Prospect Park West: Overcoming Controversy to Improve Safety and Mobility in Brooklyn
3 → 2 Lane Configuration + Protected Bike Lanes
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.
- One-way moving lanes reduced from 3 to 2
- A two-way bikeway added, protected by a parking lane, adjacent to the promenade to increase bicycling and to improve safety for all users.
- Signal timing adjusted to new traffic goals.
- Loading zones added to offset concerns about double-parking.
- Warning signs created to prevent bicycle-pedestrian conflicts.
- Pedestrian islands added on the side of the bike lanes adjacent to the moving lane and bike rumble strips after further review, in 2012.
The Street’s Mobility Improved
- The combined vehicle and bicycle counts increased 13% in the AM rush period and 9% in the PM rush period, when bicycle traffic now comprises 12% of total traffic.
- Peak traffic volumes and travel times remain stable after implementation.
- Weekday cycling volumes have nearly tripled.
- Weekend cycling volumes have more than doubled.
The Street is Safer
- The percentage of vehicles on the street breaking the speed limit was reduced from 74% to 20%. The average speed declined from 33.8 to 26.6 mph.
- Crashes are down 16%.
- Crashes that cause injuries decreased 63%.
- Before the project, a crash was twice as likely to include an injury (18% vs. 8%).
- Injuries to all street users decreased 21%.
- No reported pedestrian injuries in the after period.
- No reported pedestrian or cyclist injuries from crashes involving only pedestrians and cyclists.
- Cyclists riding on the sidewalk decreased to 3% from 46%.
*Before-and-after results and project outcomes are the result of monitoring and evaluation conducted by NYC DOT. A series of one-day bicycle counts, vehicle counts, travel time runs, and radar studies were performed in 2009 and 2010. Accident data is from June 1 – December 31 in 2007, 2008, and 2009, and compared to the same period in 2010.
- Responsive to New York City’s PlaNYC 2030 plan goals of sustainability and livability.
- Project generated in response to New York City’s community board process and approved repeatedly by local community board.
- Became lightning rod for controversy surrounding biking and rightsizing projects in New York City.
- Legal challenge by adjacent residents dismissed.
- NYC DOT’s Prospect Park Page documents its process, successes, and lawsuit in detail.
- Tom Vanderbilt weighed in on the controversy, explaining why the new Prospect Park West is safer.
- Streetsblog New York chronicled the organized opposition to the project before and after their suits.
- The Community Survey Results prepared by Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin and Community Board 6.