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Community Board 6 last week urged the city to tweak its plan for a bicycle path along Prospect Park West, a roadway that will either be made safer or, critics say, more dangerous if the scheme is enacted.
By a vote of 18−9, with three abstentions, the board threw its support behind the Department of Transportation plan, which calls for removing a lane of traffic from Prospect Park West, and replacing it with a bike lane, from Union Street and Bartel Pritchard Square.
The DOT, which has said the bike path along the three−lane roadway has been contemplated for over a decade, was initially planning on implementing it over the summer. The community board, whose members hotly debated the proposal at their May 13 general meeting, requested the agency delay implementation so that the measure can be further studied.
If the change is enacted — the vote is advisory in nature only — the board requested that city better protect cyclists with a raised median, rather than a four−foot wide painted barrier.
“This is an excellent idea,” reasoned board member Jeff Strabone. “Slower traffic on Prospect Park West is safer. Getting bikes off the sidewalk at Prospect Park West is safer.” He urged members to “be brave, and welcome a future with more bicycle infrastructure.”
But board member James Bernard wasn’t buying it. He said the city’s plan, which calls for traffic islands so that pedestrians can cross the bike path to get to the curb, is poorly conceived, and could potentially endanger pedestrians and cyclists alike. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said, arguing that children or adults unaccustomed to cyclists pedaling past might could emerge from their vehicles — and step right into an accident.
Board 6 Chair Richard Bashner said the scheme is in response to “repeated requests” made to the agency to make an effort to slow traffic on Prospect Park West, where the DOT has said 85 percent of drivers exceed the 30 mph speed limit.
But board member Nica Lalli said cyclists are not always model citizens. “Bikers don’t obey traffic signals,” she said. “If we have bikes speeding, that’s going to be an issue.”
Member Judith Thompson said there is precedent for DOT’s proposal, which she supported. “I’ve seen things like it in Europe, and it seems to work out well there,” she said.
Local resident Roger Meltzer is not as confident. “The DOT has not done an adequate job trying to calm traffic on Prospect Park West. They failed in their traffic calming efforts.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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