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Prospect Park Liar's Lane

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All winter the bike lane on the west side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn went unused. It was too cold. For much of the summer the bike lane has gone unused because it is too hot. It is a ghost lane when it rains and for most weekdays. It gets reasonable use about 10 to 20 weekends a year. But the traffic tie-ups along the twenty-five block long Prospect Park West corridor are every day and for much of the day. On a typical weekday morning and evening this summer school buses dropping off and picking up campers have virtually shut down the street for hours. Garbage trucks, access-a-ride transport for seniors and the disabled, as well as emergency vehicles either sit or spread out through the Park Slope neighborhood.

The city claims that traffic on Prospect Park West is now slower and calmer. I live on another side of the park and by the time these "slow and calm" drivers get to the street in front of my building they are cutting in and out and speeding when they can, which makes the street difficult to cross.

It now appears that the Bloomberg administration, which has been fighting against community groups, Neighbors for Better Bike LANES and Seniors for Safety, that want to close the bike lane, reroute cyclists into the park, and restore Prospect Park West to three lanes of traffic for cars, is lying through its teeth. The bike lane has now become the liar's lane.

Neighbors for Better Bike LANES and Seniors for Safety charge that the Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan submitted a false and misleading affidavit in Brooklyn Supreme Court and they are asking a judge to force her to turn over internal correspondence. Sadik-Khan and the city's lawyers initially were pressing to get the case thrown out of court on the grounds that the complainants had missed filing deadlines. However, according to the Brooklyn Courier ("Agency Won't Fight PPW Bike Lane Suit on Technicality, July 22-28, 2011, p. 1), they abandoned this strategy because they do not want to make public the internal memos. It seems they have much to hide.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz charges that that Commissioner Sadik-Khan told local officials the bike lane was a "trial" project subject to a "test period." While Markowitz is an opponent of the bike lane, the petitioner claim his position is confirmed by statements previously made by Councilmembers Steve Levin and Brad Lander, who support the lane. Lander's website contains a letter from Sadik-Khan where she explains that the Department of Transportation would be monitoring the changes on Prospect Park West to "assess the effects" and "to assist in any refinement to the bicycle path design." His reply, however, has been deleted from the site.

In a press release dated July 25, 2001, the petitioners also charge that even Transportation Alternatives, the major backer of the PPW bike lane had called the lane a "pilot" after a meetings with DOT. The Petitioners also unearthed a speech made by Sadik-Khan at Occidental College two weeks after her private meeting with Markowitz, in which she said, "Everyone has an opinion and so you can always find people who can oppose these new ideas -- everybody hates change -- but when you do it as an experiment, it's very hard to argue with. You get a lot of momentum that way."

In June, the New York Times documented the way the an autocratic Bloomberg administration has been avoiding public hearings where they have to respond to critics and essentially circumventing democratic procedures by labeling all new projects as pilot programs. Permanent projects ranging from closing streets to create pedestrian malls to new ways of training school principals have been falsely labeled "pilot" to avoid scrutiny. According to the Times, "Once a pilot is in place, there generally is no requirement for review in, say, a public hearing or a City Council committee, even if the pilot is expanded. Indeed, some pilots are expanded but never pronounced permanent, suggesting that they are still in the experimental stages." In addition, many of the "pilot" programs are initiated with private dollars, so they are never subject to City Council financial oversight. The Transportation Department and Commissioner Sadik-Khan, have begun more than a dozen trial programs in recent years, such as pop-up sidewalk cafes, painting bike paths green, and the highly contested Prospect Park Liar's Lane. The bike lane battle goes back to court on August 3.

By the way, I am a member of Transportation Alternatives and an avid biker, but this bike lane still makes no sense to me.