From Caroline Samponaro, Director of Bicycle Advocacy for Transportation Alternatives:
At last night’s Manhattan Community Board 4 meeting the full board voted overwhelmingly in support of the DOT’s proposed extension of the Eighth Avenue bike lane from 14th to 23rd Streets. Only two board members voted against this plan. Zero community members attended the meeting to speak out against the bike lane. Eight community members attended to speak in favor. Because of the noticeable amount of support in the crowd, the chair, J.D. Noland, actually moved Eighth Avenue up from item 27 to item number two on the agenda, knowing so many people were in the room waiting to hear the verdict.
When it came time for the board to vote, at least two board members who had formerly been leading opponents of Eighth Avenue went on record as now supporting the plan and thanking the CB4 Transportation Committee for holding such a thoughtful and comprehensive public forum on the topic in November.
It is important to remember why Eighth Avenue is now being supported by CB4.
1. The board did a thorough job of working with the community and addressing all of their concerns in their resolution, as well as structuring a forum to help alleviate misinformed concerns. The DOT responded to CB4’s desire for meaningful community outreach and has also responded to these concerns, or in some cases indicated the city will work with the board in the future.
2. Supporters SHOWED UP and SPOKE at these public meetings in numbers far outnumbering opponents, making it undeniable that public input matters tremendously in this process.
3. No opponent could argue with the facts: 280 pedestrians and bicyclists were struck on Eighth Avenue between 14th and 23rd Streets from 1995 to 2005 (our most recent crash data) — that’s a very high crash rate. In the year since its installation, a comparable project on Ninth Avenue has achieved dramatic reductions in crashes. Data collected by the NYC Department of Transportation shows the impact of that project, and the results we can expect to see on Eighth Avenue:
- 57 percent increase in cycling
- 36 percent decrease in pedestrian-related injuries
- 50 percent decrease in injuries from all crashes
- 41 percent decrease in the number of crashes
- Sidewalk cycling reduced from 5 percent to 1 percent
People continue to bring up scofflaw cyclists. Transportation Alternatives will be working on outreach along Eighth Avenue. To keep things in perspective, in the last 10 years roughly 2,000 pedestrians have been hit and killed by cars in NYC. This compares to an estimated 4 to 6 pedestrians hit and killed by bikes during that same time, citywide. Every death is one too many, but it is good to have in mind the real source of death and injury on our streets when safety comes up with an intent to incite anti-bike lane sentiment. We all have a role to play in making our streets safer, and this process has demonstrated the need for cyclists to ride with consideration of the laws and other street users in order to shape public opinion favorably toward cycling and future bike lane projects.
Just last week a woman, seven months pregnant, was hit and killed on 38th and Ninth Avenue, in CB4. Pedestrian safety is a huge concern for this community board, and the existing protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements on Ninth Avenue point to the undeniable improvements that will stem from a similar design on Eighth.
Thanks to all who turned out and vocalized their support for one of NYC’s premier bike lanes and a beacon for the livable streets of our future.