Notes from the CB6 Transportation Planning meeting on the proposed 9th Street bike lanes:
Most of the people I know own bikes even if they seldom use them, so my experience before this was that most didn't care strongly about bike lanes, pro or con. I guess I only know one demographic.
I'd read about the opposition to the bike lane proposal, particularly by some 9th St. residents, but was not prepared for the level of hostility expressed towards cyclists.
The DOT's proposal is to eliminate one of the two vehicle lanes in each direction on 9th St between 3rd Av and Prospect Park West, replacing it with a bike lane and a narrow striped dead zone. Traffic calming seems to have been as much on the DOT's mind as improving cyclist's safety; the fact that both could be achieved with the same change no doubt made it seem more palatable.
That, however, was not the way many saw it. Under the strong chairmanship of Louise F, speakers were warned to keep their comment/question short and to the point. She had some major insurrections to quell. The anti-lane sentiment was as follows:
That the number of additional cycles would lead to an unsafe situation if bike lanes were built...it was tempting to ask whether these speakers knew of some hidden agenda that would bring out these additional cyclists from the woodwork...at present you might see a couple of dozen cycles an hour on a sunny day or at commute time. Hardly the rushing hordes.
That it would make it impossible to double park to drop off your kids or your elderly grandmother right in front of your home...besides the curious affectation of people using a traffic violation to push their case, since the street configuration was not to be changed, it would clearly make no difference whether you double packed in the vehicle lane or in the new bike lane (and even the police captain present indicated that they were not about to start ticketing anyone who double-parked just to load or unload.)
That it would make it difficult to turn right (or was it left?, there was some confusion there among the various speakers,)...again, a level of minutiae astounding in its lack of evidence or even believability.
The details however, were relatively unimportant. What is important here is the disconnect between different segments of Park Slope residents. There is a significant minority who seems to be viscerally opposed to bikers, who act as if bikes are out to get them (or their young.) Bike-pedestrian conflicts was also cited as an evil effect of the change. There is an equally vocal and committed segment that believes in the bicycle as an important component of transportation (and fun) which ties into our current concerns about reducing our footprint on this earth.
As one speaker said passionately: the bike lanes will improve interaction between bikes and pedestrians because it will be easier for her to ride with the lanes; at present she said it's the constant fear of vehicles that forces her to ride in an "illegal" fashion and maybe sometimes inconvenience pedestrians.
What was missing from it all was a feeling that maybe, just maybe, the roads could be for us all...bikes, cars, trucks, buses and walkers. Being a strong proponent of shared streets, it was sad for me to see so many staking out their personal positions without regard to the larger picture. In other countries, the shared streets movement suggests increasing interaction among the various street users, be they vehicles, cycles or pedestrians, on the theory that this calms traffic and makes for a safer environment for all; what I saw today, if only in a microcosm, seems to show that such a forced togetherness may only ensure more anger and mayhem if tried here.
CB6 unanimously passed a resolution approving the DOT proposal, with a few caveats about curbside parking control (for truck loading/unloading,) and a request for a study which shows any changes in traffic, pedestrian or cycle accidents. Now for the full CB6 board vote.