The Taming and Reclaiming of Prospect Park West
Up until this summer, speeding was the norm on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West. With three wide lanes inviting motorists to hit the accelerator, it was a street monopolized by car traffic. That changed in a big way in June, when NYC DOT converted one vehicle lane to a two-way bikeway separated from traffic by the parking lane. Physically separated bike lanes are making New York safer for cyclists and pedestrians wherever they're installed, and this one is no exception.
The new lane feels safe and comfortable to ride on, no matter how much experience you may have as a cyclist, and it's attracting riders of all ages. For everyone walking to and from Prospect Park, the street re-design means slower cars -- compliance with the speed limit is up by a factor of five, according to a study by Park Slope Neighbors -- and safer crossings at intersections.
The transformation has been dramatic, and like any major change to the street, this one has attracted some vocal critics -- most notably Borough President Marty Markowitz. While some opponents contend that the lane has been installed without public input, the truth is that community groups have been calling for traffic calming and safer biking on this street for years. Watch and see how the new Prospect Park West has made good on those demands.
Speaker: [00:07] What’s really encouraging is you see a lot of kids, you see a lot of elderly people, families, cos it shows that when you do provide these design improvements that make the street really, really safe, you get not just the intrepid, but really everyone.
Aaron Naparstek: [00:19] When you ride your bike this way you can also just see the arch. You get a sense of like when Ormstead and Box were designing the street, they probably meant for you to go this way on it so you could see this beautiful memorial.
Aja Hazelhoff: [00:30] So the lane has been actually really great as well for pedestrians because it turned a street that was three lanes dedicated to very high speed vehicles into two lanes for cars and one lane for bicycles going both north and south. And in addition, it’s provided pedestrians with a shorter crossing distance and a dedicated space for them to cross the two lanes and then watch for cyclists that are coming both ways.
Speaker: [00:57] I’ve been living in this neighbourhood since 1995. I actually work in Williams Park and I drive my car everyday back and forth. I leave at eight o’clock every morning and I come back around 6:30. I’ve had no problems parking since I’ve lived here, and I really haven’t seen any changes at all since the bike lane, you know, since the bike lane was introduced. I guess Prospect Park West used to be more of a freeway before and I think with the introduction of a new biking lane, I think speeds are somewhat down and so I think it’s a lot safer for a lot of the foot traffic.
Eric McClure: [01:29] We’ve been out with the radar gun measuring speeds on Prospect Park West. Back in March of this year we did a pre-test to see what speeds were like. The average we recorded was above the 35 miles per hour, and almost a third of cars were going 40 miles per hour or faster. We’ve been out the last two weekends doing do a post-test and have found that speeds have dropped significantly in the order of 15 to 20% reduction in average speeds. And people exceeding 40 miles per hour now maybe represent 1% of cars versus 30% before the work was done.
Speaker: [02:04] Since I ride after work, late at night and you cannot ride in Prospect Park you will get a ticket, so it’s a nice legal alternative to riding in the Park. And I can ride safely with my daughter and not have to worry about traffic, being hit by a car.
Eric McClure: [02:19] Some opponents have claimed that the floating parking lane where the cars have been moved off the curb to allow for the implementation of the bike lane causes a problem for people parking. But as you can see along the avenue, it’s like parking against the curb anywhere else. Cars manage it without a problem. There’s a buffer between the parking lane and the bike path to protect cyclists and to protect people getting in and out of cars.
Speaker: [02:45] Well I’m a relatively new biker in the city, pretty scared of cars and this bike lane is exactly what I think is good about new bike lanes. I mean I’m not scared of, you know, someone being… someone dooring me, I’m not scared of someone parking in the bike lane, pulling into the bike lane.
Eric McClure: [03:02] The bike path is getting a lot of use from cyclists. It’s a lot of families out in the path, a lot of novice riders who are taking advantage of the safety of the protected bike path. You see a lot of little kids on scooters, on bikes, sometimes with training wheels. You see rollerbladers. It’s really a space that people of all abilities as far as cycling is concerned are able to take advantage of.
Speaker: [03:29] I’m coming from Crown Heights, so I have to go through that crazy traffic circle. My heart’s beating, I feel like I’m going to get hit by a bus, and as soon as I’m on this lane it’s amazing, I feel safe, I can relax, and it’s just awesome.
[03:40] People who are critical of the bike path claim that it was sprung
on them in the last couple of months by the DOT, but nothing could be
farther from the truth. The truth is that the community’s been
asking for traffic calming on Prospect Park West, including a protected
bike path, for at least four years.