Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
City Councilmember Brad Lander says a survey of some 3,000 Brooklyn residents finds, by a three to one margin, residents approve of a two-way protected bike lane along Prospect Park West. That support diminishes to just half, however, when only residents of the boulevard are surveyed. Lander acknowledges his poll is not a scientific study, but says it remains the broadest sampling of public opinion on the controversial lane to date. The survey comes as residents around the city are clashing over bike lanes on First and Second Avenues, Staten Island and the Upper West Side.
The Prospect Park West bike lane has been controversial since before it was built, at the behest of the local community board. Community Board Six wanted both to provide safer biking and slower traffic along PPW, as it's known. At the time of that vote, more than half of motorists were driving above the 30 mile per hour speed limit, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.
But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz immediately protested, firing off a letter to the DOT warning the lane would cause congestion and confusion. Opponents also said the lane would destroy Prospect Park West historic character.
The DOT built the lane anyway, and earlier this fall said speeding had been dramatically reduced to one in seven motorists and that cyclists riding on the sidewalk had dwindled from forty percent to almost nothing.
City Councilmember Brad Lander -- who voted for the lane as a member of the local community board -- said the high passions on both sides caused him to do the survey. He says he spoke with some 300 PPW residents and 3,000 Brooklynites overall, most from neighboring Park Slope.
While some residents said the lane had coaxed them onto bikes, and cyclists said it made them feel far safer, the survey did identify some problems, including fear among pedestrians crossing the bike lane and reduced parking. Lander said some of that could be addressed through better design.
A Markowitz spokesman said the Borough President wouldn't comment until he'd fully read the survey but James Bernard, a PPW resident and community board member, said his opposition remained undiminished.
Lander said the DOT will be analyzing the lane in early 2011.
For more news and analysis on the lane, go to TransportationNation.org.