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We were disappointed that opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane took the first step last week toward appealing a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit against the city.
Their appeal is as meritless as their chutzpah is limitless.
Foes of the two-way cycle path continue to spread misinformation about the origins of the world’s most controversial bike lane, and about its inarguable success — and their inevitable appeal hinges on muddying the truth about both.
For one thing, the city built the Prospect Park West bike lane after consultation with the local community board, which had been calling for “traffic calming” along the hectic, three-lane speedway for years.
No one disputes that speeding cars on Prospect Park West were a hazard to all residents of the neighborhood. Motorists were often clocked at well over the speed limit, and prior efforts to alter light timing were not sufficient. The roadway, which borders the park, was a catastrophe waiting to happen.
More important, the bike lane has been a success. Drivers have been tamed, the wild boulevard has been transformed into a nice neighborhood street, and cyclists are no longer riding on the wide, park-side sidewalk now that they have a two-way, protected bike lane.
The lane’s origins and success reveal that the opposition is mostly driven by fear of the larger agenda of the Department of Transportation, and, specifically, its forward-thinking commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, who has emerged as a punching bag for opponents of virtually any attempt at improving the urban streetscape, from bike paths to pedestrian plazas to bus-only lanes.
Yes, even in New York City, car culture is deeply rooted — so we are pleased that Khan and her team are trying to undo the damage of decades of automobile hegemony. Does Khan always succeed? Of course not. But she is fighting a battle that must be fought if we hope to regain control of our streets and neighborhoods.
It is telling that her Prospect Park West opponents — who include the pro-car former Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall — resorted to demonizing her after they lost their battle on the merits.
“I have never seen a public servant with such hubris,” their lawyer said.
In this case, the hubris belongs to the backward-thinking opponents.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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