Dueling Protests Over a Brooklyn Bike Lane

פורסם: 24 באוק׳ 2010, 1:15 על ידי: Sustainability Org
October 21, 2010, 12:18 pm
C.S. Muncy for The New York Times

New Yorkers both for and against bike lanes in the city attended dueling rallies at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.

Along Prospect Park West on Thursday morning, there was much ado about a green stripe of paint.

Before most residents had to be at work, dueling protests between supporters and opponents of the boulevard’s new separated bike lane massed in rival camps, hoisting signs and chanting slogans. If it wasn’t quite a merry war — each group was far too polite, and there were far too many cameras blazing — the close proximity of the two parties provided ample theater.

A steady drumbeat of media attention set the stage for what appeared to be the largest gathering of opponents to a bike lane yet. The rally attracted mostly those who lived in the immediate vicinity of the Prospect Park West bike lane, which has been a source of neighborhood controversy since it was installed over the summer. The protest dwarfed a similar one last week in Manhattan over new lanes along First and Second Avenues.

“Things have come to a critical pass,” said Lois Carswell, one of the organizers. City officials, she said, “have already declared it a success” before any review could be done. She said she hoped her protest would help encourage an “impartial” evaluation of the lane, which is still in a trial phase.

Before the event, Ms. Carswell arranged signs on blue paper with pre-written slogans to hand out to opponents. “Oh good!” she said as she saw Alfred Ingegno, 75, arrive. “Someone with a homemade sign.”

Mr. Ingegno’s sign read: “End the Vandalism of PPW.”

While some claimed the lane was unnecessary given the presence of a bike path inside the park, others opposed it on aesthetic grounds. “Extraordinarily ugly” is how Robert Linn, a 31-year resident of Prospect Park West, described the green and yellow paint and plastic barriers. “It looks like the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel.”

But those who would like to see the street rolled back to its previous form — restored traffic patterns, no big green bike lane — found themselves vastly outnumbered by cyclists and other bike lane supporters who came from nearby and around the city to guard their gains. If roughly 50 to 70 came to protest the lane, at least 150 to 200 came to support it. (Organizers of the rally in support of the lane put their numbers at around 350.)

“We don’t want to have to be out here to advocate for something that’s already done,” said Eric McClure, a Park Slope resident and one of the organizers of the counter-protest, which cannily began at 8 a.m., a half-hour earlier than the opposition. But, he said, making sure the lane stays is as important as getting it there in the first place.

The anti-lane protest began at 8:30 sharp, as scheduled. “It’s insane, move this lane,” went one chant.

“Do you feel safer?” megaphoned Louise Hainline, the president of Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane, the group that organized the protest.

“No!” came the reply.

The two groups started in separate areas, but soon joined up at the corner of Prospect Park West and Carroll Street, where the police had erected loose pens of wooden barriers about 30 feet apart along the sidewalk between the park and the bike lane. With megaphones, each gathering chanted among themselves and at their antagonists.

“Ride in the park!” opponents said.

“We want safe streets!” supporters responded, drowning them out.

After a few minutes, many of the cyclists crossed the impromptu stage to engage more directly with the lane opponents, filling the lane with bikes and creating the kind of two-wheeled traffic jam usually associated with Copenhagen. Police calmly encouraged riders to keep moving when they stopped at the opposing barricade to debate the issue.

Indeed, the hue and cry over the lane in recent weeks led local elected officials and the community board to solicit public opinion via an Web survey. “I saw that a lot of people had strong feelings,” said City Councilman Brad Lander, a long-time supporter of the bike lane whose district includes Prospect Park. The survey, he said, was a way for people to voice their feelings while the transportation department evaluates whether or not the lane has been a successful addition to the neighborhood. “It’s a study period,” he said.

By 8:50, many of the cyclists had dispersed — “We are late for work,” some chanted — and both rallies were over a little after 9.

Eric Rochow was out walking his two yellow Labradors when he happened upon the dueling bands of protesters. The 45-year-old house painter said he didn’t understand the fuss. “I drive my car for work, I ride my bike for work, and I walk my dogs every morning,” he said. “They said come protest the bike lane and I said, ‘Why? Before they put the bike lane in, it was a superhighway.’ ”

Source: NYtimes