The controversial Prospect Park West bike lane is a success – at least according to new data released by the city.
At a presentation last night to Community Board 6, the Department of Transportation released statistics that compares post-lane data from July 1 to Dec. 31 to police accident and other data for the three years prior to the installation of the lanes last June.
The study found, among other things, that the number of speeding vehicles on the avenue have decreased from three in four to one in five, that the average number of crashes in a six-month period is down 16 percent, and that crashes causing injuries over a six-month period have dropped by a staggering 63 percent.
According to the DOT, the lanes have also caused a major increase in cycling – weekday cycling has nearly tripled, and weekend cycling has doubled.
“We’ve never seen such a rapid acceptance of a project in terms of its use. We’re very pleased about that,” said Ryan Russo, Assistant Commissioner for Traffic Management at the DOT.
But while many community members attended the presentation to laud the DOT’s efforts, some residents were skeptical of the facts at hand.
“Our figures for the weekday are exactly half of the data you’ve presented,” said Lois Carswell, a member of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, to Russo. Carswell said her group monitored bike lane use, sometimes on the same days as the DOT studies, but found numbers that were drastically lower than the numbers the DOT presented at the hearing.
Russo was quick to point out that Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes had monitored a different section of Prospect Park West, a section with less bike traffic.
Carswell dismissed the explanation, saying there was little difference between bike traffic on Carroll and Prospect Park West, where the Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes study was conducted, and Third and Fifth streets, where the DOT conducted studies. The group made similar claims in October, when the DOT released an initial study showing that traffic on the avenue had slowed and bike usage had skyrocketed.
“No matter what he says, people feel a lot less safe now,” Carswell said.
Other naysayers called Grand Army Plaza a “tragic accident waiting to happen” thanks to the narrow lanes as vehicles enter Prospect Park West from the plaza.
Still, supporters said these recent statistics only prove the lane is a winner.
“I think the data is very encouraging,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, who found much support for the lane in last year. “I think we should keep at it and I think we should move forward.”
The DOT plans to further tweak the lane, adding safety features such as raised, landscaped pedestrian islands, narrowing the buffer strip approaching Grand Army Plaza to create a wider lane for vehicle traffic, and adding “rumble strips” to the bike lanes approaching pedestrian crosswalks.
Many residents extolled the virtues of the lane for easing their commute, access to Prospect Heights, and making the avenue safe for children and families to leisurely cycle along.
Marina Bekkerman, a Windsor Terrace resident, said the lane has eased her commuting woes now that the F train no longer runs Manhattan-bound from her subway stop. “I bike it everyday to the train at Grand Army Plaza.”
If the DOT does eventually decide to remove the lane, rather than make the pilot project permanent, the agency said its removal would cost three times as much as its installation.
“We think the lane is working very well,” said Russo. “But we think it will work even better with some adjustments.”