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November 27, 2011

A reader sends in this picture of the Prospect Park loop on Saturday, where a major NYPD and PEP presence blocked off part of the drive in an effort to slow down cyclists.  The particular location was the site of two serious cyclist/pedestrian collisions in recent months and prompted the installation of the “chute,” and the formation of the Road Sharing Task Force.  I am told officers were distributing information as part of an education campaign about the rules of the road.

I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the recent incidents in the park, but it is amazing to me that these historically rare events have spurred the NYPD to action.  The same police force that says “accidents happen” when explaining away its decision to not investigate the death of a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run truck driver apparently doesn’t apply that philosophy to accidents involving bicycles.  Not only that, it now has the resources to station officers and vehicles in the park for hours on end to educate cyclists and enforce slower, safer riding.  (Yes, I realize that the 78th precinct and the Parks Enforcement Patrol are not responsible for how officers handled the Mathieu Lefevre case, but the general attitude at the NYPD seems to be “Two wheels bad, four wheels no problem.”)

The NYPD could have placed officers on just about any major roadway in Brooklyn for thirty minutes and done more for the general welfare of pedestrians than it accomplished inside the park for hours.  Sadly, the bikelash has so taken control of this city’s discourse about road safety on every conceivable level that any rational allocation of limited resources to do the most good seems almost impossible.

And, as per usual, the Daily News isn’t helping:

If you’re counting, it took four reporters to write one story about two bike/ped collisions in Prospect Park over the past six months but a high-speed drag race on FDR drive that sent two people to the hospital in one night took the work of just two reporters.

So what did one of those four reporters find in the park?

A reporter with a radar gun clocked bikers going as fast as 31 mph — even through a red light at a crosswalk — on the often-crowded driver that loops the Brooklyn Park.

The speed limit for cars and bikes in the park is 25 mph, although signs at the park entrances incorrectly state that it’s 15 mph.

No one should be zipping down a hill during prime park hours at high speeds, but I encourage the NYPD, PEP, and the Daily News to return to the park when it is open to cars; there’s no question they’ll find motorists exceeding the speed limit by far more than 6 miles per hour.

Emily Lloyd, Prospect Park, and the Road Sharing Task Force continue to ignore the elephant in the room, or as Copenhagenize likes to put it, the bull in the china shop.  The NYPD and DOT response here, too, is telling.  The FDR drive incident involved a drunk motorist traveling at speeds of up to 100 mph, yet you’ll find no chute anywhere along the East Side of Manhattan this week.  You’ll also find zero NYPD officers educating motorists about the speed limit and safe driving practices.

Imagine a cyclist sneaking onto FDR drive and doing 25 mph.  Then imagine the NYPD crackdown and tabloid response that would follow.  Now imagine a car crashing into a playground and the relative silence it would elicit from law enforcement and the media.  (Actually, you don’t have to imagine it.)

As you ponder how a city’s limited resources can be so disproportionately applied while people’s sense of moral outrage can simultaneously be so easily manipulated by a conflict-driven press and find yourself wanting to pull your hair out, you are not alone.

  1. Lizbon permalink
    November 27, 2011 10:56 pm

    Prospect Park has a significant police presence & extensive barricades to corrall cyclists into “behaving,” & yet the Manhattan bridge entrance from the Bowery has no traffic signal whatsoever to allow pedestrians &/or cyclists to enter with any degree of safety. Nor, for that matter, does the policing of the park extend to dangerous driving.

  2. November 28, 2011 1:33 am

    Like Deja Vu all over again. The Daily News states the Prospect Park speed limit is actually 25mph as set by DOT. So why was NYPD ticketing cyclists for exceeding 15mph? Maybe NYPD and Parks should get together to figure out the real speed limit and see that it’s clearly posted before handing out tickets.

  3. Crusty permalink
    November 28, 2011 5:53 am

    A policewoman informed me that they would be ticketing speeding bicycles. When I asked about speeding cars, she told me that they already ticket them. I laughed and rode away.

  4. Parker permalink
    November 28, 2011 10:13 am

    They have to get cars out of the park. All of these problems stem from random road markings and lights and signs that just don’t make sense for the HUGE majority of people who use the park the way it was intended.


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