Why I’m keeping track of Brooklyn’s bike lane drama

A protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn installed by the New York City Department of Transportation in summer 2010 is under attack. Two groups have sued the city in March 2011 over the lane’s installation. The city published a report that indicated that the new bike lane contributed to fewer drivers speeding, a decrease in injuries, and an increase in compliance of the law banning bicycling on the sidewalk.

I have written several articles about the drama, including New Yorkers really want to keep their bike lanes.

Why am I paying attention?

I believe this fight may come to Chicago when the Chicago Department of Transportation starts planning the cycle track to be installed on Stony Island Avenue between 69th and 77th Streets, which may be installed as soon as 2014.

And when the fight does come, I want to know as much as possible about how to defend Chicago’s first cycle track.

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Will we be successful and install a similar facility in Chicago? Photo features New York City’s first cycle track, from 2007, on 9th Avenue.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • Guest

    First thing Chicago should do is ditch the name ‘cycle track,’ which makes it should like something for lycra-clad speed demons, as opposed to everyday families and cute kids.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I think cycle track has become the well-known name for a pretty specific design. New York City and Portland both use the term. It’s not synonymous with “protected bike lane.”

      Chicago should call the project something more generic because no design has been proposed so it could turn out to be a cycle track or NOT a cycle track.

  • http://jqr.posterous.com Jonathan R

    Steven, see http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2011/03/cost-of-sucky-outreach.html?showComment=1300620036899#c8760067855378892526 for some of my thoughts. I would get every preschool in the area involved and supportive, and every senior center. If they’re not, before the lane goes in is the time to make adjustments and figure out what would get those groups to get on board.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I read your comment.

      From the article on which you commented comes this, “The Prospect Park West bike lane was developed in response to pressure for traffic calming and safer bike routes from a large bloc squarely in the mainstream of the community.”

      That’s congruent with what I’ve read about the goals and intentions for the Prospect Park West protected bike lane.

      What are the goals of the Stony Island cycle track? It shouldn’t be built just to be built, like as a test case to see whether or not it can be pulled off in Chicago. There should be clearly outlined goals, developed in coordination with the local community, and the facility designed in such a way to meet those goals. If it fails to meet the goals, then the facility should be modified or removed. <- This is NOT the case with the PPW bike lane. It has met the goals and serves the intentions, and in such a short period of time.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Also, based on my limited knowledge on how the Chicago executive government conducts public meetings on some projects (but not many others), I don’t know where people will have a chance to voice their opinion.

  • Aaron Brown

    I think the issue with Chicago’s proposed cycle track is its location. Why not put the first cycle track in an area that sees heavy bike ridership today? I understand the goal of promoting cycling among non-heavy users, but I’m afraid this will doom the program.

    People are bound to point to the lack of riders on this cycle track and then can write off all protected lanes in Chicago. I feel like a real protected bike lane where cyclists currently are (e.g., Wells St., the Loop) would be VASTLY more useful for Chicago riders. It would also demonstrate the value of a protected lane much more clearly.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I have an upcoming post talking about the cycle track’s location. So far, with the information given by CDOT, the reason it was selected was because of available space – the road is 4+ lanes in each direction (the outer lane is very wide and blends with the parking lane).

      I think the best cycle track location is one that can best meet our goals, those being reducing the number of injuries by half, and increasing the number of trips by bike under 5 miles to 5%.

      There are crashes on Stony Island, but more on Wells. There are more riders on Wells than Stony Island, though. Without Stony Island cycle track connecting to the wider bikeway network, it will do very little to increase the number of trips by bike.

      The current number of trips by bike under 5 miles is actually unknown for all neighborhoods so this metric can’t really be tracked!

      • Aaron Brown

        Look forward to your post. In my mind, the space available should definitely not be the sole reason for choosing a location, particularly for the pilot cycle track in the city (which many will use to gauge the viability of cycle tracks citywide).

        If the city needs a test case with both the space and ridership, I think a street in the Loop would be perfect (e.g., Monroe). The street is plenty wide, there is very little metered parking to worry about eliminating, and such a bike lane would greatly improve cycling conditions in a place that many people commute to.

        • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

          I’d vote for Washington Street ;)

          It goes right by City Hall, Daley Plaza, the CDOT office (heh) and to Millennium Park.