A lawsuit filed this week demanding the removal of the bike lane along Prospect Park West might be just the first of many court challenges that could seek to tear apart the city's nearly 500-mile bike lane network, experts say.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn under a statute that allows challenges to government actions deemed “arbitrary and capricious.”
The group that hopes to get the bike lane stripped accuses the city's transportation department of failing to properly analyze the appropriateness of the lane, refer the plan to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and submit the bike lane to environmental reviews.
Robert Brill, an attorney who works on transportation law and land use cases, believes bike lane opponents could even bring a citywide lawsuit resulting in an injunction against bike lanes.
“What this case reveals may yield evidence that could be used in other lawsuits,” Brill told NBC New York.
Particularly, the ways in which the Department of Transportation conducts its public safety reviews and creates Environmental Impact Statements could serve as the basis for future lawsuits, he said.
“If there is a decision then there is a precedent, and that precedent can be used in other suits,” said Brill.
Brill suspects that suits may be brought against the Columbus Avenue bike lane on the Upper West Side, as well as against a lane proposed on Central Park West.
The city has given in to bike lane complaints before. In recent years the administration removed a strip of lane in Brooklyn and another in Staten Island after local opposition.
The DOT said the Prospect Park West bike lane cost the city about $300,000 to install. Officials estimate it would cost triple that to remove it.
Seth Solomonow, DOT spokesman, maintains that the lawsuit against the Prospect Park West bike lane “has no merit” and that the lane has resulted in a decrease in speeding and injuries.
The department “categorically rejects any claim” that its findings are inaccurate.
Jim Walden, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the Prospect Park West case, said the lawsuit could serve as a template for similar suits throughout the city.
“If the Department of Transportation has been using the same statistical gimmickry they used here with other bike lanes, this case could certainly be a model,” said Walden. “Based on the number of calls I’ve fielded since the suit was filed, there is substantial frustration with the way the Department of Transportation has handled the issue and data in other areas.”
Oscar Chase, a professor at New York University School of Law, said the Prospect Park West case "might inspire other people to bring similar lawsuits if they oppose the bike lanes."
Chase added that the specific law associated with the Brooklyn suit has a short statute of limitations, so any suit would have to be brought within four months of when the lane is proposed or built.
One pro-bike lane group, Transportation Alternatives, said it hopes the Brooklyn case is an isolated suit.