Survey Finds Support, but a Bike-Lane Debate Continues

An extended online survey of Brooklyn residents sponsored by two city councilmen and released on Tuesday found broad support for a new parking-protected bicycle lane along Prospect Park West, the source of dueling protests in October.

The survey results, released by Councilmen Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, come two days before City Council hearings on bicycling and are certain to rekindle debate over the merits of the Brooklyn lane and, more broadly, over the city’s push for bicycling citywide.

Since the Park Slope protests, some well-connected people, including  a former city transportation commissioner, have lobbied for changes to the current lane. Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, and Norman Steisel, a former deputy mayor, had breakfast last month with Mr. Lander and, shortly after, with Mr. Levin.

“They made very clear that their goal is to see the bike lane removed and the old configuration restored,” Mr. Lander said in an e-mail.

Ms. Weinshall said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she “had concerns over all about safety elements of the bike lane and the level of both community input and the data that’s being made available to the community.”

Ms. Weinshall had previously declined to comment on the lane, with speculation in the cycling press swirling around her role in opposing it.

“I’m not opposed to bike lanes,” Ms. Weinshall said. “I put in a number of them as commissioner, including the lane on Plaza Street” that connects to Prospect Park West.

The councilmen also met with bike advocates and local cyclists. The meetings occurred as the survey results were being collected and analyzed.

By wide margins, respondents to the online survey approved of the 1.8-mile lane, which was installed over the summer. Of those who said they lived in Park Slope, 78 percent said they wanted to keep the lane as it is, or with some changes, while only 22 percent wished to return the boulevard to its previous configuration. (Construction of the bike lane reduced the number of car lanes to two, from three.)

Polling experts caution, however, that online surveys, like any surveys in which the respondents are self-selected rather than contacted at random, are of limited value.

Support in the survey was more mixed among those who lived directly on Prospect Park West. Those respondents — 838 of more than 3,150 surveys completed — split evenly between support for the lane and a desire to return to the old street design.

At the dueling protests in October, Park Slope residents who want to see the street rolled back to its previous form found themselves vastly outnumbered by local cyclists and other bike lane supporters who came to guard their gains. The clash along Prospect Park West offered a microcosm of the roiling debate around efforts by the Transportation Department to improve bicycling infrastructure in New York.

The 13-question survey was conducted online and in-person from Oct. 15 to Oct. 30, with steps taken to eliminate duplicates. More than 90 responses were deemed suspicious and removed, as were 227 responses from outside Brooklyn.

The survey included open-ended questions and elicited suggestions for ways to improve the lane, including redesigning pedestrian crossings; altering the design of the pedestrian islands; widening the parking lanes; replacing some parking spots; and adding or improving drop-off zones in crowded areas of the boulevard.

“Thanks to the extensive response, we have a clearer sense of the concerns, and a set of potential modifications that address them,” read a statement from Councilman Lander, who voted for the lane as a member of the local community board when it was first presented.

A strong majority of respondents felt that the bike lane met both the goals of the Transportation Department to reduce speeding and increase pedestrian and bike safety as well as those of local residents, who sought an easier and safer way to cross the busy boulevard.

The survey will be presented at a community board meeting on Dec. 16, and copies will be available at the City Council’s cycling hearing.

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