POLL: Should Cars be Allowed in Prospect Park?

Calls for ban gain steam following police crackdown on speeding bikers.

Earlier this week on how the NYPD, prompted by several serious collisions between bikes and pedestrians, is cracking down on cyclists in Prospect Park by issuing almost 200 tickets for breaking the law.

The article prompted fierce debate in the comments section, sometimes pitting pro-cyclists and pro-pedestrians against one another. Yet another solution, , could leave both groups happy—banning cars from the park.

The L Magazine reports that a group organized by Park Slope Neighbors recently tracked the speed of cars in the park with a radar gun. Of the 195 cars they clocked, all but two were exceeding the 25 mph speed limit.

As of now, cars are only allowed in the park for four hours a day, during rush hours. But their presence is felt all of the time, said Park Slope Neighbors founder Eric McClure in a press release:

“Removing cars from the park should really be considered a prerequisite for solving the issue of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians. The ongoing presence of motor vehicles in the park will continue to sow confusion over the usage of the car lane during car-free hours, and relying on the honor system to keep drivers confined to their one lane... seems like a recipe for danger.”

What do you think?

michael seltzer March 16, 2012 at 02:02 PM
It won't. That's why it's called an "accident" in hindsight totally preventable, in reality not. There will be more. Be careful. It's getting nice out, more people, more bikers. Suns coming out now, good luck Mr Oshea, be careful crossing and I'll watch out for you too- ill leave no more comments here, board is all yours, I've gotta ride the circle of the park instead of the circle of comments here.
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM
That's right. It won't. But making bikers obey traffic rules just might.
Chicken Underwear March 16, 2012 at 02:21 PM
All biker will not, no matter what the law is. So why don't we make laws that will work.
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Thank you Jonna. That is exactly what I have been trying to say.
Jonna March 16, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Parks are one of the few public spaces where people can escape from motor vehicles and for that I agree they should not ever be allowed inside the park. But I agree with Rick Oshea, this is a dishonest tactic that uses poor, lazy logic. I am a recreational cyclist. I've spent countless hours taking my bike around those loops. What always leaves a bad taste in my mouth are the aggro cycling teams (are you teams? gangs?) that yell at you to move out of their way, don't stop for pedestrians, and do other dangerous things. Its not only bad for pedestrians, but for other cyclists. An overpass could be a good idea, but that will just reinforce the aggro cyclists' belief that the park is their personal velodrome. Its not. There's one in Queens, go there. Pedestrians are no better when they take the risk of walking out in front of a bike barreling towards them. But maybe thats because its difficult to find a break in the traffic. There has to be a mutual level of respect, which there isn't. Its disheartening because now I have a child and I'm almost as scared to put her in a child seat in the park as I am to let her ride along on the roads. And my biggest contention on the streets is not vehicles but cyclers doing all sorts of crazy things that break traffic laws, giving a bad name to those of us who like to ride and obey the traffic laws. (edited to remove a very rude-sounding typo!)
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Dear Mr Underwear, if they enforced those laws theyh would work. A few 200 dollar fiines would change behavior.
adorabella March 16, 2012 at 03:57 PM
That's true - for decades bikes. motobikes, cars, scooters, feet, and transportation of all kinds used the park and streets cooperatively and safely, why is this an issue now? Everyone should be able to use our streets and parks. This is divisive and silly. For example, a longtime business owner recentlly mused about the financial cost associated with the new (and in my view unnecessary) bike lanes, and hitching posts and noted that this is the time to license bike riders in order to pay for these installations and maintainence, and to install meters for bike parking. He has a point.
Gary J. March 16, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Perfectly reasonable, Jonna. The problem is that your pal Rick doesn't distinguish between the bad apples like the aggressive racing teams and the run-of-the-mill cyclist. He's a knee-jerk bike hater who lumps everyone in together. So if you ride through a red light in the park with your child in a seat on your bike, even with no pedestrians present in the crosswalk, he thinks you should get a ticket.
adorabella March 16, 2012 at 04:04 PM
If you want to avoid autos in the park, just go a little deeper into the park, away from traffic lanes. And yes, mutual respect and concern for each other's safety would probably make this shallow disagreement disappear.
Jonna March 16, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Adorabella, why should cyclists specifically pay for their roads and parking spots? City auto roads are not paid for specifically by auto drivers, they're funded through taxes and GO bonds. Meaning we all pay for them, including those of us who don't own cars/eschew their use.
Utah Josh March 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
This is one of those cases where everyone can say "it's not my personal behavior causing this situation" and then point to the next person and say "it's their fault". Ok, done. Every park user could be more courteous, more vigilant. That being said, yes absolutely, get the cats out of the park. The car lovers and car apologists out there are just going to have to go around. A park, any park is a respite from motor traffic. On a bike or on foot, there are exceedingly few places to escape from the noise, exhaust and danger of motor vehicles. I have ridden around the park, doing about 25 no less, and been honked at by drivers. (And for those of you now itching to make the argument, let me ask how going 25 on a 15lb bike is as dangerous than that same, universally ignored speed in a 2-ton car?) Yes, for years I've have wanted cars out of my beloved park. What would Frederick Law Olmstead do?
adorabella March 16, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Mr. Olstead designed the park for traffic
adorabella March 16, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Jonna, Auto drivers pay registration fees, licence fees, parking meter fees, etc. Are you suggesting that these additional costs (over and above taxes) be discontinued?
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 04:39 PM
It might not be as dangerous but 15 lb bikes have put people in the hospital with in one case a coma and in one brain damage. I might also say that while you say there are relatively few places where you can escape the noise and danger of motor traffic there are relatively few places where I can escape the danger of bike traffic and cross a road without fearing getting run down.
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Dear Gary how do you say no you can't go thru red lights if you are wearing spandex but yes I can if I have my child on the back of my bike.
Gary J. March 16, 2012 at 04:44 PM
If there is no one present in the crosswalk, why can't someone slow down and go through carefully? Do you really think a slow-moving, cautious rider, with or without spandex, is a threat and must stop of all red lights in a park, even when no one is waiting to cross? Seems silly.
brooklynrhubarb March 16, 2012 at 04:50 PM
One can only assume that no one calling for the cars to get out of the park actually lives on or near the roads in the immediate area as they would all end up on these roads. As I posted in the other thread... Imagine if all the energy being put into this finger pointing and blame deflection was used to come up with a compromise. I know, crazy as it sounds, compromise.... but the park is everyone's, and as such you'd think in our modern society we could understand that. Everyone will not be 100% happy with any solution so let's try to live together and come up with one that can allow everyone safe usage without stepping/riding all over someone else... (incidentally, seems there are several posters here who appear to enjoy this back and forth as some sort of game, goading and poking, which of course is only adding to the lack of civil discourse, and ultimately the lack of any compromise between factions... Can't help but wonder their intentions and priorities....?)
Jonna March 16, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Not at all, and I don't necessarily disagree that there should be more ways to make cyclists accountable for their actions, but there are far more externalities associated with auto use than there are with bicycles and we all bear the cost even with the minimal fees you cite. Perhaps there should be some metered parking for bikes in high traffic areas, but if I wanted to get the city to put a bike rack in front of my building, I would have to pay for the rack and the installation, no one person or group has to shoulder the burden of paying for the paved street in front of my place where cars are parked. But I think this is all a digression from the conversation at hand and I'll leave it at that.
brooklynrhubarb March 16, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Here's the thing Gary, I have seen a spandex clad biker knock down a little boy on a bike. The kid looked about 8 years old. And that biker looked put out that he had to stop and atend to the kid and act like he was concerned. I have seen on numerous oocassions bikers yelling at mothers crossing the road with a small child in tow. There is a thuggishness that many though by no means all bikers display. Akd Jonna about that. And as Jonna said if you don't addess this it validates these bikers behavior in their minds. And the idea that somehow removing cars from the park addresses this issue is as I have said intellectually dishonest. Yes I think that cars should be removed from the park. But not as a solution to bikers running down pedestrians. And no I don't lump all bikers together. I don't think bikers who behave responsibly will be affected. And as Jonna said the park should not be a velodrome and it's not in your interest as a leisure biker to have that either.
Rick Oshea March 16, 2012 at 06:09 PM
In all this discussion not one person has answered my question. How does banning cars from the park prevent further accidents where bikers hit pedestrians and send them to the hospital? (And again there were no cars in the park when these incidents occurred.)
Gary J. March 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Rick, banning cars may not prevent some jerk from colliding with another person and hurting them. It's a busy place and not every person exercises common sense and courtesy. Providing more defined space for peds and cyclists and joggers and better visibility at crosswalks will help, but nothing is 100% in life. But regardless, cars do not belong in the park. It's two separate issues.
Chicken Underwear March 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Rick, the fact that you keep saying "bikers hit pedestrians" makes it hard to give you an answer that you can understand. We don't know what happened. I assume you think that they were "run down" while crossing the road. But maybe they were not trying to cross the street., maybe thy were walking in the lane that has a icon of a walker on it. or maybe they were walking in the lane that had an icon of a bike on it. The lane with the bike is actually for walkers and runners when cars are not in the park. Confused, everyone is. Get the cars out, make better lanes that spread out different kids of road users and label them in a way that makes sense
StedyRock March 16, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Really? I didn't realize they had auto traffic in 1867. Thanks for the history lesson.
StedyRock March 16, 2012 at 07:54 PM
It will prevent cars from hitting pedestrians, which should be a much greater concern considering cars killed more people than gun violence in NYC over the past decade.
michael seltzer March 16, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Said I wouldnt respond but I am just back from the park- It seems that the new lane system is designed to provide more of a "buffer zone" for pedestrians crossing. By moving all bikers into one lane (problem to discuss) it prevents pedestrians from walking directly into bike lane traffic. This increases awareness and provides for safety in crossing. Now for leisure/recreation riders, you will now be sharing in close proximity a lane with a speeding peloton (line of spandex warriors) the meandering criss cross bike riding will be yelled at as faster bikers yell "on your right" scaring you as they fly past. In addition, if I am following all traffic rules and am confined to one lane and stop at red lights, I fully expect crossers to obey the traffic light as well and wait that extra minute so essential to crossing to feed that beak-less freak of a goose before they gas him in the next round. If people cross against the light, they will be yelled at, as I have now become a 25mph speeding messenger of destruction who is now abiding by all rules and am concerned for the safety and well being of all park users. It will be warm and sunny tomorrow, the new lanes are not down yet, crowded park, people pay attention, take out your headphones and look both ways when crossing. See you in the park.
Liam Mccarthy March 17, 2012 at 05:50 PM
According to Wikipedia, more than 7 million people use Prospect Park every year. I think it's safe to assume there are several thousand cyclists who use the park daily, and tens or hundreds of thousands who ride through it each year. From what I've been able to find in my 15 minutes of googling there seem to have been 4? accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians in the park last year. If you can find evidence of more please provide a link (I'm counting the two woman who got lots of press attention and a 'child' who was referenced in a couple articles + a freebee). The point is the park attracts a LOT of people, most of whom get along fine. By contrast, 20 pedestrians were injuring trying to get TO the park by cars at Ocean/Parkside in a single year! I think it's statistics like that which drive cyclists crazy - perhaps some of your energy - nevermind the police tickets - could be better directed? But to answer your ever-present question of how removing cars from the park would help: it would allow for consistent lane use and signage, rather than alternating lanes based on car usage. It would permit different strategies for red lights themselves, allowing for push-button crossing, infrared sensors, whatever, that would make the lights meaningful instead of random, and the park circle roadway itself wouldn't be so torn up, which can cause accidents in and of itself. Now you've got an answer.
Liam Mccarthy March 17, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Sorry for the horrendous grammar at the end of paragraph one, and also for the fact that I forgot to announce it was intended for a series of Ricks, and Rick-types who frequently ask why removing cars has anything to do with pedestrian safety since both accidents occurred during car-free hours.
Phil V. March 18, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I'm all for banning autos in Prospect Park as the population using the park continues to increase. Years ago I didn't think it was necessary, but as a regular user of the Park for over 30 years I see the problems and conflicts really increasing. Now if there was some way to regulate the bike traffic so that people trying to cross the road on foot (especially slow oldies and those with children) don't put their lives in danger by speeding bicyclists (not to mention skateboarders and rollerbladers though they are less frequent). The worst section is that down hill towards the lake and at the lake where there are lots of people always crossing. What would be best is if everyone showed each other a little courtesy.
Steven A. Levine July 17, 2013 at 06:47 PM
To Adorabella, his name was Olmsted, and he and Calvert Vaux designed the park in the 1870s when the only traffic were horse drawn carriages, Ban the automobiles and bring back the carriages which can co-exist with bicyclists and pedestrians.


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