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Nov 28

Brooklyn cyclists continue to rip through Prospect Park at unsafe speeds despite crackdown

Bike riders and pedestrians in Prospect Park. Daily News reporter used radar to check speed of riders which was between 7-29 mph. The fastest was on the down hill slope. Pedestrians have been hit by cyclists and seriously injured.

Two women were nearly killed in collisions with bicyclists in Prospect Park in the last six months — but that hasn’t slowed down riders, the Daily News has found.

A reporter with a radar gun clocked bikers going as fast as 31 mph — even through a red light at a crosswalk — on the often-crowded drive that loops the Brooklyn park.

The speed limit for cars and bikes in the park is 25 mph, although signs at park entrances incorrectly state that it’s 15 mph.

During a four-hour period last weekend, eight out of about 50 bikers spotted by The News surpassed the higher speed limit. Nearly all ran red lights, though some slowed down.

The NYPD has ticketed just 22 cyclists in the park all year. Most were riding the wrong way; five were cited for “reckless operation.”

After inquiries from The News last week, a team of cops and park police officers on Saturday set up a barricade inside the park and handed cyclists documents outlining the rules. No tickets were issued, sources said.

Those who use the park for pursuits that don’t involve two wheels say that many bicyclists are Spandex-wearing speed demons who travel in packs and treat the drive like a velodrome, intimidating or berating those on foot.

“Move from here! Move from here!” one cyclist clad in racing gear yelled at a reporter who was not even in a bike-only lane.

“The park is a danger zone because of these cyclists,” Jennie Modica, a retired psychologist from Windsor Terrace said as she tried to get across the drive after a power walk. “The cyclists need to control themselves.”

The conflict isn’t limited to Prospect Park.

“They think they own the world,” Roberto Linares of Midwood, Brooklyn, said of cyclists while watching his 3-year-old son ride a tricycle in Central Park. “They’re overconfident.”

A task force to tackle the competition for road space in Prospect Park was launched in June after Brooklyn actress Dana Jacks, 37, was hit by a bicyclist and spent almost a month in the hospital.

Her husband, Forrest Cicogni, said that while much of the debate about safety has revolved around cars in the park, “the culture of racing” is just as big a threat.

“The cars are stopping at stoplights,” he said. “The cyclists are not.”

The couple has sued the city and the cyclist who slammed into her. The biker, who could not be reached for comment, countersued Jacks, claiming she was in the wrong place.

Jacks is recovering from her brain injury. Park volunteer Linda Cohen, 55, however, is still in intensive care, but out of a coma, after a collision with a bicyclist on Nov. 3.

Her close friend, Nancy Moccaldi, said Cohen used to walk 5 miles in the park every day.

“She knows it intimately. She knows when to be safe, when to cross, how to take care of herself. That’s what makes it so shocking,” said Moccaldi.

She would not talk about the extent of Cohen‘s injuries, but said the urban planner “doesn’t understand what happened.”

There have been two more accidents since the crash that injured Cohen — one involvedinvolving a child. The injuries in both cases were minor.

In a statement, the Parks Department said it’s working with other agencies to “implement new safety strategies and enforce bike regulations.”

Orange barrels were put down to narrow a lane and slow speeders. Crosswalks were painted with high-visibility paint, but that doesn’t guarantee cyclists will respect them.

“There’s no silver bullet,” admitted Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson.

The confusing signs that say the speed limit is 15 mph — when the real limit, as set by the Transportation Department, is 25 mph — will be taken down.

The NYPD is also planning “roving enforcement” actions against cyclists who don’t yield to pedestrians, park officials said.

At cyclist hangouts near the park, some riders complained they’re being demonized.

“Pedestrians just go wherever,” said Birgit Reeves, 38, a member of the Finkraft cycling team who trains on a $5,000 Italian bike.

“You don’t see cyclists going into the pedestrian lane,” added the Sunset Park chemist.

Indeed, last weekend, some runners and walkers veered from their designated lane, apparently thinking that when the drive is closed to cars, they can go free-range.

Ronald Goode, 32, strolling with his wife and 6-year-old, admitted he did not know bicyclists were allowed on the main road.

“They still don’t have the right to run into you,” he said, shooting nasty looks at passing cyclists. “Pedestrians have the right of way, even with cars.”

Geoffrey Croft, president of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates, said “education backed by enforcement is key.”

“There is an attitude with some cyclists that they own the road,” Croft said. “This culture must be changed.”

With Katie Nelson

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