use of cyclists?
I am a pedestrian. I do not drive a car anymore, although once in a while, I am a passenger in one. In my experience, bicyclists are the most dangerous group in traffic: I am very careful when crossing the street, but many times I have been almost run over by a bicyclist. Never by a car. I cannot tell you how many times I have crossed the street (when the light is on "walk", i.e. in favor of me) and a bicyclist who, unlike the cars that have stopped, has almost ran me over. For decades I have noticed that bicyclists seem to have this obnoxious feeling of entitlement, as if they have the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want - and that traffic laws are not for them. Yes, there are bicyclist that follow traffic rules, but they seem to be in a minority. Even parents with little kids on their bikes, are stunningly sloppy in their driving habits, driving outside the bike lanes (when there is nothing blocking those lanes), ignoring red lights, etc. Once, on the Brooklyn Bridge, when I was taking photographs (standing way on the side of the walkway), a fast moving bicyclist HIT me on the back, exclaiming that I was "in the bike lane". Even if I was, that was no reason to assault me. I wish I had had means to identify him. I have observed that way too many times bicyclists misbehave and then get away with it.
I think that all bicycles that drive anywhere in the public should have to be registered and have to have a license plate. Bicyclists should pay a license fee, just like car owners do and they should also be required to pass a driving test, to check that they do know the traffic rules. Too many times I have seen bicyclists deliberately driving in the middle of a car lane, deliberately slowing down traffic. When cars have honked, the bicyclist has ignored them, obviously being so filled with "I am entitled" thoughts, that he has somehow felt justified in causing a huge traffic jam (causing more pollution), even though they could easily let the cars pass. There seems to be lots of very aggressive men out there on bicycles. Once I was a passenger in a car and the driver (a very considerate one) lightly honked, just to warn a bicyclist who swerved out of the bike lane. The goal was to make the bicyclist aware that a car was behind him and about to pass him. He got "aware" all right. For the next 3 blocks (on a narrow Prospect Heights street) the bicyclist was trying to keep up with us, screaming at us with a face twisted in rage, ranting: "YOU DON'T WANT TO SHARE ... HUH!!??!!!", repeating it numerous times. Talk about projection: it was quite clear that the only one that did not want to share was this man on a bicycle.
Paula July 04, 2011 at 06:06 PM
This year, 75 people have died in car accidents in New York City, most of them pedestrians. Cyclists have killed zero people. So while cyclists may seem more dangerous than cars, and lord knows a lot more need to follow the rules, they are not nearly the problem anyone makes them out to be. The numbers don't back up the threat. The issue is cars in the park. If we got rid of cars hours in the park, we could repaint the park roadway so that it was more clear who goes where. Bikes in the far right lane, a mix of people in the middle, and peds on the left. RC, sounds like you had a bad experience with a cyclist. That stinks. But did he try to sue you? Because that's what Czerny and her pals Louise Hainline and Iris Weinshall are doing to the bike lane and their neighbors on PPW. Talk about not wanting to share.
Paula: I am reporting my experience, not quoting "statistics". There was a pedestrian hospitalized with broken bones and a brain injury. Is that not serious enough? Do we really need people to be killed by bicyclists before the dangers caused by arrogant, rule-dodging bicyclists will be taken seriously? Of course there are plenty of well behaved, respectful and rule abiding bicyclists out there. Unfortunately they seem to be in such a minority that every time I see one, I notice. Also: I did not have "a" bad experience with a bicyclists. I have too many bad experiences with too many bicyclists - all caused by them. On top of that: countless times I have witnessed incredibly childish and bad behavior by (male) bicyclists. If everyone started reporting the near hits caused by bicyclists - and all the incidents of total disregard of traffic rules by bicyclists, the numbers you quote would be totally different. I, one person alone, would have way too many incidents to report. I have thought of starting videotaping bicyclists to show what the truth looks like, but too many times these incidents happen so quickly that they are virtually impossible to get it on video.
The only people who have -ever (50+ years)- put me in danger (as a pedestrian) have been bicyclists. The only reason I never got hurt was my own quick reaction. I am seeing more and more very bad behavior by bicyclists and I am getting quite fed up with it. I was a bicyclist when I was younger and I never thought I was entitled (or "better" than "those evil" cars): I followed rules, never caused traffic to slow down, and never caused danger to a single pedestrian. Why? Because I do not carry a delusional sense of entitlement: I know I am not the only one out there, I know we all need to be considerate and follow traffic rules. And most of all: I was a considerate driver (both car & bike) and new the golden rule: I, the driver of my vehicle (wether a bicycle or a car) was the one responsible for me and the way I drove. No-one else. Last: Paula, you ask if he did "try to sue" me. I guess you refer to the one that assaulted me while passing me on the BB. On the contrary, he could not pedal away fast enough. Why would a person who assaulted me, sue me? But, oh, I wish he had tried to sue me! So does my husband. But seriously? You are comparing physical assault -with a court proceeding about wanting to get rid of a bike lane ... ? Uhm...
P.S. I am not against the bike lane. I think it is a good thing. I am against bicyclists acting like they own the whole road inside the park. I am also against letting cars to drive on the road inside the park, but that is another matter.
Jerry July 06, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Yes, "statistics" are so troublesome, such as they reveal the truth of collective experience, not the random moments in one internet commenter's life. I'm a driver and even I wouldn't dare suggest that the problem of arrogant and entitled cyclists is as bad as the problem of arrogant and entitled drivers. Yes, there have been a handful of serious accidents involving bikes and peds, and they should not be diminished, but they pale in comparison to the deaths and injuries caused by cars. In the time since this article was posted, two cyclists were killed by cars in the city and at least three pedestrians also died. None were harmed by cyclists. So, Brooklyn Pedestrian, you are not wrong in citing your experience, but perhaps we should all focus our efforts and energy on where it will do the most good and save the most lives: on reckless drivers. Lastly, the reference to getting sued is a reference to Czerny and her friends Iris Weinshall, Louise Hainline, and Norman Steisel, who are suing to have the bike lane that you think is a good thing removed. You can see Czerny's name on a few emails to Marty Markowitz's office and other city officials trying to rid the neighborhood of this popular, pedestrian-safety-enhancing road feature.
Right. The fact that there are way more and more serious accidents caused by reckless car drivers, does not alter the fact that there is a gowning number dangerous and traffic-rule-breaking bicyclist that are an accident waiting to happen and that have already caused accidents to happen. Statistics often tell only a partial "truth" and it is easy to hide behind such "statistics". How interesting; this is a discussion about bicyclists, but when someone dares strongly speak out against the reckless ones, you try to switch to talking about cars. I also nowhere say that car drivers are angels [ I say: "The only people who have -ever (50+ years)- put me in danger (AS A PEDESTRIAN) have been bicyclists."]. Also: I nowhere said that cars do not cause accidents and even death, but this article was about bicycle accidents - and the fact is that the problem with arrogant rule-ignoring bicyclists is running rampant. To deny that is pure intellectual dishonesty. How hard would it to be intellectually honest and try to address the fact that there are way too many irresponsible bicyclists, instead of trying to belittle someone who dares speak about it. If I still were a bicyclist, I would be furious about the bad rap arrogant "me me me" - mentality bicyclists (mostly men) give the good bicyclist and I would be even more vocal against them. Denying that there is a big problem within the "bicycle community" is plainly silly.
Mark Simpson July 08, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Here are the New York laws: Pedestrians must obey traffic control signals when they are crossing a street (Sec. 1150). When there is no traffic control signal, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the crosswalk. (Sec. 1151). If there is no crosswalk, a pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway (Sec. 1152).
Park Sloperstein July 08, 2011 at 03:50 AM
"How hard would it to be intellectually honest and try to address the fact that there are way too many irresponsible bicyclists" The above statement is is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is your desire to lump together every different kind of person who happens to use a bicycle as "the bicycle community." In Park Slope alone I see bikes being used by food delivery guys on the avenues, Spandex-clad racers in the park, moms toting their kids to school on the side streets, office workers heading into Manhattan via the bridges, and on an on. There is no monolithic "bike community." Do you refer to everyone in a car as "the car community?" Do you refer to everyone walking on the sidewalk as "the pedestrian community?" Do you deny that this is ridiculous? It's ridiculous. You are ridiculous. When, say, a member of "the pedestrian community" crosses the street at a red light do you hold the entire "pedestrian community" responsible for this member's infraction of traffic law? Does the entire "pedestrian community" get tagged as "arrogant" in your book? Is this intellectually honest or dishonest? What does that mean and why do people like Rush Limbaugh always use that term, "intellectually honest." This seems like a term that people use when their arguments make not very much sense.
Parksloper July 08, 2011 at 02:59 PM
"Even more ridiculous is your desire to lump together every different kind of person who happens to use a bicycle as "the bicycle community."" I prefer Bike Zealots myself. Seriously, someone needs to get a life and find more important things to worry about.
Michelle July 08, 2011 at 06:14 PM
"I prefer Bike Zealots myself. Seriously, someone needs to get a life and find more important things to worry about." Says the person who leaves comment after comment on stories like this.
Wow. Instead of being intellectually honest and acknowledging that there indeed is quite a problem concerning reckless bicyclists who keep breaking rules and causing dangerous situations, "Park Sloperstein" makes a (lame) effort to ridicule the person who dares criticize reckless bicyclists. Sigh. Sounds like he/she could be one of them. "This seems like a term that people use when their arguments make not very much sense." Sorry, "Park Sloperstein", but your "arguments" are empty, meaningless. Your efforts to shift the discussion from the topic of bicyclists into an effort to ridicule what I wrote is less than an artful dodge. But if you do not understand the meaning of the concept of "intellectual honesty", well... I guess that explains it. Btw., I do criticize motorists, way more than I do bicycles, but this topic is about bicyclists. There are more and more bicyclists in the streets every year - and unfortunately quite a large percentage of them seem to think that no rules apply to them. Way too many of these rule breaking, danger causing and traffic-flow-disturbing bicyclist act like spoiled, badly brought up, "entitled" little boys in grown up men's bodies, who do not realize that they are not the center of the universe. If everyone took care and were considerate and abandoned the "me-me-me mentality", the streets would be a safer place.
Just yesterday I was (again!) almost hit by a speeding (male) bicyclist, who ran against a red light. All the cars had safely stopped: the pedestrians had the light, were crossing the street, and suddenly this *#$%& comes speeding trough the crowd, almost hitting me and another person. He continued, illegally, trough the red light, braving & hindering cars that had the light, coming from the other direction. One thing that makes bicycles potentially so dangerous, is that they are so silent. And not a single bicyclist that has almost hit me has bothered to make a warning sound, one way or another. I think pedestrian safety is a pretty important "thing"to pay attention to (or to "worry" about, as someone here expressed it) , especially since I (and many other pedestrians I have heard from) have had way too many close encounters with a bicyclists. I repeat a thought from above: How many serious bicyclist caused accidents do there need to be, before the problem is properly acknowledged? Bicycles need to be held accountable: they need to carry a license plate if they intend to ride in public, they need to take a test to make sure they know the rules. That's it. Moving on.
jill July 09, 2011 at 11:19 PM
"There seems to be one school of pedestrians who think they have the right of way and its up to cyclist to avoid them". These same pedestrians do this when crossing the streets and expect cars to avoid them -why not bikes? They seem to have no clue that they are at a red light flashing a "don't walk" signal at them. If driver is lucky, they look at the driver and smirk and cross anyway. The scariest thing is half of them do not even look at the driver or look at the light or look for traffic--they just cross the street without missing a beat in their walking pattern. Maybe the VTL needs to be re-written for a PTL as in pedestrians need to abide by traffic signals also. And sorry Tom,when someone gets really hurt and sues, no one cares about greater fault (liability), pedestrian knockdowns always get some money.
Park Sloperstein July 10, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Again with the "intellectual honesty" thing? Really? Your problem (one of your problems) is that you don't understand the problem. This makes it almost impossible to have a real conversation with you about the solutions. Automobile-oriented streets are the problem. Traffic signals, one-way streets, your precious vehicular rules and regulations -- all of this was created and designed to make way for the automobile and squeeze other legitimate users of public space off into the margins. All of this automobile infrastructure and regulation makes our streets more dangerous and less humane. Your desire for safer streets will go nowhere until you understand that simple, basic fact. Below is a short video clip of a humane street. You'll note the total and utter lack of traffic signals, signs and rules and regulation. In place of these things -- which you mistakenly think are essential to street safety -- you see a bunch of human beings in different types of vehicles moving through an intersection using eye contact, hand gestures, voices and bicycle bells. Fundamentally, the solutions to your problem can be found in this intersection. No police "crackdown" or new set of street signs, traffic signals or road regulations will solve the problem that you wish to solve. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wte5-_gCDQ
Paula July 10, 2011 at 03:01 AM
The 75 people killed by cars so far this year were all killed by cars that carried license plates and driven by drivers who needed to pass a test to make sure they know the rules. How many serious driver caused accidents do there need to be before the problem is properly acknowledged? I guess the answer isn't 75.
Park Sloperstein July 10, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Sorry you were almost! hit! by a cyclist just yesterday! If the cyclist saw you -- and he probably did -- then, most likely, you were not almost hit. What you seem not to realize is that you also were almost hit by a couple of cars yesterday. But you might not have noticed that because, well, we're used to lots of cars being driven very poorly on NYC streets. It's the status quo. In the week since this article was published, two cyclists died on NYC streets and at least one pedestrian was mowed down and killed! By a cop! In Chinatown! Likewise, scores of other New York City residents suffered life-altering injuries after run-ins with automobiles. http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/07/08/the-weekly-carnage-139 If we can solve this bigger problem on NYC streets, there's no question that the far smaller problem of unruly cyclists will also be solved. As for road bikers and pedestrians in Prospect Park -- that's a very specific problem requiring its own set of solutions.
Paula July 10, 2011 at 04:54 PM
You sound a lot like one of the people suing to remove the Prospect Park West bike lane, Louise Hainline: "“The thing about bikes is that they’re silent. People with kids, with dogs, particularly the elderly, are startled by them coming down the street. It’s kind of terrifying.” http://brooklynspoke.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/silent-but-deadly/
park sloper July 11, 2011 at 08:01 PM
I don't think there's any question that drivers can and do cause accidents. The critical difference, though, is that drivers and their vehicles are identifiable because they are licensed. As a consequence, negligent drivers can be held accountable for their actions. The biker that caused such devastating injury in the park has not been identified, and probably will not be, leaving his or her victim with no recourse, and the rest of the pedestrian public at risk that he or she will strike again.
Parksloper July 11, 2011 at 08:52 PM
My comments are about the subject(s) Michelle which is an important one to me, not whether a poster should use the term "bicycle community" or what phrase Rush Limbaugh uses. Sorry it went over your head.
Jeff July 13, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Cars in the park are the main problem for park users. Imagine if recreational users had Prospect Park all to themselves, and suddenly someone came along and proposed letting cars drive on the park roads. The uproar would be deafening, and nobody in their right mind would dispute that. Here's my two cents: 1. Ban cars 2. Repaint the lines to reflect recreational usage restrictions 3. Remove all stop lights 4. Add numerous, prudently located button-activated flashing yellow crosswalks for pedestrians 5. Enforce the rules Simple!

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