It’s a legal battle that appears to encapsulate the worst of both anti-cycling and NIMBY attitudes.
Wealthy residents of New York’s Brooklyn borough are launching legal proceedings against civic authorities in a bid to have a cycle lane there removed, largely, it seems, on the grounds that the facility doesn’t really benefit them.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, is the latest development in what has hitherto simply been an acrimonious debate over a bike path installed by the civic authorities last summer beside Prospect Park West.
The legal challenge is seeking the removal of the lane but also contains criticism of the city’s moves to make New York a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly environment. Those moves have included the pedestrianisation of Times and Herald Squares and a change of use for dozens of miles of traffic lanes in favour of cyclists.
The lawsuit accuses New York’s Transportation Department of exaggerating the potential benefits of the Prospect Park lane, of selectively using statistics on safety improvements and of working in tandem with cycling activists to stifle community opposition to the project.
Opponents have claimed the two-way bike lane reduces space for cars and restricts pedestrians’ sightlines when crossing the street. New York state has a statute that allows citizens to challenge government actions considered arbitrary or unfair.
An official at the Transportation Department told the New York Times that civic authorities stood by the bike lane’s success. “This project has clearly delivered the benefits the community asked for. Speeding is down dramatically, crashes are down, injuries are down, and bike ridership has doubled on weekends and tripled on weekdays,” he said.
Opponents, however, disputed the department’s statistics and accuse transportation officials of ignoring statutory planning requirements.
At least one commentator has suggested that this case could be a forerunner to many similar legal actions not just in the US but around the world as it illustrates the fundamental problem between non-cyclists claiming to be inconvenienced by a cycle facility in their midst and cyclists from the wider community who feel they need the protection of cycling infrastructure in areas where they are not resident.
Others observers, however, suggest it is simply a local New York issue which has few ramifications for other cities around the world which are forging ahead with the cycling-led initiatives regardless of minority opposition.