Park Slope Neighbors, a community group, went into Prospect Park last week with a radar gun and discovered that 193 out of the 195 cars they clocked—or 98.9 percent—were breaking the 25 m.p.h. speed limit, the Daily News reports. Some were going more than 50 m.p.h. The group and others are now urging park officials to ban automobiles from the park, as officials try to figure out how to accommodate better pedestrians and bicyclists using the park and make it safer for all. Their plan calls for reducing the number of car lanes to one, and widening lanes for bike-riders and walkers.
“This plan will make the park safer for everyone, but we’re not going far enough,” PSN’s co-founder said at a meeting this week, Patch reports. “We need cars out of the park.”
Car advocates worry the plan just “demonizes” car owners, and one at the meeting said that losing a lane of traffic will just make drivers angry and provoke dangerous driving. (Because people who drive cars are crazy and we have to just give them whatever they want or they’ll run us over?) But one supporter of a car ban argued it’s inevitable. “I think about this issue like gay marriage in the sense of the gradual process, state-by-state,” he said. “Even the opponents of a car-free park know it’ll happen.”
I’m all for banning cars from the park, and not for safety reasons. Too much of our infrastructure was designed with automobiles in mind, back when it was fetishized as the modern mode of transit. (Curse you, Moses!) We have a more complicated relationship to cars now. But those in Bay Ridge, for example, looking to walk along the shore still must also walk alongside the highway, a redundant strip of roadway that gives drivers a nice view, but diminishes the waterfront experience for those on foot or non-motorized wheel. There ought to be places in the city we can go to escape—from cars and noise and other urban unpleasantries—places where serenity goes unspoiled. If Prospect Park were closed to cars, drivers could still easily get from point A to point B. It might be more inconvenient, it might make their trips a little longer, but in 2012 that ought just to be the price of driving.