Earlier this week, the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 7 issued a split decision on the protected bike lane proposed for a 20-block stretch of Columbus Avenue. One of the committee chairs who voted against it, Andrew Albert, told the room full of bike lane supporters that he couldn’t endorse the project because of potential difficulties with commercial deliveries. According to Columbus Avenue BID director Barbara Adler, opposing the proposal on those grounds is, basically, a whole lot of nonsense.
Adler wasn’t able to attend the Tuesday CB meeting, but in a phone call she told Streetsblog that she’s "extremely supportive of the project" and isn’t worried about how it will affect deliveries for the 185 businesses the BID represents between 67th and 82nd Streets. A few weeks ago, she explained, DOT held an information session for local merchants. "A few of them expressed concern
about what they would do with deliveries," she said, "and DOT said that provisions
would be made to address those concerns."
As for Albert’s contention that delivery issues are insurmountable? "It’s a false argument," she said. "He’s really grasping at straws."
Albert has not returned calls to the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as executive director.
For Adler, the protected bike lane proposal has been a long time coming. "We started lobbying for this about five years ago, before the city started growing out bike lanes everywhere," she said. "We were hopeful that we were going to be the first [street to receive a protected bike lane], but we encountered a surprising issue where the Lincoln Square BID was against it. So DOT took it elsewhere."
The Columbus Avenue BID sees the bike lane and pedestrian improvements in DOT’s plan as part of a broader effort to make the corridor more welcoming for people. The group commissioned a report from non-profit Project for Public Spaces in 2007 [PDF] recommending bike and pedestrian improvements to help make Columbus Avenue "a street for the 21st century."
"We developed a plan to become more pedestrian-friendly," Adler said. "One of the ways to make an area pedestrian-friendly is to provide a space for bikes. It makes a neighborhood more habitable. It was our hope to provide more seating and more amenities, and just to make it safer in every respect. Having a dedicated bike lane is part of that."
Now that protected bike lanes have proven to work on other Manhattan avenues, Adler’s getting impatient with the calls for delay and further study coming from Albert and his fellow CB7 transportation committee chair, Dan Zweig. "It’s not like they’re reinventing the wheel," she said of DOT’s plan. "This has been done other places, and quite successfully."