Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bike Dictats

There were dueling protests in Brooklyn today over a newly installed bike path, "experiment." The NY Times reports: "Along Prospect Park West on Thursday morning ,there was much ado about a green stripe of paint. Before most residents had to be at work, dueling protests between supporters and opponents of the boulevard’s new separated bike lane massed in rival camps, hoisting signs and chanting slogans. If it wasn’t quite a merry war — each group was far too polite, and there were far too many cameras blazing — the close proximity of the two parties provided ample theater."

Much of the protest in favor of the new bike access related to a general animus to auto traffic in the city-read the reader comments on this; while the protesters had other concerns: "The rally attracted mostly those who lived in the immediate vicinity of the Prospect Park West bike lane, which has been a source of neighborhood controversy since it was installed over the summer. The protest dwarfed a similar one last week in Manhattan over new lanes along First and Second Avenues. “Thing have come to a critical pass,” said Lois Carswell, one of the organizers. City officials, she said, “have already declared it a success” before any review could be done. She said she hoped her protest would help encourage an “impartial” evaluation of the lane, which is still in a trial phase."

While we sympathize with Ms. Carswell, her comments are appropriate for good street theater-and not because her idea for an impartial review is funny. What is laughable, is her call for something that's unheard of in this administration-an independent and unbiased review of anything. And if any study is done, DOYT will simply bring its liars for hire over at AKRF to ratify the master's plan.

Let's be clear, the Prospect Park bike lane issue is not simply a parochial one-but it speaks to the complete lack of any oversight or public planning with the installation of these bike lanes all over the city. A cafe owner in Park Slope must hire a traffic expert and a lawyer and go through a lengthy review process if she wants to add a table outside her restaurant-but NYC's Sadik can, willy-nilly, simply install these traffic obstructions wherever; and do so without a single public hearing.

We have no opinion about the PP bike lane-that's a matter for the locals. But shouldn't a hearing be held before installation? Hey, at least go through the motions of public review. But we do know a bit about the lanes that Sadik conned us with on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan-where truck deliveries now crowd out all but two lanes on the formerly four lane thoroughfare. And finding a cyclist on Columbus Ave is a little like the old Where's Waldo game.

Another key point-one that the NY Daily News emphasizes-is that there may be some serious safety issues with the PP lanes: "Basically, we think that it's rather unnecessary to have the bike lane on Prospect Park West; there is one in the park and it could be reconfigured," said Louise Hainline, president of Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane. Critics need to keep the bike lane issue alive to highlight safety problems, said Hainline. This week, Brooklyn News reported that many senior citizens who live near Prospect Park West found the new design dangerous, complaining about accidents and near misses with bikers while crossing into the park. "We see this as something that has negatively impacted our neighborhood and the people who live in this neighborhood," said Hainline, who has lived on Prospect Park West at President St. for 13 years."

These are the kinds of things that emerge in a public review process-and the absence of this kind of review reflects on just how autocratic and out of touch the Bloombergistas really are. As for Sadik-Khan, she should be biked all the way  to Copenhagen where she belongs.