Lawsuit Seeks to Erase Bike Lane in New York City

By Michael M. Grynbaum
The New York Times
March 7, 2011

A two-way bike lane along Prospect Park West in Brooklyn is the focus of a lawsuit filed Monday. Eric Michael Johnson for The New York Times.

Well-connected New Yorkers have taken the unusual step of suing the city to remove a controversial bicycle lane in a wealthy neighborhood of Brooklyn, the most potent sign yet of opposition to the Bloomberg administration’s marquee campaign to remake the city’s streets.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, comes after a year of dueling petitions, pamphlets and rallies over a bike path installed by the city last summer along Prospect Park West.

But while the suit seeks only the removal of that particular lane, it incorporates criticisms of the administration’s overall approach in carrying out the high-profile initiatives of its transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, including placing pedestrian plazas in Times and Herald Squares and rededicating dozens of miles of traffic lanes for bicycle use.

Although this is not the first legal challenge against bike lanes in New York City — the Koch administration was sued in 1980 — the case opens a new front in one of the most heated civic disputes since smoking was banned in bars.

The suit also quotes e-mail correspondence that suggests a close relationship between top Department of Transportation officials and the cycling advocates who are vocal supporters of expanding the city’s bicycle network.

The lawsuit, filed by a group with close ties to Iris Weinshall, the city’s transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, accuses the Transportation Department of misleading residents about the benefits of the lane, cherry-picking statistics on safety improvements and collaborating with bicycle activists to quash community opposition.

Opponents have criticized the two-way bicycle lane for reducing room for cars and restricting the views of pedestrians crossing the street. The basis of the legal complaint is rooted in a state statute that allows challenges to government actions deemed to be arbitrary or unfair.

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