CB 7 May Form Task Force to Work Out Columbus Ave Delivery Kinks

The fight over the Columbus Ave bike lane has centered on businesss ability to load and unload. Image: Clarence Eckerson.
Tension over the Columbus Ave bike lane has centered on businesses' ability to load and unload. Image: Clarence Eckerson

After a chaotic committee meeting Monday, Manhattan Community Board 7 was able to discuss the implementation of the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane far more productively at its full meeting Tuesday night, according to people who attended. The discussion of the new street design may lead to the creation of a community board task force charged with helping Columbus Avenue merchants work out their delivery issues.

During a back-and-forth between roughly equal numbers of bike lane supporters and opponents, it seems like the discord on display Monday has started to dissipate to some extent. “Most of those who had problems with the lane stressed that they aren’t against the lane per se but with some of DOT’s implementation,” said CB 7 member Ken Coughlin, noting that most of the complaints center on difficulties with deliveries.

The delivery problems are real, said Lisa Sladkus of the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance. “We’ve identified a lack of dedicated loading zones, placard abuse that makes current dedicated loading zones unusable, and an enforcement issue,” she said. Sladkus also noted that many merchants are used to receiving deliveries from double-parked trucks and didn’t realize that the practice is illegal. Truck drivers no longer feel safe doing so, she said, as the floating parking lane pushes double-parked vehicles further into the middle of the avenue.

Streetsblog is looking into the status of the task force that CB7 may convene to tackle the issue.

  • Doug G.

    “Sladkus also noted that many merchants are used to receiving deliveries from double-parked trucks and didn’t realize that the practice is illegal. Truck drivers no longer feel safe doing so, she said, as the floating parking lane pushes double-parked vehicles further into the middle of the avenue.”

    Yet another benefit of bike lanes exposed. Just like speeding, people don’t observe the law because it’s the law or because they are mindful of other people, they observe the law when the design of the street forces them to comply.

  • mike

    I think this is a great development! Get everybody together in a room to actually solve the problems. However, making sure NYPD is involved will be critical, since they are no only the enforcers of the law, but quite often the violaters of the law (in the case of placards and parking in the bike lane).

  • Driver

    “they observe the law when the design of the street forces them to comply.”
    How about they break the law when the design of the street leaves no alternative. There are often no alternative parking options in that area (many other neighborhoods have the same problem) besides double parking. It was bad before, and the new traffic pattern has just made it worse. People seem to think its just a matter of parking farther away and walking, but this is Manhattan. The surrounding streets have the same parking issues no matter which direction you go.

    I’m not arguing against the bike lane, I just want to note that judging from many comments here, some people do not have a good understanding of the problem.

  • Joseph

    Doug, exactly!

  • Driver

    “Doug, exactly!”
    A perfect example of someone who doesn’t care to understand the problem.

    Doug, nobody said that delivery vehicles are now all parking legally, you drew that conclusion on your own. I highly doubt that is the case.

    I will try to state it more clearly. There is simply not enough legal parking for the number of delivery vehicles that serve the neighborhood businesses. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  • Doug G.

    Double parking and the abuse of loading zones by placards and the police are two separate issues.

    One is illegal, but happens anyway except when the design of the street makes it more difficult, and the other is an issue of enforcement and making sure those in power don’t abuse their privileges.

    Driver, despite your claim that one side is over-simplifying the problem, the post highlights the complexity:

    “The delivery problems are real, said Lisa Sladkus of the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance. ‘We’ve identified a lack of dedicated loading zones, placard abuse that makes current dedicated loading zones unusable, and an enforcement issue,’ she said.”

    I would not discount the problems experienced by business owners in the slightest and they MUST be addressed so that no businesses are negatively affected. You are right, Driver, that the problem is multi-faceted, but when you also reduce it to the design of the street — “How about they break the law when the design of the street leaves no alternative” — you ignore one part of the problem that’s not an matter of design: that the loading zones designed into the street to help business owners are being used by the wrong people for the wrong problem.

    So, I agree with you that it’s a complicated problem, but I also think you are needlessly provoking an argument. It’s easy to see that if a street has wide lanes, it’s easier for a driver to decide to double park, with or without empty loading zones. Narrow the street and he may have to make a different choice, but we have to make sure he has a place to make that choice. The real work will come in enforcing the rules so that no one is above the law, even the police.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Driver, the difference on the surrounding streets is that there the curbside spaces are being given away for free to private autos. Convert the first 5 parking spaces on each residential E-W street to properly priced muni-meter parking, and everyone who needs parking will find it.

    I’ve just about had it with people who own cars and park at the curb in Manhattan. They store their ugly cars full of their personal s**t on public property. They unnecessarily dirty the ground, buildings and the air, and bring danger and congestion to the streets. By delaying emergency vehicles, they kill people. By the sheer size of their vehicles alone, they make it more expensive, dirty and dangerous to transport and distribute vital goods and services. They choose to squander huge amounts of their free time sitting in their cars and then complain about it, as if it were forced on them. Their car ownership is a symbol and instrument of disrespect for their fellow New Yorkers and the urban ethos. It makes absolutely no sense to reward these people by giving them scarce precious public land for free parking.

    Rant over.

  • Driver

    Doug, I am not looking to needlessly provoke an argument. I am trying to provide a different and realistic perspective on the parking problems based on my experience. Notice I do not condemn the bike lanes or cyclists, that is not my intention.

    The problem of placarded vehicles parking in loading zones may affect a particular block or two on Columbus, and certain blocks throughout the borough, but the general shortage of legal commercial parking is much more widespread. Travel down Columbus towards the 60’s (where there is not bike lane yet) and you will see widespread double parking and other violations. The same situation exists on other major streets in the neighborhood, and in most other neighborhoods of Manhattan. It is not usually because of placarded vehicles, but because of a lack of loading zones. Even areas that are predominantly commercial parking only are highly congested and difficult to find proper parking in during the day. The city takes in probably hundreds of millions in parking violations each year. Finding true solutions to the parking problems does not mesh well with the city’s desire for steady revenue.

    BicyclesOnly is right about transferring car parking to parking for delivery vehicles (although I take issue with his/her overall rant on cars). The parking spots on Columbus would be a good start, before starting up the side streets if necessary. BTW, convert 5 car spaces to loading zone parking and it will fit 2 trucks. Convert it to metered parking for any vehicle, and 2 cars can easily eliminate parking for any trucks.
    This is a much wider problem than Columbus Ave though. If you want bike lanes throughout the city, these problems need to be addressed citywide. Otherwise new lanes will be met with similar resistance and hostility.

  • Ian Turner

    Driver, if this was just about revenue then wouldn’t it be easier for everyone involved to just charge for street parking?

  • Andrew

    At the risk of oversimplifying, how about this approach to allocating curbside (or bike-lane-side) space.

    First priority goes to bus stops, fire hydrants, and other locations that parking of any sort has to be prohibited.

    Second priority goes to truck loading zones – as much space as is realistically needed.

    Third priority (if any space is left) goes to metered parking.

    Twentieth priority goes to free storage of personal automobiles (whether placarded or not).

    BicyclesOnly, I enjoyed your rant.

  • ChrisC

    >>How about they break the law when the design of the street leaves no alternative. There are often no alternative parking options in that area (many other neighborhoods have the same problem) besides double parking. It was bad before, and the new traffic pattern has just made it worse.<<

    Here's a crazy idea. Make your deliveries late at night when there are plenty of spaces available.

    No, that would make too much sense.

  • I’m sick of this “parking enforcement is just about revenue” line. Okay, then let’s change the law so that illegal parkers get jail time instead of fines.

  • Doug G.

    BicyclesOnly, I loved that rant. If you will be at the Streetfilms fundraiser, I’ll buy you a drink to say cheers.

  • I think someone on a prior related string questioned whether DoT had actually created a dedicated, commercial plates-only loading zone in this spot. Here’s a picture of that zone, with the florist parked in it. The picture shows where the pedestrian island is going in–it will be next to, not instead of, this loading zone.

    I fully sympathize with this guy’s problem with the placard abusers in this neighborhood–they are everywhere. I’ve spent hours documenting the abuse by the many placard abusers employed by the Post Office, Fire Department, and others just two blocks away from the florist. But now that this florist is feeling the squeeze, he’s going to get the bike lane taken away even though its the placard abusers and the turning motor vehicles that are the source of his problem? Hell no!

    Andrew and Driver, thanks for mentioning where you agree with me. More rant here!> But the notion of a hierarchy of uses for street space is not mine–the brain trust at Transportation Alternatives came up with it about ten years ago ago.

    And Doug G., I’m hoping the Streetfilms fundraiser will (like the Streetsblog fundraiser) have an open bar! See you there!

  • Doug G.

    If it’s an open bar, then I’ll buy you as many drinks as you want.

  • J

    Driver,
    I think we’re all on the same page here: we think that there isn’t enough space for deliveries to happen legally, and we’re looking for ways to create that space. Since many (most) of us don’t make deliveries or operate a business, we don’t know all that is involved with scheduling, truck size, etc. That is where having this type of task force can really help. Clearly there was a problem before the bike lane was installed (deliveries occurring via double parking). The bike lane has highlighted that issue, and now we are actually doing something to find ways to address it in a way that best satisfies the needs of the neighborhood.

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