Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rally to save New York bike lane draws huge crowd

This morning Prospect Park Neighbors ran a super rally in support of the Prospect Park Bike West bike lane in Brooklyn.  Three hundred people RSVP'd for the event, but many more cyclists and pedestrians turned out to blanket the farmer's market grounds on Grand Army Plaza and chant "We love our safe street!" 

PP Neighbors elicited the help of Transportation Alternatives to organize the rally, which coincided with a small protest against the lane by a group of local residents.  The resident group has been emboldened by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's opposition to the lane, which was built in June, on the grounds that it makes PPW more dangerous for pedestrians.  Yet initial data compiled separately by Park Slope Neighbors and the Department of Transportation contradict that assertion.  Ultimately, opponents want to see the bike lane erased and the street returned to 100% motor vehicle traffic, and some appear to be distorting the safety issue to further their cause.

As I've written in earlier posts, the PPW bike lane is an essential improvement in bike safety.  Prior to the lane's construction there was no way for cyclists to safely travel from Grand Army Plaza to 15th Street, particularly during rush hours when the prime thoroughfares in the area, PPW, 7th and 8th Avenues turn into virtual NHRA drag strips with drivers speeding to work.  Riding those streets in the morning was suicidal.

The bike lane now provides a safe and dare I say enjoyable way to commute on two wheels.  Extreme speeding, once a regular phenomenon, has noticeably fallen since the road was narrowed to two lanes.

And, per my own informal observation, this morning's safe-cycling turnout dwarfed that of the opponents.  Following 30 minutes of enthusiastic rallying on the plaza cyclists rode calmly along the bike lane, passing the nay-sayers and local news camera crews.

On my way to the event, however, I was yelled at by one opponent of the lane as I rode across a pedestrian crossing - said lady let me know at full voice, while she was apparently being interviewed by a newsman, that I should stop at the crossing.  But the flashing light at the crossing is yellow, not red, and the lady was not crossing but standing fast in the parking median, eyes to the camera.