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Transportation Nation

Prospect Park Lane Bike Opponents Support Moratorium on All Bike Lanes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cars driving on Prospect Park West on Friday around 5:30 pm. A row of parked cars is on the right, to the far right is the two-way bike lane.

(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.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Defends Controversial PPW Bike Lane with Data

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

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.

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Transportation Nation

Survey: Three Quarters favor Brooklyn Bike Lane

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

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.

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