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Opponent: Why the bike lane is a bad idea

for The Brooklyn Paper
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If Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan got out of her ivory tower in Manhattan and observed the total scope of activity along Prospect Park West, it would be apparent that reducing Prospect Park West to two traffic lanes to accommodate a bicycle lane is a terrible idea.

I have lived on Prospect Park West for 30 years and believe this change will create more dangerous conditions than it purports to alleviate.

The alleged problem of speeding should have been handled by having frequent radar enforcement along Prospect Park West as was done four or five years ago, before it seems to have been discontinued.

When I drive from Grand Army Plaza to Ninth Street at 25-30 miles per hour, I keep pace with the progression of the green lights, and there is no point in driving any faster. Therefore, I do not quite understand how such a large percentage of drivers can be speeding, as was reported in your article.

The Prospect Park Alliance is really proud that Prospect Park usage has climbed from two million to nine million visitors a year. Guess what — that has brought a lot more vehicular traffic to the neighborhood, and Prospect Park West in particular.

Sadik-Khan must not be reading Tupper Thomas’s press releases. Every weekday afternoon in spring, summer and fall and all day long on Saturday and Sunday, people are being dropped off in cars that often double-park. On holiday weekends and for special events, like Celebrate Brooklyn, the double-parking now reduces the street from three to one traffic lane.

The drop-off zone in front of the Lafayette Monument at Ninth Street is now unusable because local residents with city-issued special parking placards are using that space as a private parking lot all week long. These vehicles should just be towed off to the impound lot.

The normal course of daily life brings a lot of double-parking to Prospect Park West. Access-a-Ride, UPS, Fresh Direct, tradesmen, taxis and school buses all stop in a traffic lane to accomplish their task.

Mr. Softee and other ice-cream trucks double-park in a traffic lane whenever they can get away with it.

Residents just trying to park need a traffic lane to wait and then pull into an empty curbside parking place. It is going to be a hazardous maneuver when Prospect Park West is down to two traffic lanes.

At the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on Saturdays, customers double-park on the east side of Prospect Park West and ambulatory vehicles double-park in front of the Castle at Prospect Park senior residence on the west side. That does not leave much room for all the vehicles coming around the Plaza off Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues.

It is unfortunate that the Department of Transportation, Community Board 6 and Councilman Brad Lander have ignored the facts in their single-minded pursuit of installing bike lanes on Prospect Park West. Once the project is completed, they will be free of the consequences and the 78th Precinct and Prospect Park will have all the new problems to deal with.

Roger Melzer has lived on Prospect Park West for 30 years.

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Ft Greene says:
Melzer clearly lives his life in a car; he shows no signs of ever having approached PPW on foot or on a bicycle. Had he done so, he would have realized the incredible danger that high-speed traffic poses on this speedway. We -- the vast majority of Brownstone Brooklynites who are car-free -- desperately need traffic calming for this street, and thank goodness the city is about to give it to us.
May 5, 2010, 8:01 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Actually, DOT has frequently come down from its "ivory tower," to measure speeds, take traffic counts, and observe the rampant dangerous driving that takes place every day along Prospect Park West.

If Mr. Melzer drives at 25 to mph on Prospect Park West, he is clearly in the minority. DOT sampled speeds last year, and found that 70% of cars were speeding, with 15% exceeding 40 mph. Park Slope Neighbors sampled speeds this past March, and found that 85% of cars were speeding, 30% were doing 40 mph or more, and the average speed was more than 20% above the limit. That's all because the roadway is far too wide.

Mr. Melzer is correct that there's no point in driving any faster than 30 mph. But speeding drivers aren't concerned with the point. Traffic light timings only matter for the first cars in a queue as the light turns from red to green. The problem is all the cars that come mid-cycle, when lights are green, that speed to try to avoid hitting a red light. And with three wide lanes, there's ample room for those drivers to dangerously jockey between lanes, zooming around those few drivers who obey the speed limit.

I can only imagine that Mr. Melzer, and others who don't believe the facts about speeds on Prospect Park West, have become so conditioned to speeding that it all appears normal to them. It's not normal, and it's not safe. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph has a 95% chance of surviving, while someone struck by a car going 40 mph has an 85% chance of dying.

"Frequent radar enforcement," of course, only stops speeders after they've broken the law and created a dangerous situation, while smart street design makes it structurally more difficult to speed. And we all know that the local precinct doesn't have the manpower to regularly run radar-gunning operations.

Mr. Melzer also greatly overstates the traffic volume on Prospect Park West. DOT traffic counters last year recorded about 1100 vehicles during the peak volume hour last year. That amounts to an average of one car per lane per block at any given time. It's that scant volume relative to road capacity that creates conditions for speeding.

Further, peak pick-up and drop-off periods along the park, or at the Green Market or Poly Prep, do not occur during peak commuting periods. And to combat double-parking, the DOT plan will add several pick-up and drop-off zones along the park. It's also important to remember that Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues all have just two travel lanes; excepting the uniquely bad conditions at Eighth Avenue and Union Street, all function well, and calmly, and nowhere else is parallel parking a"hazardous maneuver." Nor will it be on Prospect Park West.

The "consequences," as Mr. Melzer will learn this fall, after DOT finishes implementing the traffic-calming measures along Prospect Park West, will be a quieter, safer street for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and, especially, Prospect Park West's residents.
May 5, 2010, 9:21 am
Will from Crown Heights says:
Melzer's attack on the bike lane plan is little more than a denial of the very real dangers Prospect Park West presents to its users, the majority of whom are not driving. These problems have been repeatedly measured and documented, and to ignore these facts in favor of preserving Prospect Park West as a dangerous corridor is not only selfish and irresponsible, but also a slap in the face to anyone who has suffered by its speeding traffic and scofflaw atmosphere. Worse, Melzer fails to provide any support for his irrational belief that these bike lane and traffic calming plans will create more dangers. These changes will benefit everyone's safety whether they walk, bike or even drive.
May 5, 2010, 10:09 am
jooltman from Park Slope says:
Roger Melzer's objections to the bike lane on PPW are so clearly caused by a lack of enforcement of existing traffic laws. If the 78th ticketed every driver who double parked, there would be no issue.
May 5, 2010, 6:34 pm
j mork from p hts says:
I'm surprised the title of this piece is not "Why double parking is a bad idea".
May 6, 2010, 9:06 pm
Gary from Park Slope says:
The basic premise of this article is wrong. The community came to DOT asking for DOT to address speeding traffic on PPW. Narrowing PPW to calm traffic was the obvious solution and adding a bike lane made sense with the extra space (and helped get the Feds to fund 80% of the cost). I too lived on Prospect Park West and have a completely different take on this than Mr. Melzer. DOT, the Community Board and Councilman Lander are well aware of the facts and have considered them long and hard, unlike a few noisy naysayers who only see things through the distorted windshields of their cars.
May 7, 2010, 9:13 am
ed from windsor terrace says:
Roger Melzer's NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude is the kind of self-centered narrow-minded thinking that has always held back progress in urban planing. Mr Melzer is concerned about traffic accumulating outside of HIS fancy PPW address and possibly slowing down his car ride. He doesn't care about pedestrian safety or promoting pollution free alternatives to cars. If he had his way he'd cut into the western side of Prospect Park and expand PPW into six or seven lanes. Anything to facilitate HIS car driving and reduce the number of double parked cars in front of HIS dwelling. Well unfortunately for Roger and perhaps some other privileged residents of PPW there are OTHER people who live and pay taxes in Brooklyn - people who can't afford or choose not to drive cars and instead use a bicycle to get around. Bicycle lanes will encourage more people to get out of the cars and ride a quiet and clean bicycle. Something that the residents of PPW will surely come to enjoy once they stop lamenting the loss of a traffic lane on the de facto highway that is PPW. Surely living on a freeway can't be good for property values, can it Roger?
May 16, 2010, 11 pm
Joe blow from Brooklyn says:
yes comrade join us on our bikes for the greater good
Nov. 26, 2010, 12:10 am

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