Protected Bike Lanes Proposed for Amsterdam and Columbus

by - October 6, 2009 at 11:58 pm -

Community Board 7 voted on Tuesday to ask the city to come up with a plan for protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. The Upper West Side currently has a few basic bike lanes going up Central Park West and on a few cross streets, but a growing chorus of bicyclists and allies have been clamoring for more protection from cars. A protected lane would offer a buffer between bikers and cars, but would narrow the streets and likely cut parking spots.

One kind of protected bike lane. Diagram courtesy of streetfilms.

One kind of protected bike lane. Diagram courtesy of Streetfilms.

“I am very enthusiastic,” said Mark Gorton, one of the dozens of bike advocates who packed the community board meeting on Tuesday wearing green stickers that said Protected Bike Lanes Protect Everyone. “It’s long overdue.”

In a 28 to 7 vote, the board basically agreed to tell the city Department of Transportation to study what effect bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam would have on traffic, parking, business and safety and report back with a proposal to build lanes. “Protected” bike lanes, unlike the bike lanes that are currently on the Upper West Side, are wider and have barriers on both sides of the cyclist so he or she doesn’t have to worry about swerving cars. The already exist in a few spots in the city, including on 8th and 9th Avenues in Chelsea. It’s unclear whether the lanes would stretch all the way from 59th to 110th Streets.

Bike advocates argue that the lanes would protect not only bicyclists but also pedestrians who would have a shorter walk across long avenue blocks. Between 1995 and 2005, 2 bicyclists were killed in collision with vehicles and hundreds were injured, according to data compiled by the NYC Streets Renaissance’s Upper West Side chapter. Dozens of pedestrians were also killed by car collisions.

Unprotected “bicycle lanes are helpful, but they’re not enough,”  said 11-year-old Clark Vaccaro, who lives on the Upper East Side but bikes every morning to the Calhoun School on the West side.

Not everyone at the meeting, however, agreed that the West Side needs protected bike lanes. Protected lanes narrow the width of the street, and can take away driving or parking lanes. And some people argue that bicyclists can also pose their own dangers.

The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District opposes the lanes mostly because the community has not been fully involved in the procss of considering them, and one mother of a 5-year-old stood up to say that bikes whizzing by endanger the children in the community — “I’ve been almost hit by bikes more times than I’ve been almost hit by cars,” she said. Some community board members said more people need to weigh in on the bike lane proposal before they can vote.

“The vast majority of people on the Upper West Side have no idea about this,” said community board member Shelly Fine.

Here’s the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance position paper on bike lanes. And below, check out a video about protected bike lanes.

Correction: An orginal version of this article said the lanes would go from 59th to 110th. It’s unclear where the lanes would start and finish. The poll was also updated to allow for more reasons to dislike bike lanes.

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