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.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes issued a press release yesterday with this headline:
"Groups Applaud City Council Legislative Package That Seeks to Report Bike and Pedestrian Accidents; Support Alternative PPW Bike Lane Route, Suspension of New Bike Lane Installation; Call for DOT Meeting."
The press release goes on to say:
"Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes (NBBL) and Seniors for Safety today applauded City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca and the entire City Council for passing a package of three bills that will, for the first time, report bike and pedestrian accidents. They also support the moratorium, called for by Speaker [Christine] Quinn and Councilman [James]Vacca, on the imposition of new bike lanes until this background data is available online. This is exactly what both groups say was missing on Prospect Park West." (full release after the jump)
But according to city council spokesman Jamie McShane, "neither Speaker Quinn nor Councilman Vacca support a moratorium on bike lane construction." In fact, McShane said, the question came up at a press conference after the traffic safety bill was passed, and the council specifically rejected the idea of a moratorium on bike lane construction.
NBBL said it had based their press release on their understanding of a news report.
The bill the group was applauding does require the Bloomberg administration to more fully and quickly release data on traffic accidents -- with information on crashes caused by bikes, pedestrians, and cars. Its heaviest champion was Transportation Alternatives, a pro-bike advocacy group deeply behind the PPW bike lane.
Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes was formed as the two-way protected bike lane along Prospect Park West was being installed last spring. The group, which represents many Prospect Park West residents, has criticized the city for what it sees as insufficient community outreach and too little data collection before installing the lane. Its supporters including Brooklyn College Dean Louise Hainline, former Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel, former city DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, and her husband, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
The city says the lane did go through the local approval process, and was supported by the local community board. Community Board 6 wanted both to provide more space for bikes to ride safely through Park Slope in both directions and reduce traffic speeds along Prospect Park West. The DOT says by both measures the lane has been a success -- the number of weekday cyclists has tripled, and the number of cars driving over the speed limit has dropped sharply. Before the lane, it says, three of four vehicles drove over the speed limit, now just one in five does. The DOT says pedestrian hit by a car driving 40 miles an hour will almost certainly die, but a pedestrian hit by a car driving 30 miles an hour has a two-thirds chance of survival.
The DOT has posted the data on line, but Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes says the data is incomplete, and doesn't give a full picture of what traffic conditions were like before the lane was installed. Their full release is here.
Neighbors for Better Bike LANES
Seniors for Safety
For Immediate Release
February 21, 2011
Groups Applaud City Council Legislative Package That Seeks to Report Bike and Pedestrian Accidents; Support Alternative PPW Bike Lane Route, Suspension of New Bike Lane Installation; Call for DOT Meeting
Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes (NBBL) and Seniors for Safety today applauded City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca and the entire City Council for passing a package of three bills that will, for the first time, report bike and pedestrian accidents. They also support the moratorium, called for by Speaker Quinn and Councilman Vacca, on the imposition of new bike lanes until this background data is available online. This is exactly what both groups say was missing on Prospect Park West.
“I think this is a win for everyone,” said Lois Carswell, President of Seniors for Safety. “It’s the kind of information that’s needed so that the City can make more informed decisions about the safety of bike lanes and our streets in general. For some time now, we’ve been asking for this kind of transparency about the safety of the bike lane on Prospect Park West, and the information hasn’t been forthcoming.” “The fact that Councilmembers Quinn and Vacca are calling for a hiatus on the imposition of new bike lanes until this data is readily accessible online is an important indication that City leaders want bike lane decisions to be made with greater care and community involvement. We are happy to know that our public efforts to ensure that all of our bike lanes are safe and appropriate have contributed in a positive way to this City-wide debate and to this legislative victory,” added Jasmine Melzer, a Seniors for Safety member.
Both groups have sought a rigorous study of traffic and safety conditions before and after the installation of the PPW bike lane - a study that DOT promised but never delivered. They have also asked for the release of all data to the community and an opportunity for public comment before the lane becomes permanent. “There’s been no meaningful analysis from the DOT, and any data they did release was riddled with inaccuracies and unsupported assertions. This new legislation gives us hope that the community will now get all of the information we’ve been asking for,” said Louise Hainline, President of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes.
The groups reiterated their support for a redesign of the PPW bike lanes, preferably by moving them to a near-by “green-way” lane already existing on the West Drive within the adjacent Prospect Park, or by changing the current lane to a simple Class II one-way bike lane southbound on PPW. This was proposed in the City's Master Bicycle Plan and approved by Community Board 6 in 2007, paired with a Class II one-way bike lane northbound on 8th Avenue.
The groups do not support the two-way bike lane with an adjacent floating parking lane now on PPW, installed in June of 2010. This type of Class I lane was absent from New York City streets before Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan introduced it in 2007. The organizations say that this type of Class I lane poses unique dangers to pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. “Pedestrians are first required to cross multiple lanes of one-way moving traffic. They must then cross the floating lane of parked cars, which separates the roadway from the bike lane. The floating parking lane obstructs pedestrians' view of the two-way bicycle traffic ahead, requiring them to walk blindly into the lanes to reach Prospect Park. This configuration is especially dangerous for senior citizens, disabled persons, and parents with small children,” said Czerny Auyang, a member of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes.
Since the City removed a lane for "traffic calming," community members report increased congestion along with honking and air pollution. When drivers need to drop off elderly and disabled passengers and local small businesses need to access their customers on PPW, traffic is reduced to a single lane. Faced with consistent gridlock, frustrated drivers now divert down residential streets, putting children at risk. And,target="_blank">as documented on camera, ambulances have been forced into the bike lane to respond to emergencies.
“These dangers are real,” said Norman Steisel, a member of NBBL. “Many concerned citizens have witnessed and protested against them across the City, including members of New York's Finest. The radical elements of a cycling lobby would like to sweep them under the rug, notwithstanding what became apparent during December's snow-removal crisis: very few cyclists consistently use the lane throughout the year,” he added.
The groups are also seeking a meeting with DOT to discuss the community’s concerns. “We publicly ask that DOT agree to a simple meeting within the next two weeks to discuss the community's experience with the bike lane and the numerous deficiencies in its data. We hope that this meeting, which we requested months ago, will begin a constructive dialogue with the City and ensure the transparent, good-faith process that all New Yorkers deserve. We seek compromise. Much has been said about a potential legal action; we hope not to be forced to bring one,” added Jim Walden, the groups’ attorney.
Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes is an advocacy group formed to ensure that bike lanes are safe for everyone: pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. With over a hundred members, and growing, our group includes young families, commuters, small business owners, academics, and former public servants Many of our members are cyclists themselves. The group also has hundreds of signatures from individuals living in Park Slope on petitions objecting to the impact of the bike lanes.
Seniors for Safety is an advocacy group formed to raise awareness of the specific hazards that threaten senior citizens who try to access Prospect Park, and who now feel unsafe using PPW.