Just when we thought the city's anti-bike lane cancer was in remission, the stupid Prospect Park West bike lane saga, which we spent the best years of our lives chronicling in mind-numbing detail, is back to facepalm us once again. The lawsuit, you'll recall, was filed by a handful of self-important swells who live by Prospect Park, where the DOT removed a lane of traffic from Prospect Park West "speedway" and added a protected, two-way bike lane along the park. The city did this at the request of the local Community Board and the change, which calmed traffic and reduced accidents, was a resounding success... but at what cost? Sometimes it's harder for truck drivers to double park when delivering shipments from Sharper Image.
The lawsuit was first dismissed in August 2011 by a State Supreme Court judge who ruled that the plaintiffs had missed the statute of limitation. But prominent bike lane opponents—who include former NYC DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall (she's also Senator Chuck Schumer's wife) and Brooklyn Borough President Mary Markowitz—argued that the PPW bike lane was initially intended as a temporary trial, and the lawsuit should be considered because it was filed before the bike lane was permanent.
The plaintiffs' arguments remained unsettled in court, chief among them that the DOT allegedly misrepresented data about the bike lane's impact. The lawsuit also argues that because of Park Slope's historic nature, the DOT should have been required to conduct an environmental review and submit the changes to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Yesterday an appeals court plucked the lawsuit out of the memory hole and sent it back to the Supreme Court for review, deciding that the statue of limitations did not apply to all of the plaintiffs' arguments—namely, that the DOT violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
"We are gratified by the court’s decision and we look forward to forcing the truth from the Department of Transportation,” Jim Walden, the lead attorney for the opposition groups, told the Daily News yesterday. (Here's the entertaining fake Twitter account for Walden, who's representing the plaintiffs, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, pro bono.)
DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow says, "We’re confident that the Prospect Park West bike lane is here to stay. We’re very pleased that three of the four causes of action were dismissed by the Appellate Court, which also returned to the trial court one claim for a limited finding on a technical issue. We are fully confident that the trial court will decide that there is absolutely no merit to what is left of this case. In the meantime, local residents will continue to enjoy the safety that this community-requested and supported lane has provided every day for the last two and a half years."
And Transportation Alternatives spokesman Michael Murphy has this to say: "This has gone beyond reason and beyond parody. What lengths will these people go to—how much time and money will be wasted—in their mad quest to overrule the wishes of their neighbors and destroy a commonsense, life-saving street improvement that has long since become part of the fabric of that community? And when they do inevitably give up, where will they turn their attention next? Can we expect a war on crosswalks?"