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City Says Prospect Park West Bike Lane is a Success

New DOT data shows the lane has increased safety and bicycle usage.

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.”

Pete January 21, 2011 at 08:58 PM
RE: "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." If the ice cream / waffle / juice / dumpling / cupcake trucks were not illegally parked in front of the hydrant at that very corner things would be a lot better, the visibility would be increased, and pedestrians crossing would have more room. Also, it takes just one double parked car service car in front of the nursing home, which is located on that corner, to turn the two car lanes into one lane and back traffic up into the plaza. The 15 or so Northern Day Care center vans (also located on the corner) driven by rude smoking drivers hanging out clog the entrance to PPW as well. They obey no rules and contribute to congestion (not to mention the noise and hours of idling exhaust pipes) These vehicles are the real problem
Park Lover January 22, 2011 at 02:23 AM
The DOT and Lander's office definitely benefited from reading "1984" in high school - you tell a lie often enough and loud enough and with the authority of public office and the public actually starts to believe it... too bad they don't seem to have passed civics.
Eric McClure January 22, 2011 at 04:11 AM
If we're talking about telling lies often enough and loudly enough, no one is more adept at that than the so-called "Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes," one of the all-time great green-washed monikers. The NiBBLers' only recourse in the face of real data that proves that the redesign of Prospect Park West is a home run -- a huge reduction in illegal speeding; tremendous jump in environmentally friendly, health cycling, especially among children; significant reduction in crashes and injuries -- is to claim that the data has somehow been falsified. Their own "data" is so full of holes it's laughable. It's time for them to stop their "birther"-style tactics and stop trying to undo a project that has made Prospect Park West safer for all of us who use it.
Marty Barfowitz January 22, 2011 at 04:43 AM
Oh, please, Donald. What exactly is the lie? Do tell.
Doug Gordon January 22, 2011 at 02:56 PM
That's rich Donald. If there's anything Orwellian about this, it's the very name "Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes." Lois Carswell, who's got a Dickensian name if we're dropping literature references, has explicitly said she wants the bike lane gone and PPW returned to a three-lane roadway. Where's the "Better Bike Lane" in that desire? The street is safer, most importantly for pedestrians. Slower cars, fewer lanes of traffic to cross...it's making the neighborhood much more livable. My only quibble with this article is that the bike lane is not "controversial." In this day and age, name me one issue that doesn't have a handful of cranks objecting to it. It is not "controversial" that the Earth is round just because you can still find a small number of people who belong to the Flat Earth society. Just because a small group of wealthy, vocal, and connected (Iris Weinshall, Norman Steisel) people don't like something doesn't make it controversial. Thousands of people in Brooklyn love the new street design because it makes them safer when they commute to work, visit the park, go to the farmer's market, and enjoy the neighborhood. Only the media and this small group of cranks think it's controversial, but there's nothing controversial about safety.
Marty Barfowitz January 22, 2011 at 03:21 PM
I agree with Doug regarding the "controversial" description. The Lander/Levin/CB6 survey showed that this project is not controversial at all. In fact, it is downright popular. http://bradlander.com/ppwsurvey Even among people who live between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West, a majority supports the redesign of PPW. It seems as though this project is "controversial" mainly among residents of 9 Prospect Park West. Outside of that building, it is popular and appreciated.
Peter Kaufman January 23, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Doug, I agree. There wasn't much controversy here, and I suspect there is absolutely no amount of data that will convince the Steisel/Weinshall/Carswell crowd of success. The question to ask them is this.. "What would convince them?" The answer of course, is nothing. By the way, the name "Carswell" is most certainly a euonym, like "Goldfinger"; and that was the winning word in the 1997 national spelling bee - won by Rebecca Sealfon, who I believe was from Park Slope. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6ep8KOR284
Parksloper January 23, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Less than 1% of NYC residents use bike lanes. How many are using the lanes since the snow started in Dec? Waste of space.
Doug Gordon January 23, 2011 at 08:32 PM
If the sanitation department would plow the bike lanes, plenty of people would use them. 75% of Manhattan residents and about 50% of Brooklyn residents don't own cars. Roads are a waste of space.
Parksloper January 24, 2011 at 02:16 AM
"Roads are a waste of space." Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Oh, and most of the bike lanes were plowed before the streets thanks to the Mayor for Life.
A. Ginsberg January 24, 2011 at 07:18 AM
I am dogwalker and I will tell you that between the hours of 8am and 4 pm the usage of the PPW bike lane Is minimal. A few folks taking the kids to school and some heading north towards Grand Army, no one seems to be going south bound. The wkends are busier. Bikers need to start following rules of stopping for pedestrians, they do not always have the right of way. Follow the traffic lights and stop. If the city has ruled that the bike lane is here to stay then there has to be guidelines.

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