Lawsuit Filed Over Prospect Park West Bike Lane

Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety filed suit this afternoon.

The Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit has arrived, inciting a modern-day Battle of Brooklyn on the same grounds that George Washington once fought for freedoms of a different kind.

Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety, two groups of residents opposing the two-way, parking-protected bike lane on Prospect Park West, have filed suit to have the bike lanes removed, according to court documents filed late this afternoon in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

In the suit, the groups refer to the bike lane as “experimental” and claim that the “configuration requires pedestrians to walk across inconsistent traffic patterns with limited visibility.”

The suit, which is grounded in the legal right to appeal government actions that are either arbitrary or unfair, goes on to claim that the Department of Transportation not only manipulated data on the lanes, but worked with cycling advocates in order to skew anti-lane campaigns.

The lane was controversially installed last June, and in January the DOT having effectively reduced speeding and accidents, among other things, according to a DOT study. Additionally, in a separate, independent last year, Councilmember Brad Lander found that the majority of Park Slope residents indeed support the bike lane.

"This project has clearly delivered the benefits the community asked for. Speeding is down dramatically, crashes are down, injuries are down and bike ridership has doubled on weekends and tripled on weekdays," said Department of Transportation spokesperson Seth Solomonow in a statement responding to the lawsuit.

NBBL and Seniors for Safety, however, have consistently argued that speeding cyclists on Prospect Park West have in fact decreased pedestrian safety on Prospect Park West. They have also argued that removing one lane of traffic to accommodate the bike lanes has increased traffic, honking and air pollution.

Last month, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety demanding that the bike lanes be either moved within the park or redesigned as a one-way bike lane without parking protection.

At the time, the groups’ pro-bono attorney, Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, expressed that they were seeking a meeting with the Department of Transportation within the next two weeks to discuss concerns about the lanes.

“Much has been said about a potential legal action; we hope not to be forced to bring one,” Walden said in the statement.

Group members include Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Mayor Edward Koch, among others. Borough President Marty Markowitz, though not a member of NBBL, has also been an of the lane.

Though neither group nor their attorney responded to a call for comment, in an interview last week Louise Hainline, President of NBBL, urged that “a park-based route is both safer and more acceptable and more pleasant.”

“We’re not against bike lanes, we say that every time we start speaking,” said Hainline. “There has been very little discussion of what we have proposed as options. If this was a rational discussion, we would have discussed options.”

Hainline said that a one-way bike lane on Prospect Park West with a second one-way lane on Eighth Avenue would be a “marginally acceptable” alternative to ditching the Prospect Park West bike lane altogether. She attributed the idea to a 2007 Community Board 6 proposal, though no proposal with any mention of an Eighth Avenue bike lane exists.

If the DOT does eventually decide to remove the lane, the agency has said its removal would cost three times as much as its installation.

"It's a real shame that two groups that claim a total membership of 215 people would go to such extraordinary lengths to try to eradicate a bike path that's used by 10 times that many people on a nice day, that's contributed to a 75 percent reduction in speeding, and is supported by the vast majority of people in the neighborhood," said Eric McClure, a co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors and advocate of the lanes. 

This Thursday, Community Board 6 will convene for yet another hearing on the Prospect Park West bike l ane. The meeting will discuss the modifications that the Department of Transportation proposed to the bike lanes back in January, as well as other modifications suggested by the community.

“It feels like a slap in the face to the vast majority of the neighborhood and to the many people who have yet to express their opinion at Thursday's meeting,” said Doug Gordon, a Slope resident who pens the cycling blog Brooklyn Spoke. “They have complained about not being a part of the public process, but the lawsuit, such as it comes just days before a public hearing most people knew was coming, reveals a lot to me about how they feel about the public process.”

Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department, said that the city is currently thoroughly reviewing the documents. The city will then issue a response to the complaint.  

Chicken Underwear March 08, 2011 at 06:21 PM
thank you
Jim March 08, 2011 at 07:55 PM
So she rammed it through without listening to the community until she abandoned the plan because of complaints from the community. You are right... I AM confused! LOL
Kevin Beers March 08, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Jim I am sorry you're confused. It's really not hard (except when you twist my words). Go back and read what I said - she tried to force her plan through it met with overwhelming resistance and she had to capitulate. That's not hard. The issue that people were concerned about was the time it took for buses to traverse 34th street. She saw it as an opportunity to put in a pedestrian mall and only bus lanes. What was done instead was to put in cameras and have enforcement of bus lanes and that did the job.
Peter March 08, 2011 at 09:07 PM
"NY is on it's way to becoming number one in traffic gridlock" Seriously? NYC *invented* the term "gridlock" in the 1970s. We own it more than any other city in this country. The fact that more people drive in this city than there is available road space has *nothing* to do with the bike lanes in this city - look at Staten Island, probably the worst place to ride a bicycle or be a pedestrian this side of Afghanistan. All cars, no bike lanes, all chaos.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Petunia, it's an inane comment to say that Mz Weinshall wasn't concerned about pedestrians when she was director. This issue did not come up then. Or perhaps it didand she dismissed it. How are you to know what she did or did not do. And yes I guess I am the ONLY person/pedestrian who is critical. Boy am I tired of posting all the different comments under various usernames.
Tyler March 09, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Umm... Kevin, if you look above... yes, you are the only one.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Well then there should be no problem keeping your bike lane. So then why are you joining a circle--- here?
Johanna Clearfield March 09, 2011 at 04:25 AM
julianne March 09, 2011 at 02:37 PM
have children, am pedestrian, biker and driver. lived on the upper west side for years and moved here to get away from the over regulations placed on every minutia of living up there....the bike lane has created a lot of congestion and subsequent pollution and it is less safe for those on foot-especially with small children. this will likely get worse once the stadium is in place and make a this problem more inflamed. a simple bike lane as elsewhere is sufficient. they should rid of it...
Chicken Underwear March 09, 2011 at 03:01 PM
The bike lane has not caused any congestion. Double parkers cause congestion. If you are tired of "ver regulations placed on every minutia of living" you should move to South Carolina and Join the Tea Party.
Peter March 09, 2011 at 03:32 PM
This isn't "regulation." It's street design. Will someone please explain to me how a lane with people on bicycles, doing 10-15mph, who are far more aware of their surroundings, is somehow much more dangerous than a lane of cars, doing 30+ mph and weighing several thousand pounds?
Parksloper March 09, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Umm, not on the hundreds of threads this topic has covered.
Parksloper March 09, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Sorry, liberals are the ones trying to control what we eat, where and when we can smoke, what we listen to, what we say, what car to drive and on and on. Julianne is right. Congestion will only get worse once the stadium is in place.
Parksloper March 09, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Good grief, because the bike lanes are causing traffic congestion for cars, buses, taxis and businesses... the lifeblood of the city.... all for the convenience of a few bike riders. Remember less than ONE PERCENT use a bike to get to work in NYC.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 04:07 PM
That's funny chicken, I was thinking how much you folks remind me of the tea path with your zealotry, your self righteousness, your intolerance and refusal to examine opposing views. And by saying things like if you don't like it move to South Carolina-eerily reminiscent of the old "America love it or leave it" mantra.
Jim March 09, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Kevin - You've twisted yourself into a pretzel trying to justify incorrect statements, but regardless, the issue at hand is the PPW bike lane. Unlike the 34th Street plan, which I agree was not supported by the local community, the PPW bike lane was requested by the local community board, is supported by local politicians, and has the wide support of local residents. It seems that the only people who don't want it are car drivers and delivery trucks who used to be able to speed at will down the avenue. I understand that this might be a bit much for you to understand, but give it a try - I know you can!
julianne March 09, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Thanks Kevin.... hear that loud and clear. Because of the children, being a pedestrian, as well as an avid biker and car owner, I use the park, sidewalks, bike lanes and road- I do feel able to see this from all angles as well as witnessing the before and after effects of this lane now in place. It's slower, more pollution and less healthy for those of us on foot......and no-they do not have this design set up next to Central Park West.
Petunia March 09, 2011 at 04:55 PM
You ended an earlier post - "Now I await the inevitable nasty responses to my posting here." I did not call you any names, and while some may agree with you many others don't. Just because you are in the minority does not give you the right to indiscriminately attack everyone voicing their own opinion. And I stand by my statement - when Iris Weinshall was head of the DOT, the Dept. was *much* quieter on the issue of pedestrian safety and traffic calming. There were certainly no major initiatives or willingness to update a midcentury mindset about traffic. That may be why it seems so radical to some that the DOT is now acknowledging that pedestrians and bikes also need to be accommodated on our streets.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Jim you are the one who is twisting my words. What I said over and over is that Sadik-Khan tried to impose a plan and the people and businesses on 34th street fought it off. That's it pure and simple. And anyone who goes back and follows the thread will see that. Sadik- Khan is a zealot who tries to impose her will on everyone. I am tired of this back and forth.
Peter March 09, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Say what you want, but the process on 34th street, as it was with the PPW lane, was open and public from the start. On PPW, the request to the DOT came from CB6 - to come up with a proposal that calmed the traffic and reckless driving along the park. The request actually pre-dates Sadik-Khan's appointment to head the DOT. Over the course of several years, proposals were designed, made to CB6, tweaked, and finally approved by CB6 before they were implemented. What's dictatorial about that? On 34th street, the original presentation was made back in 2008 - almost 3 years ago. The goal? Speed bus service, which handles over 14,000 riders/day, across 34th street, which is notoriously slow and congested. The proposal was made, was tweaked many times, and now has been dropped in the face of opposition. How are either of these zealotry, or dictatorial? The fundamentals are based on over 30 years of traffic study and engineering from around the world. Problems were announced, solutions suggested, revised, and re-engineered. Throughout the entire process, public input has been handled through local community boards, city agencies and the like. When you look at every bike lane in the city, the process is the same - the local community board made requests to address long-standing issues. These projects have been done in the open, over years. This is not done as some radical impulse, by fiat. Stop acting as if it is.
Glenn March 09, 2011 at 06:08 PM
I walked, biked and drove PPW before the change, and I walk, bike and drive PPW now. No contest. All 3 have improved. Not saying it's the ultimate solution, but all three have markedly improved. Trying to not bike on the sidewalk, I almost got hit 3 times by speeding cars. My kids and I used to run across the 3 lanes to safety. When I used to drive, it was always a mad scramble of lane-changing cars trying to be first at the next red light (don't you remember?). The effort I have to make now to check if a bike is coming, when I walk, is much less than it used to be making sure there was plenty of time before cars started bearing down on us. I don't quite understand the collective memory loss. Is this just a turf war?
Chicken Underwear March 09, 2011 at 06:45 PM
I am not saying anyone had to go. Just that if you think street design is regulation a person might be happier in a Red State, or in Yemen. But I am all for examine opposing views. But my righteousness comes form being right. PPW is a better, safer place with its new configuration. I was just on PPW. There was a traffic back up. Caused by a moving van double parked in front of the big doorman building between President and Carroll Streets.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Dear chicken, Well I'm glad to see the biker back pedal on his love it or leave it comment. Your righteousness comes from being right? PPW is a better safer place? -You're not going to like the article in today's Daily News which spells out very specifically particular ways that Sadik Khan's gang twisted the facts on safety. Here's the link-http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/03/09/2011-03-09_riding_and_rithmetic.html And finally- It seems to me that you undermine your own argument for the bike lane with your anecdote about the moving van backing up traffic. That's one of the complaints that anti bike lane folks have brought up over and over. Now that there are two lanes it is much more congested if someone double parks. I guess the movers should park somewhere blocks away to do their moving, yes? Carry all that furniture a few blocks. All so you can have your bike lane which I'm guessing when you were up there was empty. It was an hour and a half ago when I was up there.
Kevin Beers March 09, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Well if the Daily News is to be believed Sadik Khan manipulated, distorted and downright fudged the numbers regarding improved safety on PPW. Since I know you who are so invested in using the statistics to support your argument won't want to go to the News site and have your ammunition defused I will include some of what the article says- "They used a three-year average culled from the second halves of 2007, 2008 and 2009 - purportedly showing a decline in the number of accidents from 29.7 to 25 in the second half of 2010. That was heavy spin - papering over a jump in accidents from 22 in late 2009 to 25 in late 2010. Why didn't DOT present the raw numbers? Because they didn't help make the case for the lane?" "Then there's this. According to the complaint, back in 2007, worried about speeding cars on Prospect Park West, the agency changed the timing of traffic lights to slow vehicles from 30 mph to 20. Crashes dropped from 29 in 2007 to 23 in 2008 to 14 in 2009, and the number of injuries fell as well." Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/03/09/2011-03-09_riding_and_rithmetic.html#ixzz1G8E26KDC
Chicken Underwear March 09, 2011 at 07:29 PM
I ain't back pedaling. I was just making a comparison. I live in large building on 8th Ave. It is in our coop bylaws that moving vans park in a spot. It is easy to time it around ASS parking days. We should not be planning our roads around the arrogance of double parkers.
Parksloper March 10, 2011 at 07:32 PM
I'm shocked to hear Khan and the rest of the bike zealots fudged the numbers....not. Is that crickets I hear?
Peter March 10, 2011 at 07:57 PM
So I watched that NY1 segment last night with the NBBL attorney and Brad Lander, and their claim of "fudging" is so pathetic it's amazing. Here's their claim, in summary: To analyze the results of the lane, the DOT compared data from a period before, and a period after. For the period after, all they had was the 6 months of July->December of 2010. For the period before, they decided to compare apples to apples - July -> December of previous years. They used 2007 - 2009 to compare, as signal timing was changed in early 2007, so years prior were irrelevant. They averaged the data over those 3 years, to wipe out statistical noise. NBBL claims this as "fudging", despite the fact that this is a standard methodology, used consistently by DOT, on every project they do. Any statistician will tell you this is the right way to do things. NBBL wants to compare "injuries" in 2009 versus 2010, because it went from 4 to 5 - one accident in 2010 involved 4 injuries - all in vehicles. That is the basis of the NBBL "fudging" claim right there. Excuse me, but that's *pathetic*.
Peter March 10, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Furthermore - despite the changing of traffic light timing in 2007, over 75% of all cars driving down PPW were speeding, driving in excess of 30mph. The *AVERAGE* speed was almost 35mph. To put it in perspective - if you're a pedestrian, hit by a car doing 35mph, the chance of severe injury, or death, is very high. If the car is doing 40mph, it's pretty much certain that, at best, you'll be crippled. Post-bike lane, those numbers are down significantly. Yet travel times from one end of the slope to the other are unchanged. Note: NBBL is not contesting *how* DOT gathered the data, they're contesting how it was analyzed. Yet they don't have any statistician backing them up. So tell me again, what's the problem?
Kevin Beers March 10, 2011 at 08:04 PM
No rather than picking representative years they picked a year when there was a surge in accidents to compare with the new bike lane. The bike lane year was lower than the exceptional year but higher than the average year before bike lane. Read the article.
Peter March 10, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Kevin, Do your homework. READ THE LAWSUIT. The DOT averaged the data. NBBL chose a single year to bolster their argument.


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