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Rosy Data on Columbus Avenue Bike Lane Can't Quite Quell Qualms

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 03:45 PM

The Columbus Avenue bike lane (photo by Kate Hinds)

Bicycling has increased by 56% since a protected bike lane was installed on Columbus Avenue a year ago. And car crashes have dropped by 34%.

But that didn't stop members of Manhattan's Community Board 7 from hammering the New York City Department of Transportation, which was on hand to present preliminary data about the mile-long Upper West Side lane at a transportation committee meeting.

A screen shot of the NYC DOT's Columbus Avenue six-month bike lane data (photo by Kate Hinds)

The year-old bike lane  was approved last June by the full community board despite failing in committee. It's the only protected on-street lane on the Upper West Side.

The DOT attended the meeting at the committee's request, but it was clear that it wasn't the agency's idea. Ryan Russo, a deputy DOT commissioner, said "this is a preliminary analysis. Six months of data is generally too soon. The board asked us to come here, the board asked us to say what the data is saying, but it really takes a full year from when the project's completed -- a minimum of a full year -- to say how are things truly going."

As soon as the DOT was done presenting its data, Ulma Jones, a member of CB7's transportation committee, offered up a "laundry list" of issues, including complaints about new configurations for metered parking on sidestreets, traffic congestion, and bike riders going the wrong way in the lane. Others expressed incredulity that the numbers of bicyclists had increased -- especially in a lane that doesn't connect with the rest of the city's biking network.

But others were delighted with the redesign. CB7 committee member and cycling advocate Tila Duhaime hailed the lower incidence of speeding cars on the redesigned street. "It's fewer than one in ten?" she asked. "That's phenomenal." George Beane, an area resident and a member of the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District, said the DOT had worked to make loading zones more accessible to local businesses. "I think it's so much safer, it's economical, and it's healthy, and I think the DOT has should be commended. They've done a wonderful job. I appreciate it."

The DOT is preparing to implement a large bike share system, and a number of the city's community boards have recently voted to build or extend protected bike lanes.  So when one committee member last night asked the DOT if the Columbus Avenue lane might be extended north and south, the response was basically 'get in line.'

"We would be thrilled if the board would ask us to extend it, but again, we actually have a full plate," said the DOT''s Naomi Iwasaki. She said the DOT is working on bike lanes on First, Second, Eighth and Ninth Avenues, as well as lanes in other boroughs.

New York City Council Member Gale Brewer -- who said the bike lane is now "part of our DNA" -- presented results of a local survey that showed bikers felt the lane was a huge safety improvement. But pedestrians who took part in the anecdotal survey were split, and motorists felt the lane did not enhance their safety at all.

CB7 chair Mel Wymore offered some perspective on the phone the day after the meeting. “Bike lanes, dog runs, food trucks, all go to the same topic: sharing of public space," he said. "No matter how you slice it there’s a lot of opinions.” But Wymore said that moving forward, he'd be looking to extend the Columbus Avenue lane -- especially since neighboring Community Board 4 voted to extend their protected bike lanes  north to 59th Street. "We’re hopeful that we can have this connect to the whole network.”

 

 

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