Compared to the paltry turnout at last week's bike lane protest in the East Village, this morning's protest in Park Slope gathered a formidable crowd on Prospect Park West. Around 200 lane supporters of all ages gathered beside the bike lane, bearing signs and chanting "We love safe streets," all but drowning out the fifty or so lane protesters a few yards away. The age homogeneity among lane opponents was striking; they all seemed to be enjoying their Autumn years—or rather they would be if not for those meddling bike lanes.
The PPW lane, put in five months ago, is "redundant," according to Bob Linn, who stood on a park bench and preached into a bullhorn about the aesthetic impact of the lane. "It looks like the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel," declared Linn. "Why do they think they can mutilate this extremely beautiful boulevard?" He felt that it did nothing to reduce the need for cars. "Its useful to maybe a handful of bikers. You can count the number who ride by in an hour on one hand." He echoed the general sentiment of the anti-laners, arguing that riders could just use the lane that runs through Prospect Park. Linn was immediately bombarded with shouts from the pro-laners who reminded him that the park lane is one-way.
Aaron Naparstek spoke into a bullhorn in front of the pro-lane crowd. "This is about the sustainability of New York. This is about reducing our dependence on oil!" He reminded the protesters that the construction of the lane was not some arbitrary attack on their sovereignty. "It was the result of a decision made by Community Board 6 and the Park Slope Neighbors. These sorts of street redesigns don't just happen by themselves."
Peter Kaufman, a bike commuter and blogger who broke the Henry Street bike lane church abuse scandal, felt that the narrower Prospect Park West has played a significant role in making the straightaway safer. Before the lane, he said, "People would just gun it. Now, because it's a little constricted; psychologically the drivers feel they have to slow down." In response to the keep-bikes-in-the-park argument of the protesters, Kaufman laughed. "I would suspect every one of these people who are saying that the bikes belong in the park were opposed to taking the cars out of Prospect Park in the first place."
"I served in the army in Europe!" shouted bike lane foe Tony Srour. "They all ride their bikes the right way. They're very cautious over there. Here, I have to look both ways! Even with the walk sign! Twice I was almost hit crossing with my grandson." His wife, Cathy Srour, said, "I'm more afraid of being hit by a bike than by a car. It's more likely right here!" But Park Slope resident Leah Paulos shook her head at that logic. "It's just common sense. Would you rather be hit by a bike or a car?" Um, neither?