Changing Lanes

If you walk, run, bike, or even drive in Prospect Park, you’ll notice some changes over the next few weeks to the configuration on Park Drive, thanks to a task force set up to improve safety for all users of this precious green space.

The city’s Department of Transportation recently repaved and restriped the drive between Park Circle and Ocean/Parkside Avenues with new lane markings and symbols, following recommendations by the Prospect Park Road Sharing Taskforce. DOT will resume reconfiguring the rest of the Park Drive in early May and expects to be finished by the end of the month. The new arrangement creates one full, dedicated lane for pedestrians (on the left) and another for cyclists (in the center), rather than the existing setup of a single shared lane when the drives are open to car traffic, and only the right lane for cars and trucks instead of two lanes.

Prospect Park will still remain open to car traffic 7-9 a.m. on the East Drive, and 5-7 p.m. on the West Drive, Monday through Friday.

The task force, a government-community coalition, was convened by Prospect Park Administrator Emily Lloyd to examine how the full range of park users (including runners, walkers, competitive cyclists, and recreational bikers) could safely share the drives, and what measures could be implemented to foster the safe use of the Park Drive for everyone.

A wide range of stakeholders were included in the task force: Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Councilmember Brad Lander, the Department of Parks and Recreation, DOT, the Fellowship for the Interests of Dogs & Their Owners (FIDO), Jack Rabbit Sports, Kissena Cycling Club, the Park Enforcement Patrol (Brooklyn), the Prospect Park Alliance Playground Committee, the Prospect Park Community Committee (which counts the Park Slope Civic Council as a member), Prospect Park Residence, Prospect Park Track Club, the 78th Police Precinct, and Transportation Alternatives.

The coalition met several times, including a public meeting in November to solicit community input, and developed recommendations that were reviewed by the Parks Department and DOT.

The recommendations provide safety and predictability for all users of the Park Drive. “We decided that the only workable solution was for each group of users to have a lane and only one lane, throughout the day,” said Lloyd. Each group — pedestrians, both walkers and runners; cyclists, Rollerbladers, and skateboarders; and motorized vehicles — has their own dedicated lane at all times.

The changes will be rolled out in two phases. In the first, beginning in early May, DOT will remove the existing lines and icons, and stripe the lanes with the new designations and icons. The current regulations will remain in effect until the work is completed in late May. (The only exception is the already reconfigured section.) Phase 1 addresses several areas.

  • Crossing: encourage pedestrians to cross at crosswalks and on the “green,” and make all crosswalks highly visible.
  • Educational outreach: foster stop on “red” for everyone.
  • Predictability: assign one permanent use to each lane; extend green phase of traffic lights during traffic hours to maintain level of service; emphasize one-way use for bicycles (counter-clockwise); and reinforce with outreach, pavement markings, signage, and ongoing enforcement.

In the fall, the task force will reconvene to review the effectiveness of phase 1 and consider further steps. In this second phase , DOT will conduct a feasibility study of pedestrian-activated traffic lights, review crosswalk and traffic-light locations, pursue placement of additional park benches around the Park Drive, and study the feasibility of a jogging lane on the park landscape.

These changes, along with public outreach and enforcement, are expected to create an environment where everyone can use the park’s roadways safely for themselves and others.

The Prospect Park Alliance’s website offers details on the changes, at bit.ly/prospect-park-drives.

Photo by David Herman

from the Spring 2012 Civic News 

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