As most local runners and riders have probably heard by now, there are plans for major changes in Prospect Park. Under the proposed reconfiguration, cars will be restricted to one lane during the time in the park. Bikes will be restricted to one lane at all times, and pedestrians will have use of the former recreation lanes shared by cyclists and runners.
Even when cars are not allowed in the park, cyclists will be restricted to the single lane, with the outer lane only for official vehicles "temporary passing" by cyclists. Overall, this is a major step in the right direction. It limits the space used by cars, which is an improvement. It has consistent use of each lane, and the ability for clearer markings and less confusion. Certainly it would be better to get cars out entirely, but I understand that it's a political hot potato, and that the Borough President is a buffoon who champions the use of cars.
Still, I have some concerns. Reducing the bike lane from 23 feet to 10 feet during times that cars are out will effectively eliminate pack riding in the park. Perhaps that's not a bad thing, but it's noteworthy. I also worry about the lack of a "buffer" between the cars and bikes. There's one in place between the bikes and runners, which is understandable. But the car lane has been narrowed, and I worry about the safety of riders. (There is a 3-foot shoulder to the right of the cars. That could be used as a buffer if it were placed on the cars' left, but there are concerns about cars swerving to avoid drains which are on the right of the road.)
And apparently there has been no mention of the dangerous and illegal speeds that cars routinely drive in the park. Though the NY Daily News found it appropriate to do a full page story about some cyclists exceeding the speed limit, they have not seemed as interested in the habits of drivers. One would think that if cyclists on 20 pound bikes occasionally speeding by a few MPH is newsworthy, that the 99% of drivers speeding would also merit a full page story, complete with absurd and inflammatory headline. One would be wrong, but here's what the Park Slope Neighbors radar study found:
Fielded Thursday, February 23, 2012, 5:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
Conditions: Partly cloudy, dusk, 50 degrees fahrenheit
Park Drive Speed Limit: 25 MPH
Average speed: 38.7 MPH
Median speed: 39 MPH
% Above 25 MPH Speed Limit: 99%
% Above 30 MPH: 94.9%
% Above 40 MPH: 45.6%
Top Recorded Speed: 53 MPH
Sample size: 195 vehicles
Certainly there's more to be done in terms of changing policy, perception and enforcement, but this proposal is clearly a step in the right direction.