Friday, April 06, 2007

Park Slopers Say "No" to Bike Lanes on Ninth Street

Bike Route Map

Everybody loves a bike lane, right? Wrong.

Anyone naive enough to think that bike lanes would be embraced in Park Slope--home of a food coop where green is an ideology, not a color--would have been quickly disabused of the notion within moments of walking into the room at Methodist Hospital on Seventh Avenue where the Park Slope Civic Council was holding its monthly meeting last night.

"There is no way in hell there is going to be a bike lane on Ninth Street," one resident exclaimed before the meeting even started.

A group of Ninth Street residents turned out in force to strongly oppose a Department of Transportation proposal that would add turning lanes and bike lanes to Ninth Street, and in the end the PSCC voted 14-3, with one abstention, to object to the plan.

The primary objections voiced by residents were that a bike lane would interfere with double parking and the ability to pick up and drop off children, for instance. There were also concerns that narrowing the street from two lanes to one lane would cause traffic congestion and that bicyclists would be deposited at the Ninth Street entrance to Prospect Park, which is for pedestrians. There were also a number of complaints that the city's Department of Transportation had not involved residents in preparing its plan.

"It's not a plan that was done looking at community needs," said PSCC Trustee and Ninth Street resident Bob Levine, who led the charge against the bike lane proposal. "Yes, we need bike lanes, but DOT didn't talk to the neighborhood." Mr. Levine suggested placing new bike lanes on 15th Street, which he argued is more amenable.

The bike lane and traffic calming plan had its origins in community protests after numerous accidents, including a car that crashed into Dizzy's, a popular neighborhood eatery at Ninth Street and Eighth Avenue. "We've been asking for traffic calming for ten years," one resident said. "DOT is now saying we have a solution for you: It's bike lanes. We really feel like we've been shafted."

Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, who is also a PSCC Trustee, said that he supported bike lanes on Ninth Street, but not the version proposed by DOT. He said the agency "failed to engage the community." Mr. Hammerman said he supports "Class Three" Bike Lanes, which are arrows painted on the street, rather than "Class Two" Bike Lanes, which offer a painted corridor for bicyclists. (Class One bike lanes are physically separated from the flow of traffic and were offered by PSCC Trustee Aaron Naparstek of Streets Blog as an ideal solution for Ninth Street. Such lanes would be between the sidewalk and parked cars and offer a landscaped buffer.)

Another resident who said that she is bicyclist said that "we've survived without a bike lane" and attacked "people who have a sense of arrogance [that] can come into our community and dictate."

Mr. Naparstek said that there are "a lot of people who would like to see this plan go forward" and noted that large numbers had turned out in support at an earlier hearing. He noted, however, that it was "unacceptable that community stakeholders were not involved in the planning process." (You can find Streets Blog items on the 9th Street plan here and here.)

Eric McClure, a founder of Park Slope Neighbors and a PSCC Trustee also spoke in favor of the bike lanes and traffic calming measures. "One of the best traffic calming measures is a single lane of traffic," he said. "As a cyclist, I'd much rather travel on a road that has a cycling lane."

The PSCC wields some influence with local officials when it supports or opposes a plan. The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, intends to go ahead with the plan, but there will likely be intense back channel lobbying to try to block it. It is unclear whether other measures to make Ninth Street safer would be pursued without the bike lanes or whether DOT is interested in creating bike lanes on alternate streets, and how residents of those streets would feel about the idea.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those fucking yuppies...

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, Anonymous,

Which effing yuppies are you talking about? The ones who want to maintain their private double-parking privileges, or the ones who want to ride their non-polluting bikes in the relative safety of a striped bicycle lane?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I thought it was understood: I was referring to those yuppies "who want to maintain their private double-parking privileges." I may be wrong, but I don't consider those people riding "their non-polluting bikes in the relative safety of a striped bicycle lane" yuppies. I know, on a $16,000 a year salary, I'm certainly not one.

3:37 AM  

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