Courier Life’s

New park lanes won’t curb the real problem — speeding

Brooklyn Daily
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Prospect Park is being turned into a velodrome under the new bike lanes being proposed for the park.

The changes, recently unveiled by the Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force, are supposedly in response to a series of very serious accidents that have occurred between pedestrians and cyclists. But the situation will very likely be made worse if implemented because it does not address the heart of the problem: the park is being used as a training facility by cyclists who are moving way too fast and endanger the lives of park users.

Creating exclusive lanes for cyclists, including a fast lane without any restrictions, will simply make this activity more accommodating and will not help.

While separating each user group — with no physical separation, just paint — each group would have its own travel lane. However this does not begin to address the speeding or the accidents.

This “solution” treats this problem as if its a lateral issue between bikes and pedestrians when we know its a perpendicular issue — people crossing the Drive and getting struck by speeding bikes.

The proposed plan eliminates a vehicle lane, which is a step closer to achieving the dream of a car-free park. But it’s not car accidents with pedestrians that are sending people to the hospital, its bikes, and the reluctance of bicyclists to take responsibly for the situation represents a major part of the problem.

A walk in the park is not supposed to be Death Race 2000 or as Forrest Cicogni, the husband of a woman who recently suffered brain damage and spent two weeks in ICU after colliding with a bike while walking in the park put it, a game of “Frogger.”

The City must weigh if Prospect Park is a public recreational facility that serves many uses or a training facility. The current plan makes it very clear that the public safety needs for non-cyclists are not being properly balanced.

Is there a need to accommodate competitive cycling and create more facilities to train? Absolutely. Just not in Prospect Park and not in this fashion where the public safety risks are too high.

Geoffrey Croft is the president of NYC Park Advocates.

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Reader Feedback

wkgreen from Park Slope says:
"... the situation will very likely be made worse if implemented because it does not address the heart of the problem: the park is being used as a training facility by cyclists who are moving way too fast and endanger the lives of park users."

Wrong. Bicycles can only move so fast. For the major portion of the loop, even for the fastest of the fast it is still considerably below the 25 MPH speed limit. By limiting fast bikes to a narrow lane it makes the perpendicular problem much less onerous because crossing a 5 ft. corridor is much easier than getting to the other side of a 38 ft. wide multilane street where fast cyclists could be in moving in almost any lane. If everyone, including cyclists and pedestrians alike, can abide it should render unnecessary any need to play "frogger", but the onus for this should not rest solely with cyclists. It’s a problem for everyone to deal with.

The proposed plan is a step in the right direction. The park loop exists primarily for the purpose of recreation and exercise that involves human powered movement be it walking, running, skating or skate boarding, or cycling. No one else should be on it except to cross it quickly and efficiently to get to the location of whatever appropriate activity they wish to engage in, as they would any other street in the city. It’s an issue, not only of safety, but of courtesy. The park abounds in hills, lakes, meadows, woods, and meandering trails for people to go to wander and relax that cyclists, in particular, rightly cannot go. Please. Let us have our one 5ft. wide lane.

As a serious recreational (albeit non-racing) cyclist, who rides there for about 3 or 4 hours per week, I can say that Prospect Park offers a facility that can only be matched by one other location in the city, which is Central Park. Anyone calling it a "velodrome” does not understand cycling or the appeal of PP. It’s far from a velodrome and it is difficult to imagine how a better facility could be created in a crowded built up city that would match the length and terrain variation that loops back that PP and CP offer. These places are urban treasures that training and serious cyclists would be loath to give up and cannot be recreated. It’s difficult for me even to imaging how anyone could keep them off of it without banning cycling in the park completely.
March 9, 2012, 10:38 am
Gale from WT says:
I agree 100%. I fear this design will only make bike-ped conflicts worse, as cyclists will feel even more empowered to do as they wish. I find it ironic that the incidents that lead to the creation of the task force were perpendicular bike-ped collisions, yet nothing at all is being done about that.
March 9, 2012, 10:46 am
Deacon from Boerum Hill says:
You have missed a very important point. The major problem with Prospect Park is the lack of clarity as to who should be where on the loop. The loop is painted for those limited times when automobile traffic is (unfortunately) allowed in the park. As such, there is considerable confusion as to where folks are supposed to walk, skate, ride, etc., at any given time. The proposed change will alleviate that ambiguity and lead to a safer, more orderly park loop.

We do agree on one thing, though: We need to get cars OUT. For good. It's a park. Imagine if cars had never been allowed to drive through Prospect Park; the public outrage and ridicule would be deafening if anyone suggested we turn it into a thoroughfare.
March 9, 2012, 11:09 am
Gale from WT says:
Lane marking won't matter if speeding cyclists refuse to ever stop at crosswalks
March 9, 2012, 11:13 am
Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
Lane marking won't matter if pedestrians refuse to look when they cross
March 9, 2012, 11:19 am
alan from south brooklyn says:
i'm pro-car free park, but i don't think this proposal will solve conflicts between ped-bikes. the loop road should be like a woonerf- a dutch urban design technique which would make it safer for runners and recreational cyclists especially kids. IMO, the gear head, spandex crew needs to slow down or hit the highway.
March 9, 2012, 12:23 pm
michael from park slope says:
Alan...if you're going to toss in perjorative epithets like "gear head" and "spandex crew", that's fine. Just don't pretend to be on the high moral ground.

I could point out that "meanderthal pedestrians" and "coop parents who let their toddlers learn now to ride scooters in traffic" are as much a part of the problem.

But I really don't find that kind of self-righteous finger-pointing productive.
March 9, 2012, 1:06 pm
michael from park slope says:
As for Mr. Croft's proposed solution, banning one of the largest and most deeply rooted group of park users is pretty primitive.

And how convenient that he has all the answers as to which group to ban.
March 9, 2012, 1:10 pm
Steve from PPW says:
And how convenient that Mr. Croft is certain that in every accident, it was the cyclist who was at fault and not a distracted pedestrian who stepped into the roadway near a blind turn without looking.

If Croft knows something, he should share it with the courts, since that is currently where one of the cases is being heard with each party to the accident suing the other.

One thing is clear: get the cars out and you can start clearing up these problems.
March 9, 2012, 1:13 pm
Rob from Park Slope says:
Currently in Prospect Park most rules, such as, no smoking, BBQ area restrictions, offleash areas/hours, fishing restrictions, running or cycling in one direction, are NEVER enforced and so are summarily ignored by most parkgoers. Creating a new set of rules for cyclists, which I assume will also not be enforced, will accomplish nothing. The solution is to first eliminate all cars traffic, then create rumble strips in strategic locations to force cyclists to slow down.
March 9, 2012, 2:30 pm
Mitch from Park Slope says:
Here's the motto of NYC Park Advocates, Mr. Croft's "organization":

Non nobis, sed omnibus
Not for ourselves, but for all

Unless, that is, you're a road biker. Or someone else Mr. Croft, from his perch on the 40th floor of a luxury high rise at 222 E. 93rd St., finds objectionable.

What a joke.
March 9, 2012, 2:44 pm
Barb from Windsor Terrace says:
People are supposed to look out for the most vulnerable among us, and that means adult and child pedestrians. "Drive defensively" applies to bicyclists too, not just to cars. Assume that others are going to do something foolish so you can be prepared to stop or swerve quickly, as needed.
March 9, 2012, 3:49 pm
hilda from Ft Greene says:
I agree with wkgreen. Prospect Park is an absolute gem, and it is needs to be treated as such.

Cyclists speeding is not the issue, it is an issue of basic rules of courtesy and right of way that is being ignored by all. I would never walk across a field where a ball game is in play; it would be disruptive to all and dangerous to me. However as a runner and as a cyclist, I have experienced pedestrians, cyclists and groups ignoring basic concepts of shared space again and again.

As a parent crossing the road with my kids after baseball, picnics, concerts or lazy days in the park, I have never once had a close call crossing the road, simply by looking, waiting and crossing with care and common sense. And I am certainly not shy about yelling "slow down" if I feel it needs to be said. But I also am not about to step in front of someone to prove a point.

This proposal is a big step in the right direction, but the solution is still to get cars out of the park for good.
The proposed changes will make for a much better experience in the park by clearly delineating where road users are to be. Traffic lights should be turned off when there is no vehicular traffic, and all lights should be treated as a stop sign for service vehicles when they use the road. This last vestige of car first design needs to be rethought, as it is confusing to all users and it will continue to cause problems.

The conflicts did not happen at crossings, but at locations where, when crossing, common sense has to take place.
March 9, 2012, 10:20 pm
Anne Lazarus from Manhattan says:
I live in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, but I often go to Prospect Park to bird. I am concerned about the new proposals, which would make walking for pedestrians treacherous. The plan to allow two bike lanes, one fast and one slow, with no restrictions is dangerous and confusing to pedestrians. There is no way to control speeding bikes. These bikes can also collide with each other. I have no doubt that people will get hurt, some
seriously. We need more paths for people to walk, not new paths for speeding bikes. I appreciate your reconsidering this plan.
March 10, 2012, 4:03 pm

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