CB 6 Votes Conditionally for East Side SBS, Endorses Better Bike Lanes

Design_D.pngCB 6 urged DOT to consider buffered bike lanes instead of sharrows on parts of Second Avenue. DOT had previously upgraded plans for sharrows on First Avenue with a buffered lane design, shown above. Image: NYCDOT

Prospects for safer cycling on the east side of Midtown got a boost last night, as Manhattan Community Board 6 strengthened its support for uninterrupted bike lanes as part of NYCDOT and the MTA’s redesign of First and Second Avenues. 

The full board passed a resolution expressing general support for Select Bus Service, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian refuge islands along the corridor, with some conditions attached. The board also added a clause urging DOT to consider buffered lanes for parts of Second Avenue, where current plans would dump cyclists traveling on protected lanes into regular traffic with shared-route markings once they hit Midtown.

Only one board member voted against the resolution, though a set of amendments to further strengthen the board’s support of SBS and protected lanes was voted down by a wide margin. 

In contrast to last week’s chaotic committee meeting about this project, the discussion last night was more civil and substantive. From both public comments and the board’s discussion, however, it quickly became
clear that anger over crosstown bus cuts is still fueling some
opposition to Select Bus Service.

All the opponents of the plan argued that when paired with service cuts to the area’s crosstown buses — the M27, M50, and M104 — Select Bus Service would leave the Turtle Bay neighborhood with only one local bus stopping in the area on nights and weekends. "If the DOT and the MTA get what they’re asking for," said Bill Curtis, the president of the Turtle Bay Association, "it’s going to be a lot harder to get to Turtle Bay." In effect, because the transit funding crisis has caused bus service to deteriorate, opponents were able to bolster their case against significant service improvements for other bus riders.

The board’s resolution — which is advisory, not binding — makes its support of Select Bus Service conditional on the inclusion of stops at 50th Street and 28th Street.

Everyone who testified in support of the resolution focused on the need to improve the bike lanes in the plan and ensure that cyclists on protected lanes don’t get suddenly mixed in with Midtown traffic. "The East Side has been behind the West Side on the vision thing," said Hugh MacGlincy, a lifelong resident of the CB 6 district who called for running protected or buffered lanes along the length of First and Second Avenues. "This is CB 6’s chance to get into the 21st century."

The board took a step in that direction, adopting a resolution urging that Design D, which includes a buffered but unprotected lane, be considered for the bike lane gaps on Second Avenue. DOT currently intends to implement Design D on part of First Avenue, so the board is also endorsing plans to close the bike lane gap for northbound cyclists. 

A set of amendments to the resolution, proposed by board member Bill Oddo, would have called for a second bus lane, to allow SBS buses to pass local buses more easily, and for fully protected bike lanes on the length of both First and Second Avenues. That resolution failed in an 11-26 vote, with multiple community board members saying they might have voted yes on one issue or the other had they been separate motions.

  • ANY bike lane, anywhere on First Avenue would be a major improvement to the current situation.
    First Avenue for cyclists right now is suicide.

    To get to the UES, from the East Village, I would rather ride across town on Ninth Street, from AVE A, head uptown on Eighth Avenue and then cross back through Central Park to access east-bound bike lanes.
    It’s ridiculous, and Second Avenue coming downtown is even scarier, with or without the bike lanes.

    Is it my imagination, or are non-bike lane routes becoming MORE dangerous as more bike lanes come into being?

  • Thanks for the great summary and analysis, Noah. One correction–the speaker’s name was Hugh MacGlincy. Also, the link to the SBS design materials in the post does not show a document that actually contains Design D. Is there a public DoT document that shows Design D?

  • Disregard my question–the picture I’m looking for is at the top of the post!

  • Noah Kazis

    Thanks for the spelling fix, BicyclesOnly. (And sorry Hugh!) If you want a few more pieces of information, here’s the pdf: http://nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/Fill-the-Gap_Presentation_10_0405.pdf

  • I disagree with Jack E Savage about 1st Ave., despite my high hopes for the plan’s effect on it. I’ve been biking up 1st Ave. most weekdays at about 9:15 am for years (at at average speed for a commuter) from 15th to 53rd, in the left lane most of the way, and it feels pretty safe to me. I just stay in the middle of the far left lane (more than just out of the door zone–in the middle of the lane, or even to the right of the middle, so as to not encourage drivers to pass me while in the same lane–and I never have much trouble, rarely so much as a honk. (Actually I get more honks when I do this on “inner” Avenues such as 5th Ave., but hardly ever on 1st.)

    It’s an old refrain of mine that doesn’t seem to resonate with many others here, but I often think that NYC cyclists’ biggest problem is their own compulsion to keep out of the path of cars moving in the same direction, as if the driver simply can’t help but hit you. It results in riding in the door zone, or just out of the door zone, but close enough to the edge that you encourage cars to pass you while in the same lane, and both of those things sure do make a street feel very dangerous.

    I pretty much take the lane all the time, and, at least on 1st Ave., I have always felt much safer doing that. And again, I’m not all that fast.

  • ddartley, I agree with you about riding on the outer margin of the lane. Especially in a city where double-parking is endemic, that technique allows you to ride a straight, PREDICTABLE line the entire way down the avenue.

  • Predictability and visibility. Lose the fear of applying those two things while you ride and you’ll feel safer and be safer.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I agree with ddartley and Jonathan, it’s just that it takes experience and confidence to take the lane. I’ve had people tell me it helps to have a buddy biking with you when you first start doing it. And it is hard to do at speeds slower than 15 MPH or so.

  • kaja

    ddartley’s a wise man.

    Having driving experience in Manhattan before getting on a bicycle probably helps. Few of my cycling friends drive, or have ever driven in this city; the set who’re comfortable being traffic are the ones who’ve owned cars.

    And the ones who’ve never been behind the wheel also don’t “get” the value of lights. Lights are the most important thing, and really, as far as visibility’s concerned, the only important thing. Got lights? You can be seen by everyone for miles. No lights? You actually _are_ invisible. (Reflectors do nothing and and colored spandex just tells me you’re a ponce.)

    I ride in a black windbreaker and normal pants. The boston.com article is completely and hilariously wrong; dude makes me want to require licensing to dispense vehicular/traffic advice, akin to bar membership; get our guild on.

  • Shucks, Kaja. BicyclesOnly, I’d like to point out that I didn’t have much experience when I started riding the way I described. It took only one or two days of courage to start mostly taking the lane (on appropriate roads), and I soon decided it felt much safer than (literally) marginalizing myself on the road.

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