Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Columbus Avenue
by Avi - June 2, 2010 at 2:06 am -
Columbus Avenue will be redesigned this summer to allow for a protected bike lane along the East side of the street from 96th to 77th Streets, creating a barrier between traffic and bicycles as well as concrete pedestrian islands on some blocks. Community Board 7 voted 23 to 19 on Tuesday night to approve the lanes after nearly three hours of debate that included appearances by actor Matthew Modine and New York Times Ethicist columnist Randy Cohen.
The protected lanes will be the first in the neighborhood, although more basic bike stripes have been painted on Central Park West and a few cross streets. The more elaborate protected lanes already exist in parts of Chelsea and the Times Square area, as well as on Grand Street in the Lower East Side.
A cheer rose up from the crowd of more than 100 people who sat through the debate at the community board meeting when it was announced that the proposal had passed. Bike lanes had been voted down in the board’s transportation committee last month, but lobbying by groups like the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance helped push the vote over the top. The group, led by Tila Duhaime, encouraged 457 people to write letters to the board encouraging it to pass the proposal. Advocates say it will make pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists more safe.
The bike lanes (design at left) will result in lanes on Columbus Avenue being narrowed. A bike lane will replace the parking lane on the East side of the block, and the parking lane will move one lane over. At high-traffic intersections on 77th, 81st, 82nd, 86th, 91th and 96th Streets, the city will install “pedestrian refuge islands” with separate bike traffic signals and left turn lanes.
Because of the design, the street will lose 55 parking spaces, or a net of about 17 spaces once muni-meters are put in place.
The board’s resolution made it clear that the lanes are a test and will be reviewed six months after they are installed. Board members said they were concerned about businesses in the area having trouble accepting truck deliveries and were not sure whether narrowing lanes on Columbus would make traffic there better or worse. Others on the committee said West End Avenue would be a better spot for a bike lane. They vowed to dismantle the lanes if they aren’t working.
“If this works, great, let’s extend it,”said Community Board Chair Mel Wymore. “If it doesn’t, we’ll modify it or remove it.”
Actor Matthew Modine of Full Metal Jacket and Gross Anatomy spoke at the meeting in favor of the bike lanes.
“Biking is something this city has fallen in love with,” he said.
Modine told us that he biked everywhere when he first moved to New York and lived on West 73rd Street.
“If I hadn’t had a bike I don’t know what I would have done,” he said. “I had no money. I couldn’t even afford a token.”
Randy Cohen, the New York Times “Ethicist” also spoke in favor of the bike lanes, and told us afterwards that he had had to get special permission from his editor and promise never to write about ethical issues regarding bikes before he came to the meeting. He made it clear he was speaking as a private citizen and not as “the Ethicist.” It was actually kind of intimidating just how ethical he was being.
The Columbus Avenue lanes may eventually be extended throughout the neighborhood so that they can connect with the 9th Avenue protected bike lanes. Lanes may also eventually be built on Amsterdam Avenue. Construction could start within weeks and should take a month or two.