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Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes Files Lawsuit

March 7, 2011

Finally, the New York Post was right about something as far as bike lanes are concerned.

Transportation Nation is reporting that Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes has filed their lawsuit to have the two-way protected bike lane on Prospect Park West removed.  This is deeply disturbing, and if their lawsuit gains any traction it will have a terrible effect on bike lanes from here to the Bronx and back again.

Thankfully, Andrea Bernstein counters the claim from NBBL that the traffic calming project was installed without community input, writing, “It was approved by the local community board before it was installed.”  That’s succinct enough for my taste.  I do, however, find it very illustrative of this entire “controversy” that this lawsuit was filed just a few days before a giant public hearing on the subject.  Instead of waiting their turn to speak, NBBL jumped the line in the biggest possible way, filing this before the community got one more chance to weigh in on the subject.

More info as it comes, but I believe this makes the meeting on Thursday, and your attendance and letters of support to Community Board Six, even more crucial.

Expect a media pile-on on Tuesday, including pieces in the Times and Post and another CBS2 hit job, but you can already see the seeds that have been planted in the coverage so far, even when it’s not specifically about this lawsuit.  Today, the Post blasted plans for bike lanes and traffic calming measures in Cobble Hill, and those bike lanes most likely won’t even be separated ones like on PPW, but rather just green paint and stripes, as already exists on a few streets in that neighborhood.  Bike lanes will only be as good as the network that connects them all, and if NBBL succeeds on PPW, then nothing is off limits.

Be there on Thursday.

UPDATE: Here’s the expected Marcia Kramer Kramer CBS2 piece.  Kramer’s piece offers little insight into the substance of the lawsuit, speaks to no residents who favor the bike lane, and is itself mostly a PR piece for NBBL.  It’s interesting to me that NBBL is claiming that the two-way bike lane is dangerous to seniors and others who might be at risk for being hit by a bike, yet Marcia Kramer ends her segment by walking down the middle of it without a scratch.

The Park Slope Patch’s Kristen Brown has a story on the lawsuit.  I’m quoted at the end.  Louise Hainline is quoted pushing NBBL’s call to move the bike lane into the park, which really means losing the traffic calming benefits of the design.  She says that “a park-based route is both safer and more acceptable and more pleasant.”  Safer for whom?  I’m happy to invite Louise to meet me at Grand Army Plaza at 1 AM any night of the week.  She can borrow my bike and take it through the park if she wants, but there’s no way I’d want to go into the park after dark.  It’s not pleasant at all.

And here’s the New York Times article on the lawsuit.  It’s by Michael Grynbaum, who wrote this weekend’s piece on Sadik-Khan.  At least he mentions Chuck Schumer in this one:

The lawsuit, filed by a group with close ties to Iris Weinshall, the city’s transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, accuses the Transportation Department of misleading residents about the benefits of the lane, cherry-picking statistics on safety improvements and collaborating with bicycle activists to quash community opposition.

The opponents are being represented pro bono by Jim Walden, a lawyer at the firm Gibson Dunn and a contributor to the 2010 campaign of Mr. Schumer.

If you have news or updates, please leave them in the comments.

  1. Michele Finley permalink
    March 7, 2011 9:50 pm

    I’m a “senior” and a protected bike lane, such as the one on PPW, is the only place I feel I can ride safely. I have been doored three times, twice on 7th Avenue and once on Union Street and it’s a relief to have a safe space.

  2. will permalink
    March 9, 2011 9:10 pm

    There were a couple of people with a camera-type thing pointing it at bikes yesterday and today when I was coming home on the bike lane (about 5 ish). It could have been to measure speed, log me, or something else. I thought that perhaps they were gathering info for the case? One argument against the lane could be that no one uses it (on cold afternoons in March).

  3. March 9, 2011 10:09 pm

    I know there’s a camera in the third floor window of 14 PPW, but I’ve never heard of this before. Not sure what it could be, but perhaps it was media? Given the news, maybe a network or someone else was getting b-roll.

    The argument that no one uses the bike lane is not really the point. This was also a traffic calming project, and driver behavior is not contingent upon whether or not there are bikes in the bike lane. Even if no one ever biked again, I’d say that slower traffic speeds and shorter crossings for pedestrians are worth the occasional empty bike lane.

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