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Park Slope Bike Lane Lawsuit Dropped After 5 Year Court Battle

By Leslie Albrecht | September 21, 2016 5:40pm | Updated on September 21, 2016 7:08pm
 Opponents of the Prospect Park West protected bike lane announced Wednesday that they're dropping their lengthy legal battle against the city.
Opponents of the Prospect Park West protected bike lane announced Wednesday that they're dropping their lengthy legal battle against the city.
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Dmitry Gudkov Photography

PARK SLOPE — The epic legal battle to remove the Prospect Park West bike lane ended Wednesday after the plaintiffs agreed to drop their lawsuit against the city, giving bike advocates something to cheer about.

Neighbors For Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety announced that they're ending their quest against the two-way, 19-block bike path, saying that they believed they've exposed the city's "bait and switch tactics."

"We continue to believe that the City’s decision in January 2011 to make the PPW bike lane permanent was arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful — based on distorted traffic and safety data cherry-picked by the City,” the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

The plaintiffs sued the city's Department of Transportation back in March 2011, alleging that the DOT had installed the lane on a temporary basis, then used misleading data to justify making the lane permanent.

"We are pleased that petitioners discontinued this meritless action, ending a chapter in the evolving story of New York’s ever growing bike network," DOT and the city Law Department said in a joint statement.

"We always felt confident the case would be decided in DOT’s favor, and as we made clear in our legal papers, none of the claims had merit. The decision to install this bike lane was made on a sound and rational basis, benefitting the community and achieving DOT's goals of reducing motor vehicle speeds, providing bike network connectivity, and removing cyclists from the adjacent sidewalks."

The court battle dragged on and earlier this year hearings included testimony from a who's-who of local politics, with former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan taking the stand.

Though the city moved to dismiss the case on a statute of limitations violation, Judge Bert Bunyan ruled this past spring that the suit could move forward. The court fight could have continued for another two years or so, observers said.

Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, a leading advocate for the bike lane, said the lawsuit's demise was a welcome shock.

"I'm very pleased that the plaintiffs have come to their senses," McClure said. "I think it's probably clear even to the plaintiffs that their fears about the [Prospect Park West] redesign didn’t come to pass. I think it's pretty clear from the data around the city that the protected bike infrastructure really is safer."

The Prospect Park West bike path is known as a protected lane because there's a lane of parked cars between cyclists and moving traffic. The plaintiffs' ultimate goal was to have the lane removed, and McClure said he was breathing a sigh of relief now that the lane is permanently safe from bulldozers.

Plaintiffs said they were dropping the suit in part because Prospect Park West had become safer as DOT made other changes after the bike lane was installed, such as reconfiguring the traffic lights and lowering the speed limit.

Plaintiffs also said they were ending the fight because DOT "has made strides in increasing the transparency of its decision-making while attempting to improve transportation safety."

Some local residents would probably disagree with that assertion — neighbors have been fuming lately over the arrival of Citi Bike, which some feel the city forced on them with no warning.

"Thrilled that PPW bike-lane opponents have voluntarily withdrawn their lawsuit!" Park Slope City Councilman Brad Lander, who testified during the court proceedings, said on Twitter late Wednesday. "Hoping opposition to CitiBike abates a little more quickly."

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