Safer, More Livable Streets for the East Side — The Campaign Heats Up

Advocates and volunteers working for protected bike paths on the East Side, flush from last month’s highly encouraging Community Board 8 vote, delivered more than a thousand handwritten letters yesterday to City Hall, supporting protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues. Keep an eye on this story. It’s a big one.

letter_signing.jpgEast Side residents sign on for safer, greener streets.

As DOT and the MTA flesh out plans for Bus Rapid Transit along the M15 route, dedicated space for both buses and cyclists on First and Second is within reach. Rarely does the opportunity present itself to make such huge strides toward less congested, more livable streets. New York only has one shot to get it right.

"We’re really hoping to put a finger on the scales, and push for
fully-protected bike lanes while the DOT and East Side communities work
on improving the M15 corridor," said Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell. "To not address the huge demand for biking
on First and Second avenues, something the DOT pledged to do as step number one
in its 1997 Bicycle Master Plan, would be a huge missed opportunity."

TA counted 3,356 cyclists on the First and Second Avenue
corridor during a 12-hour stretch last month, a figure that far exceeds the DOT’s 2008
screenline count at 59th Street, Norvell said. All those cyclists are a fearless bunch — braving rivers of traffic and some of the city’s most intimidating cycling conditions. Imagine how many more New Yorkers would bike down the avenues if they didn’t feel they were risking life and limb.

Norvell says TA staff and volunteers have been gathering letters from East Harlem down to the Lower East Side in support of protected bike infrastructure. Yesterday’s delivery put hundreds of letters in the hands of East Side electeds, including City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Daniel Garodnick.

"The meetings were very positive," said Caroline Samponaro, director of TA’s bike program. "Their staff agreed that we shouldn’t redesign First and Second avenues without including provisions for cyclists and pedestrians."

Active support from East Side representatives will be critical as plans for the corridor advance. "Every project is about political will," said Samponaro. "What these projects need is political leadership from the electeds. They need to be the spokespeople for their constituents."

The optimal re-design of First and Second avenues would give buses and cyclists "space that allows them to travel safely and efficiently without having to compete with each other," she added. "These corridors can serve the non-driving majority and set a standard for how other major avenues will be treated."

  • Geck

    Yes. This could be big. Let’s get it right.

  • AlexB

    i really hope the end result is not a bike+bus lane. i do not want to have to bike behind or in front of a bus.

  • This shows the power of concentrated advocacy on a specific achievable goal. Great work everyone!

  • There should be many more riders than 3,356 with protected bike lanes. I bet a lot of people are like me–terrified to ride 1st and 2nd Aves, always nervous about getting smushed by a bus and having to wind around double parkers into the fast-moving lanes. I always try to find alternate routes when I go uptown, but from 37th to 60-something, there’s no E. River bike path. If I would have to use the avenues there, I usually take public transportation instead.

  • There’s more to advocacy than just attending meetings. Getting in the saddle and riding is in my opinion far more effective, because you are showing other people that riding a bike in New York is OK. The latent demand, or “if you build it they will come,” argument has a serious flaw: it works just as well for automobiles.

  • Bravo to the bike people for getting out there and demanding to be treated at least equally. Ideally, pedestrians and cyclists would be given priority, but we’ll get there. Big ups!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

CB 6 Committee Votes on East Side Bus+Bike Improvements Tonight

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Sorry for the late notice folks, but there’s one more public meeting on this week’s busy schedule with big implications for street safety, and it’s happening tonight. The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 6 is expected to draft and vote on a resolution regarding plans for Select Bus Service and protected bike lanes on […]