Massive Show of Support for Prospect Park West Bike Lane
By Natalie O'Neill
Hundreds of cyclists -- toddlers on tricycles, sign-waving mamas and helmet-clad dads -- rode the Prospect Park West bike lane on Sunday to show support for the city's most controversial cycle path.
A larger-than-expected crowd celebrated what organizers call the "family friendly re-design" of the street -- which once consisted of three lanes of speeding cars, but was reconfigured last year into a two-lane road with a two-way bike lane protected by a lane of parked cars.
The redesign is the subject of a lawsuit and a call for removal by a local assemblyman, but riders on Sunday said they support the bike lane for practical, not political, reasons.
"I'm usually the last person who would come to an organized event like this," said Brian Ward, a Park Slope dad who uses the lane to cart his toddlers to preschool. "But this is really important to us -- we use it twice a day."
Some supporters did link the personal to the political, handing out buttons with slogans and sporting orange shirts that read, "We ride the lanes!"
Since its installation last June, the Prospect Park West bike lane has been the most controversial use of paint since Manet's "Olympia."
Some pedestrians say they are confused by the two-way configuration on an otherwise one-way boulevard. And drivers have complained at the loss of one lane for automobiles to accommodate the cycle path.
The lane has been the subject of several supposedly objective polls, and a clear plurality of residents support it, while roughly a quarter of residents want it removed. Another quarter or so want the lane altered with additional safety features for pedestrians.
Two neighborhood groups -- Seniors for Safety and Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes -- have sued the city, claiming that the bike lane has created dangerously "inconsistent traffic patterns" and "limited visibility" for pedestrians on the busy street.
No opposition group members showed up on Sunday, and group representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.
Still, Councilman Brad Lander (D--Park Slope), a supporter of the lane, showed up with his own two-wheeler and counseled cyclists to ride smart in hopes of not alienating pedestrians, their natural allies.
"Yield to pedestrians!" he said, leading a chant.
The last major show of support for the lane was back in October, when 250 riders crowded the street to celebrate the redesign. Several dozen opponents rallied, too.
On Sunday, bikers hoped to show -- at least anecdotally -- that the lane gets plenty of use.
"Kids get to feel like they have a space in an intensely paced city," said co-organizer Joanna Oltman Smith. "This lane is a little oasis."
Submitted by volunteer on May 2, 2011 - 16:39. categories [ ]