In Test of NYC's Public Support for Bike Lanes, A Tabled Plan Gets Second Look

Thursday, October 04, 2012 - 04:48 PM

Columbus Avenue bike lane in September, 2011 (photo by Kate Hinds)

A stalled idea of putting a protected bike lane on a stretch of a Manhattan avenue is coming up for air, offering a test of public sentiment about New York City's often-contentious bike lane boom.

On the docket Thursday for Community Board 7's Transportation Committee meeting: whether to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to look at lengthening the existing two-year-old Columbus Avenue bike lane -- and redesigning Amsterdam Avenue to accommodate one.


When the Upper West Side's CB7 first began mulling over bike lanes in 2009, the group requested a study looking at protected lanes on both avenues, stretching from 59th to 110th streets. The DOT came back with a proposal for a single Columbus Avenue lane, running southbound from 96th Street to 77th Street. Amsterdam Avenue, the DOT decided, was too narrow to accommodate three travel lanes and a protected bike lane. The Columbus Avenue proposal was passed by the full board -- after failing at the committee level -- in 2010.

So why is an Amsterdam Avenue lane back on the table?

"This is an effort to see whether our priorities as a community might have changed," said Mark Diller, the chair of CB7, "not whether the width of a lane or the width of an avenue has changed."

He said that a member of the CB7 board wants the city to take another look at an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane -- as had other community groups. " It's a matter that's of interest to members of the community," said Diller, "so the community board will respond by taking a careful look at it."

And lessons learned during the first few months of the Columbus Avenue bike lane could help smooth the way for future lanes in the neighborhood.

Amsterdam Avenue and 84th Street (image from Google street view)

But Andrew Albert, the co-chair of CB7's transportation committee, said he couldn't ballpark what was going to happen at Thursday's meeting. "Because this hasn't come up yet, we don't know how the discussion is going to go."

Albert -- who in 2010 didn't support the installation of the Columbus Avenue lane --  said the committee wasn't won over by the idea of putting in another protected lane a block west. "There's a good number of people that don't believe the Columbus one is working as intended," he said, "so we're going to reserve judgment on Amsterdam for sure."

In one respect, said CB7 chair Mark Diller, the neighborhood had gotten off easy with the Columbus Avenue lane. Installing something similar on Amsterdam could require a politically sensitive decision that could spark some...lively debate. "Are we willing to trade a travel lane for a bike lane?" he asked.

Another view of  Columbus Avenue, with protected bike lane on the right  (image from Google street view)



Comments [5]


There looks like plenty of room on Amsterdam. It is such a speedway now that a road diet would surely lower speeds and increase safety.

While I generally like protected bike lanes, the one on Columbus is protected only from car traffic. It is still vulnerable to puddles, trash, stacks of boxes, weaving pedestrians, etc. Bike infrastructure takes more than paint. There needs to be an improvement in the pavement quality so that cyclists are not being told to ride in the gutter!

Oct. 08 2012 03:58 PM

A bike lane might have a higher "capacity" than a motor vehicle lane, but as the Columbus Avenue bike lane shows us, utilization is far less. On any given day, that Columbus Avenue lane has more e-bike delivery riders going the wrong way than actual bicycle commuters. There's nothing wrong with the Columbus lane, but it's a total wasteland.

Oct. 05 2012 11:21 PM

I am a bike rider - I was a bike messenger back in the 70's. I no longer ride in Manhattan - and am close to giving up on Brooklyn, too. Cars, taxis, trucks - even spaced out pedestrians, I can handle. The testosterone-fueled rocket-jockeys, however, are dangerous at worst and rude and unpleasant jerks at best. I tie bike lanes to the rise of this crew - bike lanes support a sense of entitlement and holier-than-thou obnoxious behaviour. Bike lanes also seem to foster a false sense of protection for drivers and riders alike - paint on the street is no substitute for awareness and defensive riding/driving.

Oct. 05 2012 08:01 AM

Not only is a bike lane a travel lane, it is a travel lane with a higher capacity than an ordinary "car" lane.

Oct. 04 2012 11:43 PM
Eric McClure

"Trade a travel lane for a bike lane?” A bike lane IS a travel lane.

Oct. 04 2012 05:04 PM

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