NYC Defends Controversial PPW Bike Lane with Data

Email a Friend

Image: PPW Bike Lane. (NYC DOT)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In Brooklyn, New York one bike lane in particular is serving as a flash point for debate between motorists and cyclists over how to use the streets. The attention, and conflict, has also increased incentive to quantify and measure the impact of the Prospect Park West bike lane—that's good for any of us craving data on transportation policies.

So, the New York City Department of Transportation has just issued informative findings from their research on the PPW bike lane. Not surprisingly, it supports the DOT's decision to build the lane. “The traffic volume, travel speed and bike lane usage data support this traffic calming project, and it’s clear that the public supports it too. We look forward to working with residents and local officials to make it even better,” says DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in an emailed statement.

The NYC DOT finds that weekday cycling has just about tripled and the number of people riding on the sidewalk, a hazard to pedestrians, has fallen dramatically from 46 percent to just 3 percent of cyclists. Additionally, the total number of weekday cyclists has almost tripled along the PPW route. Weekend bike ridership also more than doubled.

The addition of the bike lane included a new traffic pattern, designed in part to reduce car speeds by cutting the number of lanes from three to two along this edge of Brooklyn's iconic Prospect Park. The slowing effect seems to have worked according to DOT statistics. Before the bike lane, three out of four cars broke the speed limit. Now, the DOT reports, just one sixth of cars top 30 m.p.h.

What's especially interesting—and a little unexpected—is the impact on total usage. Commuter volume on the street has increased in both morning and afternoon rush hours. In the morning, there are both more cyclist commuters and more car commuters, though in the afternoon car commuting has dropped while bike commuting has spiked enough to compensate on the one way boulevard. Travel times along the route and nearby avenues are mixed; some nearby streets are now faster than before and some slower depending on time of day. Overall though, the DOT data show motor vehicle traffic has not been negatively affected while biking has increased dramatically.

See a power point slideshow of the full findings here.