3 → 2 Lane Configuration + Protected Bike Lanes
Photo Credit: Seth Ullman
The Prospect Park West rightsizing project is notable for both its success and the controversy it generated. Prospect Park West runs in one direction (southbound) for 0.9 miles alongside Prospect Park, the ‘Central Park’ of Brooklyn. The street includes a promenade-style wide sidewalk with benches and park entrances on the park side of the street, and many of Brooklyn’s wealthiest and most powerful residents in historic homes on the other. In between, there were previously three one-way travel lanes, with a parking lane on each side of the road.
Residents of the adjacent Park Slope neighborhood must cross Prospect Park West to enter the park at one of the twenty intersections along the road. In response to community concerns about speeding vehicles and improving safe access to Prospect Park for pedestrians and bicyclists, in June 2010, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) removed one travel lane to accommodate a new two-way bikeway, which was protected by one of the parking lanes adjacent to the promenade. The redesign also included traffic signal timing changes, loading zones to minimize double parking, and yield to pedestrian warning signs for bicyclists. The sidewalk promenade and two parking lanes on the street were maintained, with the easternmost parking lane bumped out to provide a protected buffer for the new bikeway. After further review, the project also added new pedestrian islands on the side of the bike lanes adjacent to the moving lane and bike rumble strips in 2012.
The results of these street design changes were extensively measured and analyzed by NYC DOT, advocates, opponents, the popular media, and New York City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, who organized a survey about the project in conjunction with the local community board. The evidence of the project’s success is overwhelming. Prospect Park West’s redesign reduced vehicle speeding and made the road safer for all users, all while increasing bicycle use on the street, increasing the street’s overall capacity, and maintaining motorized vehicle travel times. This project provoked a lengthy and costly public relations and legal conflict. At issue was whether there had been adequate public process, whether the project actually improved safety, and what the impact would be on all of the road’s users, including local residents. Many members of the community, including the community board, supported the project. Although NYC DOT successfully defeated a lawsuit against the project that was brought by a small group of local residents, as well as vigorously defended their community outreach efforts and the positive results of the project, the controversy potentially distracted from and delayed the City’s other rightsizing efforts.