Kate Hinds covers transportation for WNYC News.
Backlash to the Bike Lane Backlash
Tuesday, March 08, 2011 - 05:50 PM
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A day after opponents filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Transportation to compel the removal of Prospect Park West's bike lane, supporters of the lane gathered on the steps of City Hall.
City Council member Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope, said the the lane had gone through years of community review and process before being built.
"A small group of opponents have chosen to bring a baseless lawsuit in an effort to block further safety improvements, to eradicate the lane, to go back to three lanes of traffic on Prospect Park West—the speedway that it was before—and essentially to impose their will on the community through lawsuit,” he said.
Transportation Nation nation first reported on the lawsuit last month.
Lander said a survey of neighborhood residents showed that the majority support the new street design. Out of the 3,150 people who responded, 54% like the bike lane as-is; 24% want some changes, and 22% want to revert to the street's previous configuration. Lander said he was impressed with the response to the survey. “I think if we offered free money at our office we wouldn’t get 3,000 people," he said, "so there’s real passion on this issue.” The survey can be found here.
Michael Cairl, the president of the Park Slope Civic Association, said that his group supported the lane and that its installation had made the street safer. "Prospect Park West before the reconfiguration had been a speedway," he said. "It was unsafe to cross, it was unsafe to cycle on, it wasn’t all that safe to drive on.” New York City Department of Transportation says that data shows crashes involving injuries are down 63%, speeding is down from 75% of cars to 20%, and cycling on the sidewalk is down 80%.
But Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety, which is bringing the suit, say that data has been manipulated and the city's actions were "arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the civil and criminal laws of the State of New York." In a statement today, the group's attorney, Jim Walden, says:
"Everyone should be concerned about DOT's misuse of the data. Everyone. This case is about a government agency wrongfully putting its thumb on the scale by fudging the data and colluding with lobbyists. That is not what 'public integrity' means. Some people on both sides of the issue are affluent and have political connections. So, the continuous, one-sided name-calling is hardly appropriate. But, more importantly, it keeps people from focusing on the real issue in the case, which I suspect is the true aim."
But Gary Reilly, the chair of the environmental committee of Community Board 6, said he couldn't count the number of meetings that the DOT had with CB6. "And at various steps in the process, DOT has come back and taken input from the community, absorbed lessons from the survey, taken a look at the safety results, and looked at ways to tweak and make this project better at every step along the way."
Separately Tuesday, following a wave of coverage critical of city DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pratt Center for Community Development said they would stage a rally at City Hall Wednesday morning "to Thank City for 3+ Years of Transportation Improvements."
And on Thursday, Brooklyn's Community Board 6 will hold a meeting about proposed revisions to the bike lanes.