Columbus Ave. Bike Lane Stand-Off

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New bike lanes on Columbus Avenue in the summer 2010 New bike lanes on Columbus Avenue in the summer 2010 (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

Kate Hinds, producer/reporter with Transportation Nation, talks about stalled plans to extend the protected bike lane along Columbus Avenue and the effects of bike lanes on commerce. Mel Wymore, former chair of Community Board 7 and proponent of the bike lane, joins the conversation.


Mel Wymore

Comments [34]


Barbara Adler in her post of 12/20 at 12.13 is quoted as saying in reference to why the merchants on Columbus Ave. must be the foremost consideration of anything that occurs on Columbus, because it is " ...the merchants, who really make the avenue all it is…”
There are 2 reasons that a neighborhood becomes "In.” One is the access to public transportation and secondly the economic vitality that comes from the demographics of the residents who live there.
It is the residents that create the economic vitality of an area. The resident’s are the reason stores, bars, restaurants, and theaters open and why outsiders gravitate to it. To eliminate the resident’s from consideration is wrong. Yet that lack of concern for residents, coupled with the Cities refusal to promote public transportation is evident pretty much every day.
The Cities refusal to debate the issue of resident parking is disrespectful, fiscally irrational, and shows a disregard to truly solve the traffic problem, the bike problem and the safety issues that we now face.
The merchant’s, RESIDENTS, bikers, pedestrians and the City all would benefit with Resident Parking.

Dec. 23 2012 10:19 AM
dr.z from upper west side

I am not against bike lanes, i am against bike lanes on Columbus Ave.. There a many reasons why amongst them are; congestion, air pollution, and dangerous to pedestrians. There’s more. One item that stands out is how no one talks about the residents of the neighborhood. Talk about business, talk about bikers, but not a word about “is this good for the neighborhood.” There is never thought given to the fact that most bike riders extolling the bike lanes are not neighborhood residents, but rather people “passing through” and who appear to enjoy the tension and division that this program has created.
As a resident of “the neighborhood” I am concerned about traffic, and am concerned about why the city, dot, transportation alternatives, and bikers don’t talk about public transportation and why it is that every time the city has the opportunity to encourage people to use public transportation they make it easier to park. My neighborhood has an excellent public transportation system at its disposal. We have 5 train lines and a myriad of bus lines that are accessible if people used them instead of driving their vehicles in from the outside world.
We need to try resident parking IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD as another solution to the problem that isn’t discussed but should be. Resident parking will reduce congestion, make crossing the streets safer, reduce carbon pollution, and add hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to the city’s financial coffers. Rather than discussing this, and adding it into the mix, our elected officials would rather subsidize commuters. The same local politicians who bemoaned w the failure of commuter tax have an opportunity to create a similar program, but they refuse.
In “My Neighborhood” 20% of the cars parked legally on the street are registered out of state. Given that there are 600 spots that means that 120 parking spots are taken up by individuals who can/should use public transportation, or if not, can park at muni meters or garages. Our elected officials are magnanimous treating these out of towner’s to free parking. Depriving the city of untold millions of so sorely needed dollars.
That there are many different types of vehicles-cars, buses, trucks, taxi’s, limousines, car services, sorry if i left one out that use city streets as a means of securing a livelihood. The 120 extra spots would allow for commercial zones that would eliminate buses, trucks, and taxi’s from congesting our streets and avenues.
Unfortunately, unlike our local elected officials who appear to know everything, I can’t promise that resident parking is the panacea I create here. But it is definitely worth the try

Dec. 22 2012 11:05 AM
Ben Kintisch from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Brian and his guest emphasized parking loss as the main issue here, but the most important consideration for our streets is the safety of all people. The Upper West Side is a very dense neighborhood, with children, families, and senior citizens.
The redesigned streets with a protected bike lane also include pedestrian refuges, which give seniors and families with strollers a chance to stop and pause while crossing a very wide street. With cycling steadily on the rise, and bike share coming in the spring, the city needs to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians alike by re-allocating space in our streets.
Finally, as other commenters have noted, people on bicycles are far more likely to stop and shop or dine than those traveling by car. While some business owners may feel initially skeptical to a street re-design, they often change their tune when they realize how many people come in by bike.

Dec. 20 2012 09:14 PM

Since the bike lane has gone in, I love strolling and shopping along Columbus Ave -- an avenue I avoided before the bike lane. A few months after the lane was installed, my brother (who lives on West End Ave) took me over there to show how nice it had become. We said almost simultaneously, "it feels like Paris" with the bike lane.

As a pedestrian, I feel a lot safer having the buffer of the bike lane; remember this is a city where speeding cars on avenues without traffic calming measures routinely crash onto sidewalks. And the shorter crossing distances for crossing the Avenue makes it a lot calmer. It is a pleasure to walk along it with my kindergarten and young elementary school nephews.

When I drive my car along it, the narrower roadway makes it so much calmer and relaxed. No 50 mph drivers weaving and cutting me off, no anger and rage. Just calmness and order, with drivers given little choice except to act responsibly and human.

Dec. 20 2012 08:13 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Sorry, Upper Westsiders (and Brooklynites) who oppose bike lanes: your objections to the bike lanes, claiming "harm" to businesses is only your irrational and thinly-veiled hate for cyclists, and fueled by your so-called "right" to park your car on the street; you're no more concerned for the merchants than anyone else. You spent five minutes watching a "hardly used" bike lane? Watch it 24-7 for a month or two, and get back to us.

Columbus Avenue without the bike lane has become a high-speed super highway for cars to get downtown--it's no safer than Broadway. "Increased circulation" for cars just means higher speeds and more chance a vehicle will jump the curb and hurt pedestrians. Did we learn nothing from the mistakes made by the Iris Weinshall-era DOT? If you don't remember what that means, talk to people in Hell's Kitchen/Clinton about what "increased car circulation" has done for pedestrian safety and all those small businesses. A protected bike lane is a buffer for non-cyclists.

The city is made up of both pedestrians and cyclists. Making it better for cars makes it no more liveable than suburbia. Think you need a car with street parking while living here? You're better off in the suburbs.

Dec. 20 2012 01:54 PM

The first caller on today's show who is opposed to the expansion of the Columbus Avenue redesign was factually incorrect on several points:

• Injuries to walkers are DOWN, not up in the 1-mile stretch of Columbus that features the DOT design that advocates (like me) would like to see installed on the lengths of Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue.

• While vehicular speeds -- and speeding -- are down on this 1-mile stretch, vehicular TRAVEL TIME (which is what gets you to where you're going and what matters) is down by 50%. Why? Because the left-hand turning bays eliminate cars that are trying to make a turn from blocking a travel lane. Where does the data come from that travel times are reduced? From GPS maps in the city's Yellow cab fleet, and it is publicly available. Opponents should stop just making up data!

• Walkers, kids, seniors, and those in wheelchairs and strollers are the biggest winners with the DOT design, along with bicyclists. The pedestrian safety islands at every intersection REDUCE THE STREET CROSSING DISTANCE by about 15 feet, so they have more time to cross the street. Because people waiting in these zones have an unobstructed view of traffic -- and vehicles have an unobstructed view of them (Dayliighting) -- safety is much improved (crashes occur most often because people don't see each other). And these safety islands feature trees and plantings, some beautifully maintained by neighborhood merchants and volunteers, so the entire stretch is greener (plants reduce air pollution) and much better looking (provided you prefer to look at flowers and trees rather than parked cars).

SAFETY is the number one reason to install these new DOT designs. All of us should support the city when it works to reduce preventable death and injury.

In terms of convenience, as pointed out earlier in this discussion, less than 2% of people who shop on Columbus use cars: 98% arrive on foot, having traveled by walking, transit, or bicycle. These 98% deserve the benefit of this new design! I know many residents of the UWS who would love to shop by bike.

And sorry, opponents, but less than 5% of residents on the UWS use a car to get to work; if out-of-district car users didn't have free parking, there would be plenty for those that really need it).

Thanks to the enlightened work of Community Boards and the DOT in neighborhoods south of 59th Street, ALL of these improvements have been installed or are approved for construction all the way downtown on 8th and 9th Avenues, on Broadway, and First and Second Avenues.

Dec. 20 2012 12:28 PM
Barbara Adler from Upper West Side

The fact that there is 100% occupancy in the Columbus Avenue BID area (82nd-67th St.)has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not there is a bike lane, which has been in existence for just one year. Shopkeepers and restaurateurs sign 10 to 20 year leases, for as much as $350.00/sq. foot, and they report that business is hurting on the streets that have lost all their parking due to the dedicated turning lanes. We currently have 100% occupancy because the area is wholly within the historic district, includes two major museums, is tree-lined, clean, safe, and charming. We proposed Daylighting as a good compromise to these lanes, as described in my comment above, and hope that DOT will take the merchants, who really make the avenue all that it is, into consideration in their final analysis regarding the extension. To be clear, the Columbus Avenue BID supports the protected bike lane, just not the dedicated turning lanes other than at transverse streets.

Dec. 20 2012 12:21 PM

The community is not divided on this issue. What you have is two lone committee members undermining the will of hundreds of concerned members of the community who want safer streets. The majority of New Yorkers do not own cars and an even bigger majority do not drive every day to do their shopping.

Business owners need to be honest and admit that they want to preserve parking not for their customers, but for themselves. Most of their customers do not arrive by car.

Dec. 20 2012 12:13 PM
margaret vranesh from Midtown west side

I started biking in NYC to work in 1970. I went through Central Park as part of my ride, so didn't use all the traffic streets. But I stopped riding a few years ago because of huge cars which will travel as fast as they can even on crowded 9th Avenue, leaving less than 6 inches between themselves and the world. I belong to Transportation Alternatives, which means not only use of bikes, but of busses, and train transport. The whole idea is to have less car traffic!!! If you think all that traffic is hurting small businesses, I differ on that. They are going some place down town or whereever. I note the delivery trucks (small or large) will park anyplace they can find, especially in bus stops. In LA any vehicle blocking a bus can be ticketed! (ha, ha in NYC) But seriously, from what I see of the use of the present bike lanes, they are not heavily travelled, but to put bikes into traffic is a possible death sentence. We need more bike transportation. Period.

Dec. 20 2012 12:00 PM
Alan Abrams from Upper West Side

I live on 93rd St. off Columbus. My experience is that the bike lanes are hardly ever used. Bike riders (especially delivery men) use whatever side of the street and sidewalk they want. The traffic flow is SEVERELY affectedby the constrained size of the traffic lanes -- especailly when adding parked cars and trucks.
I'd like to see what would happen if they instituted a bike lane on Park Avenue (of course it won't happen because money talks!!).
I think if we institute these lanes for bike riders, it is time to license
bikes and start enforcing traffic rules for bike riders. If they don't ride in the lanes, don't observe traffic lights and stop signs, don't have lights for riding at night -- they should be ticketed!!!

Dec. 20 2012 11:50 AM
telegram sam from Staten Island

Tommy: Wow, I've disagreed with people pretty strongly on transportation issues, but never openly threatened their lives. Maybe in light of Sandy Hook you can be a little more civil? Anonymous tough guy violent posturing isn't what we need right now.

Dec. 20 2012 11:50 AM
Henry from Manhattan

While walking along a sidewalk with shops, I kind of like a bike lane since it keeps the car traffic at another lane distance.

It’s more enjoyable to sit outside at a café and it feels less like walking along a highway.

Dec. 20 2012 11:49 AM
Susan from UWS

Our family, with 2 children, lives on CPW and 96. We are always walking or scootering up and down Columbus to shop, go to school or visit parks and friends. The bike lane has made it less safe. Visibility is poor, and reduces when businesses are getting deliveries. As a pedestrian, it is scary because the street is busy with commercial and personal drivers. Squeezing them into smaller spaces increases the likelihood that the vehicles will end up too close to the sidewalk or waiting area on the west side of the bike lane. In addition, as someone who is out often, it is clear that the lane is not used very much for a large part of the year.

Dec. 20 2012 11:47 AM
Jf from Ny

I want to be civil but. People who drive cars are idiots. Car trsffic needs to be stopped in nyc. I cant breath,, cyclists get doored 5 x a year. They are stuck in traffic wasting money going nowhere and dri i.g a murder weapon. I have to wear a gas mask! Destroying the earth! Getting diabetes! Idiots!

Dec. 20 2012 11:45 AM

I live on Columbus Ave ..... what about the issue where a car parks on columbus and when the passenger gets out of the parked car on the traffic side, that person gets directly into the traffic flow, there is absolutely no cushion space. one gets directly into traffic

Dec. 20 2012 11:45 AM
Collin LaFleche

As a regular bicyclist in the city, I am opposed to the protected bike lanes. In my opinion, they in fact make it more dangerous to bike around the city, because pedestrians do not pay enough attention when crossing through the bike lanes--they see the parked cars and don't look both ways before stepping into the bike lane. The lanes in Times Square are a perfect example of why the system doesn't work at all.

Dec. 20 2012 11:44 AM
seth from East Village

Until the city gets real and begins to enforce SAFE riding (all bikes must have lights, all bikes must ride with traffic, all bikes must slow down or stop for red lights), how can they expect support for more lanes. And I am an avid CYCLIST!

Dec. 20 2012 11:43 AM
savitra from manhattan

My previous comment - it is the parking lanes that are "floating," not the bike lanes.

Dec. 20 2012 11:43 AM
Bobby G from East Village

When the protected bike lane went in on 1st Ave. in the East Village, the merchants didn't like it. Now everyone has adapted, including pedestrians, and it's just in the in flow of the Avenue.

Dec. 20 2012 11:43 AM
tim clarke from brooklyn

It has been proved over and over again that bikers are much more likely to frequent small businesses than drivers. Don't understand why the business owners are so against it.

Dec. 20 2012 11:43 AM

Why is the bike lane on a commercial street which is jammed with cars, trucks and bus lanes? Why not on a residential street like West End, Riverside or CPW? And now an uptown bike lane is being proposed for another commercial street, Amsterdam Avenue? The addition of bike lanes on these avenues increases congestion on already congested streets.

Dec. 20 2012 11:42 AM
telegram sam from Staten Island

Fewer cars going slower means increased safety for pedestrians. As irresponsible as some of us bikers are (dangerous to other bikers as well), speeding, weaving, non-signaling, rage-addled cars are a far bigger menace to everyone.

Dec. 20 2012 11:42 AM
Brad UWS

Last July on a beautiful not-hot day I was early for an appointment so I sat on a bench behind the Natural History Museum. I saw that the bike lane
had a concrete divider and it was even planted. Very nice. In the 20 minutes that I sat there I saw bicycle in the lane.
So... a beautiful breezy day about 70 degrees..this fancy schmantzy bike lane, but no bikes?

Dec. 20 2012 11:42 AM
Evan from Brooklyn

Sorry but cyclists are in fact, better shoppers.
They carry less and therefore make more shopping trips and are more susceptible to advertising, also it's so much easier for a cyclist to stop, lock up and grab something instead of the huge production of parking a car to access a shop. Cyclists also take up less space allowing for more people to access shops, etc. There are more points in this article.
Finally, there's nothing in the constitution that grants the right of you to park a car (private property) in a public space.

Dec. 20 2012 11:42 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

I am really sick of bike activists who don't seem to care at all about how a community is disrupted by its self-righteous advocacy of bike lanes. Bikers in this city are often more dangerous than the drivers; I have nearly been hit several times by these self-righteous bikers who think that their environmental consciousness precludes them from following basic traffic laws.

If I want my world to be surrounded by self-righteous white yuppies on bikes, I'll move to the suburbs. Perhaps these bikers, instead of trying to change the city to meet their narrow political platform, should move to the middle of the country where there are no people at all - that way they won't have to share the world with anyone who doesn't share their petty world view that all the world really needs is more bike lanes.

Dec. 20 2012 11:42 AM

Why is the default that cars have special rights and privileges?
I don’t care about parking spaces. I also feel safer with fewer car lanes, because the cars and cabs are not weaving around 4 car lanes willy nilly.
also people don't shop from cars they shop on foot
I don’t have a car or a bike

Dec. 20 2012 11:41 AM

If this passes, look for more "accidental" "doorings" of bike riders. Whoops, biker, so sad, but too bad.

Dec. 20 2012 11:39 AM
savitra from manhattan

The floating bike lines are terrible for visibility, with bike coming at you from behind a lane of parked cars. I find that terrifying both as pedestrian and driver. It's just impossible to see a bike coming down that lane.

Dec. 20 2012 11:39 AM
David from NYC

I have worked here on Broadway for one and a half years.
The bike lane here is hardly ever used as bikers are ALL OVER the streets.

And if you think shops can afford to stay open with just walk in business
you are sadly mistaken.

This is just Bloombergs way of keeping cars out of Manhattan.

Dec. 20 2012 11:39 AM
Dan from Sunset Park

The first caller said Transportation Alternatives only advocates for cyclists. In reality, they also advocate for improved pedestrian conditions and mass transit.

Dec. 20 2012 11:38 AM
Community board member from UWS

This is not just a bike lane. It’s about redesigning the street so it functions better and more safely for all users. After DOT re-engineered one mile of Columbus, pedestrian injuries dropped by 41 percent. Should we reject this on the rest of Columbus just to preserve a handful of parking spaces?

Only 2 percent of people surveyed on Columbus Avenue in 2007 had driven there. Street life is what generates economic activity, and DOT surveys find that these sorts of redesigns boost retail sales by up to 49 percent.

Dec. 20 2012 11:35 AM
Barbara Adler from UWS

As the executive director of the Columbus Avenue BID, I'd like to make clear that my board is very much in favor of the protected bike lanes, but the dedicated left turn lanes that they have already installed from 96th-77th have removed all the parking in front of those blocks. The board is opposed to these, except where traffic is heavy turning left to go through the transverses that connect to the east side. We proposed Daylighting as a compromise,which removes two parking spaces from the lane closest to the crosswalk and adjacent to the protected (parking) lane, which enables pedestrians, bikers, and cars to all see each other.

Dec. 20 2012 11:33 AM
telegram sam from staten island

Indeed, the same Satmars who for years protected serial child molestors (with the cooperation of the city council, state assembly, DA Hynes and Bloomberg) were shocked, shocked, by girls riding in halter tops. Thankfully they overplayed their hand and the lid has been ripped off their activities. Bike lanes are still gone. It was just paint to them anyway, and they parked their cars and busses in the lanes with impunity.

BTW, I'm Jewish myself. This is about actions, not beliefs.

Dec. 20 2012 10:28 AM

some groups get special treatment by the mayor
was this lane ever restored. are they still doing naked bike rides?

Dec. 19 2012 11:17 AM

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