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Don’t Rain on My Parade

May 13, 2011

I’m a little late to this story, but thank you to reader Deb for bringing it to my attention.  Someone wrote to the Ditmas Park Blog and gave this account of his ride home on May 1:

Tonight, at about 11:30 PM, I rode my bike through the driveway in the Parade Grounds – the one lined with Parks Department cars and trucks, connecting Parkside Avenue with Caton Avenue. Two very polite police officers from the 70th Precinct stopped me and gave me a summons for being in the park after dusk (the summons reads “fail to obey park sign”), and told me that bicycles aren’t allowed there at any time anyway (they did not issue a summons for that offense). They explained that they were posted there to keep people out of the park at night due to the recent shooting.

Like everyone at DPB, I was surprised to learn that biking isn’t allowed in this area at any time.  A cyclist who bikes in this area deserves instructions from the police, not a summons.  I used to live in the Ditmas Park/Midwood area and frequently biked through this driveway to get between my apartment, Prospect Park, Park Slope, and elsewhere.  It’s the best of a lot of bad options.

The Parade Grounds are bordered by Coney Island Avenue, which is a deathtrap for cyclists, and Parade Place, which is one way headed east.  Cyclists often use the path through the middle of the Parade Grounds, but it’s a busy pedestrian walkway with ball fields on either side and a snack bar and picnic tables in the middle.  While many use it to ride between Parkside and Caton Avenues, it’s not a good idea during the day and not allowed either way at night.

Whether or not it should be open after dusk is a matter for another debate, but the driveway is, in fact, a natural place to put a cycling route.  It would keep cyclists away from pedestrians in the Parade Grounds, off of a very busy street, and prevent them from riding the wrong way down a one-way street.

  1. Mike permalink
    May 13, 2011 5:29 pm

    I’m the cyclist who got a ticket and wrote to the Ditmas Park Blog. I’ve been meaning to bring this to the attention of some other blogs, too – glad to see you picked it up. I’ve done a little research since getting the ticket, and thought it might be helpful to write up some more thoughts and facts.

    There are two issues here:

    1. Is it legal to be on that road after dusk?
    2. Is it legal to ride a bike on that road?

    I only got a ticket for #1, but the police made me get off my bike to leave the park, and told me cycling isn’t allowed.

    Some other thoughts:

    -Prospect Park closes at 1 AM, not dusk.
    -The Parade Ground is part of Prospect Park, according to the Parks website.
    -A Parks web site says that the ball fields close at dusk.
    -There is a field in the Parade Ground with lights for nighttime ball games, suggesting that it’s open after dark.
    -A DOT bike route sign at the northern end of the road seems to indicate that the road is part of their bike network.
    -There is a walkway next to the road for pedestrians. There need not be conflicts with pedestrians on the road.
    -People drive cars on the road, albeit only Parks employees, theoretically (I think moms drop kids off there too, unofficially).
    -In order to use Coney Island Avenue, one would have to ride on the bike path around Park Circle; this path is often blocked by Parks and NYPD vehicles.
    -Access to the road requires crossing the sidewalk, via a vehicular curb cut at the north end, and by crossing the sidewalk at the south end.
    -Google Maps considers the road a bike route.
    -Most importantly, the DOT bike map shows the road as a Class I bike lane.

    As you point out, this road, although small, provides the only safe and direct access to the park from points south. Along with many other cyclists and joggers, I use it almost every day, and sometimes at night. Certainly it would be great if one could ride on it without fear of tickets. I suspect that no one actually knows the answer to either of the questions listed above. Some communication between Parks, the DOT, and the PD might help clear that up. In the meantime, those of my neighbors who want to go to Prospect Park on a bike or after sunset have no officially sanctioned and safe way to do so.

  2. May 13, 2011 8:14 pm

    “Most importantly, the DOT bike map shows the road as a Class I bike lane.”

    I think that, and the fact that the park is technically open until 1 AM may be your best defense if you contest the ticket. Are you going to?

    To me, your experience illustrates the difficulties of biking in that neighborhood. So much energy, ink, and server space is devoted to discussing PPW and bike lanes on this side of the park that people lose sight of how underserved Flatbush/Midwood/Ditmas Park is by bike lanes, even though the streets are wide enough to stripe without a problem.

    Thanks for commenting. Please keep me posted on what happens.

    • Mike permalink
      May 13, 2011 8:57 pm

      I will contest the ticket, but remember, it’s for being there after dusk, not for biking, so the 1 AM closing time is only relevant tangentially. I still think there’s enough information to fight it successfully. I’ll let you know in July.

      On this side of the park, on most of the north-south streets, traffic is sparse and slow, and I don’t think I’ve ever been honked at – life is pretty good without bike lanes. Not that I’d turn them down, especially on Prospect Park Southwest, which is useful when traveling clockwise around the park or when the park is closed.

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