It's incredible to think of all the chatter surrounding the Prospect Park West bike lane in Park Slope. Yet again today, it's on the front page of the NY Times because a group of influential New Yorkers is suing the city to get it removed. I mean, it's just a bike lane, but opponents and supporters sometimes act as though it's a world war.
I live half a block from the bike lane so I have observed it closely for the entire time it's been there, which is about a year by my estimation. (Please don't sue me if that's wrong.) I also own a car and park it on the street AND I own two bikes and sometimes use the bike lane. All in all, I feel I know about as much about this lane as anyone.
As background, the bike lane allegedly was put there for two reasons: to provide a safe path for bikers (the path is separated from the car lanes by a row of parked cars), and to slow down the notorious speedway that was Prospect Park West.
What seems to anger a lot of people is that the bike lane is two-way so, after crossing the one-way street and watching out for cars, you need to look both ways before crossing the bike lane so you don't get plowed into by a bike. As a result, Prospect Park West now resembles that old video game Frogger where you need to keep looking and back and forth to avoid getting splattered by a car or a bike. It is a bit disconcerting, and it's probably doubly so for the parents of small children going to a playground inside the park. Let go of their hand for a moment and, well, let's just say the resulting accident won't be pretty.
The bike lane has certainly slowed down car traffic on Prospect Park West. I don't think anyone can argue that seriously and that is a good thing. It's slowed it down so much that when one car tries to park on either side of the street, there is only one lane of traffic open and things get backed up. Forget about double-parking on the street -- you'd be a fool to try that.
So the lane has achieved its major goal of slowing down traffic and it seems to be a fairly safe area for bikers to ride in. The ones complaining now are the pedestrians who say crossing has become an adventure, especially for seniors and this too may be true. You can't cross Prospect Park West anymore with a la di dah attitude. You need to be on your guard for cars, and bikes going both ways. It takes a little more attention but I think it's worth it and not brain surgery after all.
My objection to the bike lane (though if I had to vote, I'd probably vote for it) is aesthetic. Prospect Park West used to a big beautiful thoroughfare and looked very much like a low-rise version of Central Park West. Now, ironically enough, it seems as though it's all about cars, cars, cars mainly because the left-hand parking lane is practically in the middle of the street and that ain't pretty.
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