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.
Read the full survey here.
The two-way protected bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West has drawn controversy since before it was built. The lane was heavily favored by the local community board, which asked the NYC DOT to come up with a plan to slow traffic along the historic Olmstead-designed park, where more than half of all drivers routinely broke the speed limit.
Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, wrote letters, led protests, and otherwise, vocally objected to the bike lane. The lane, it was believed, would inevitably cause congestion, would change the historic nature of the boulevard -- and cyclists could be perfectly well served by the a ride through the park (though only in one direction).
But the DOT installed the lane anyway, and this fall announced its results: speeding had been reduced dramatically, and bike riding on the sidewalk -- something once done by nearly half of all cyclists -- had dwindled to almost nothing.
But unlike in other street-use battles, which tend to die down over time, after users get used to the new street design, the normally voluble Markowitz has remained voluble, if anything stepping up his criticism. And some residents of Prospect Park West, which borders the park have continued their loud protest.
Meantime cyclists have been equally fierce in defending the lane, extolling the safe new path to get to work or around Park Slope.
Into this roil comes City Councilmember Brad Lander, who surveyed three thousand Brooklyn residents, and found that along Prospect Park West, residents are evenly split about the lane. But go a block away, and continue on, and there's overwhelming support: By a margin of three to one, Park Slope residents believe in keeping the lane.
Now, there are some caveats. Lander, who himself is an urban planner, voted to support the lane while on the local community board. And this is not a scientific poll or a randomized survey. But Lander says his office emailed, leafleted, and canvassed residents door-to-door to get a sampling of opinion, and that his office tried to screen out "planted" surveys on both sides, making this certainly the broadest sampling of actual opinion to date.
Among the poll's other noteworthy findings: the biggest problem with the bike lane -- although it has reduced automobile speeding -- is making pedestrians feel unsafe while crossing into the park. Other big problems cited by respondents were a curtailment of parking spaces and increased congestion. Lander says these problems can be at least partially addressed by improving the designs.
A Markowitz spokesman said he wouldn't comment on the survey until he'd had a chance to review it, but James Bernard, a community board member and resident of Prospect Park West, said his opposition was undiminished, and believes the bike lanes unfairly restrict the commute of middle class motorists driving more deeply into Brooklyn.
But when the DOT makes its final analysis of the lane sometime in early 2011, the survey finding support running at a rate of three to one will be large-scale artillery for bike lane supporters.