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Columbus Avenue

Transportation Nation

A Bike Lane Grows in Manhattan

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Members of the public line up to speak at the Community Board 7's bike lane meeting (photo by Kate Hinds)

The Upper West Side's 'bike lane to nowhere' will finally go somewhere.

After lengthy debate -- not to mention two months of committee meetings -- Manhattan's Community Board 7 voted Tuesday night in favor of a extending the Columbus Avenue bike lane from 59th Street up to 110th Street.

The lane, which currently stretches from 77th to 96th streets, is the only protected on-street bike lane in the neighborhood. The extension will connect it to another protected lane running south of 59th Street down Ninth Avenue, as well as bring the city's bike network north to the fringes of Harlem.

The vote came after four hours of debate and public testimony. One of the sticking points for many board members was how the lane will traverse the so-called "bow tie" around Lincoln Square, where Broadway and Columbus intersect (map). Some board members wanted to defer the vote until the city's Department of Transportation came up with additional safety amenities for that segment, and several amendments to the board's resolution were proposed. (TN will have the text when it is made available.)

But at the end of the night, the board voted 26 to 11 (with one abstention) in support of the full lane, with calls for ongoing dialogue with the DOT about its implementation.

This reporter's unofficial tally of public testimony (photo by Kate Hinds)

The evening had its moments of levity. When debate opened, one board member raised his hand and said that he had a couple of questions about "the second amendment."

Pause.

"Oh, I thought you were talking about gun control," Andrew Albert, the co-chair of the transportation committee, said dryly. The room broke up.

On Wednesday, DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan sent an email expressing her satisfaction with the board's vote. "The community’s ringing support will swing an even safer Columbus Avenue into high gear,” she said. “This project started with the community and Columbus is now a safer street with 100% of storefronts occupied. Residents, businesses and the entire community have seen that this project works.”

The DOT says construction of the bike lane extension will begin this summer and should take two months to complete.

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

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Transportation Nation

Manhattan Community Board Rejects Bike Lane Extension, But "We're Not Done With This"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Over 100 people turned out Tuesday night for a marathon community board hearing to discuss extending the Upper West Side's only on-street protected bike lane. The city wants to extend the Columbus Avenue lane from its current terminus at 77th Street down to 59th Street, where it would connect to a bike lane on Ninth Avenue, giving Upper West Side bikers a protected ride to Midtown Manhattan.  The city would also lengthen the Columbus Avenue bike lane up to 110th Street.

Many of the attendees wore stickers supporting the Columbus Avenue lane, and over the course of the meeting, dozens of people -- including the former "Ethicist" columnist for the New York Times -- spoke out in favor of a proposal to double its length. But by the time the three hour meeting was over, the transportation committee of Community Board 7 failed to pass a resolution supporting it.

Here's how it went down.

First up: the  New York City Department of Transportation presented data about the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane as it exists now.  The DOT's Hayes Lord painted a rosy picture: cycling has increased by 48 percent since the lane was installed. Vehicular speeding is down. The travel time for cars has improved. But the real benefit, Lord said, is that while total crashes have increased slightly, pedestrian injuries along the corridor have dropped by 41 percent. Moreover, he said, the bike lane is good for business: the retail occupancy rate for the Columbus Avenue BID south of 82nd Street is at 100 percent.

("I don't believe a word of it," hissed a man sitting next to me, one of the relatively few naysayers in the audience.)

Josh Benson (L) and members of Community Board 7 (photo by Kate Hinds)

In fact, said the DOT's Josh Benson, who was up next to talk about the lane's extension, the biggest problem with the lane is its "lack of connectivity" to the city's bike network.

As Benson got into the nuts and bolts of how the lane would be extended, two facts immediately stood out:  to accommodate necessary turning lanes and pedestrian islands, he said, the DOT would need to eliminate about 61 parking spaces along the east side of Columbus Avenue -- affecting 24 percent of the available parking. Also, because of the way Columbus and Broadway intersect, the bike lane south of 69th Street would not be protected. Instead, he said, it would be an "enhanced shared lane" -- meaning cars and bikes would mix together in a travel lane, with the understanding that cars won't be allowed to pass bicyclists. And south of 64th Street, ongoing long-term construction projects would hamper the installation of a permanent lane.

Crowd at CB7 meeting (photo by Kate Hinds)

When the public comment period opened, most people spoke out in favor of the extension. School children talked about commuting to school on the protected lane. The manager of the local Patagonia store said "it has been nothing but a positive for our business." The worries of a business owner -- who operates a moving company -- were assuaged by the DOT's assertion that it could create loading zones for moving trucks.  Two future City Council candidates spoke in favor of the lane. Even Randy Cohen -- the former "Ethicist" columnist for the New York Times-- said supporting it was a moral imperative.  "The improvements in safety are so fantastic," he said, "it seems like an ethical responsibility." But even that impassioned plea couldn't save the proposal.

When debate opened, it became apparent that committee members were divided. The loss of parking was a major objection. There were other, more arcane concerns: if the lane is on the left side of the street, one wondered, how would bicyclists safely make right turns? And some worried about the safety of the proposed enhanced shared lane. "Perception is everything," said board member Ken Coughlin. "If the lane is perceived as being unsafe for cyclists, it's not going to be used by cyclists." He presented a resolution in support of the lanes -- and asking the DOT to look into turning the shared lanes into protected lanes when construction of the water tunnel is done. But Coughlin made clear, "I would rather see an enhanced shared lane than nothing."

Nothing was what he got. When it came time to vote, Coughlin's resolution didn't get the majority it needed for committee support.

But Mark Diller -- the chair of Community Board 7 -- said it's not over.

"The resolution failed -- for tonight," said Diller. "But there's still potential for other resolutions, so we will continue to work on it."  Because the community board had to be out of the space by 10pm, the clock ran out. At future meetings, Diller said, "I'm sure somebody else will present another resolution, and I'm sure that will be discussed and hopefully we'll finally get to one we can approve."

Andrew Albert, co-chair of the transportation committee, said the board wanted more details about parking, loading zones, and its outreach plans for local businesses. "When DOT gives us the information we asked for," he said, "next month there will probably be a very different kind of vote."

"We're not done with this," added another board member, "by any means."

For a PDF of the DOT's presentation, click here.

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Transportation Nation

Could NYC's 'Bike Lane to Nowhere' Get A Boost?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

A previously-tabled Manhattan bike lane plan will get another look at a community board meeting Tuesday night.

As Transportation Nation reported in October, the Upper West Side's Community Board 7 is taking another look at extending the neighborhood's only on-street protected bike lane.

The Columbus Avenue bike lane is occasionally referred to as a "bike lane to nowhere" because it's less than a mile long and doesn't connect to other bike lanes.

Here's some history: in 2009, the community board requested a study from the city for two bike lanes: one on Columbus Avenue lane from 110th Street to 59th Street, and a matching northbound lane on Amsterdam Avenue.

After heated debate in 2010, only the Columbus Avenue lane went in -- and only from 96th to 77th Streets. (Amsterdam was considered too narrow by the NYC DOT to accommodate a bike lane.)

On Tuesday night, the New York City Department of Transportation will make a public presentation about bike lane usage in the neighborhood -- and weigh in on the Columbus Avenue extension. TN will cover the meeting -- and, should our cell phone signal allow, live tweet.

Columbus Avenue , with a protected bike lane on right side (photo by Kate Hinds)

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Transportation Nation

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

Thursday, October 04, 2012

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.

Again.

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)

 

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Transportation Nation

Bike Lane Culture Wars Continue on Manhattan's Upper West Side

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Columbus Avenue bike lane being installed earlier this summer (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  There were competing rallies two weeks ago over the Park Slope bike lane. Now, the Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street, will have its own moment of heated public expression at the upcoming Community Board 7 meeting on Tuesday, November 9th.

CB7, which approved the protected lane in June after much debate, will no doubt be getting an earful about the lanes.  (The meeting, which was initially scheduled for tonight, has been moved back a week because of what CB7 says was a scheduling conflict.) Some neighborhood businesses have posted signs on their doors, trying to encourage people to attend the meeting to speak out against the bike lane. And Zingone's, a popular mom-and-pop neighborhood grocery store, has started a petition against it.

Anti-bike lane signs on the front door of Zingone's

Meanwhile, Streetsblog wants to counter the bike lane negativity and is encouraging people to attend the meeting. "Defending it strongly now can only help when extensions come up for consideration."

Are you planning on attending Tuesday's CB7 meeting? If so, let us know what happens! Post a comment or email us at transponation@gmail.com.

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