Cyclists Blindsided By City’s Erasure of Father Capodanno Bike Lane

For the second time in 12 months, the Bloomberg administration will remove a link in the bicycle network after receiving complaints from bike lane opponents. The Staten Island Advance reports that the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard will not be striped again after the street is repaved. The news comes two months after the Advance published an editorial urging the city to remove the lane, and about a year after the city erased a 14-block stretch of the Bedford Avenue bike lane in response to opposition from local Hasidic leaders.

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The Capodanno bike lane will be erased from Midland Avenue to Drury Avenue, a few blocks south of Lily Pond Avenue.

This time the bike route on Capodanno from Midland Avenue to Drury Avenue will be wiped out. The bike lane on the inland side of Capodanno will be converted to parking and turning lanes, and, in a measure of compensation for sustainable transport, the bike lane closer to the shore will be converted into a bus lane. A portion of the bike lane that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps will be preserved, according to DOT.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and local City Council member James Oddo both applauded the change. Molinaro, Oddo, and the Advance editorial board have been clamoring for the lane to be removed for some time.

Now, without any discernible public process, most of the Capodanno lane will vanish, erasing one of the few routes for safer cycling on the island. “Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island’s meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement released this morning. “The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone.”

Staten Island cyclists feel blindsided by the change. “None of us saw this coming, from a mile away,” said Meredith Sladek, a member of TA’s Staten Island volunteer committee. “None of us were consulted.” The greenway that runs parallel to Capodanno, she said, mainly serves recreational users and doesn’t meet the needs of people biking for transportation.

After dark, the greenway is interrupted due to the nighttime closure of Fort Wadsworth, near the Verrazano Bridge, which forces cyclists to take a route that crosses Staten Island Expressway ramps. The bike lane will be preserved on that portion of Capodanno, north of the intersection with Drury Avenue.

Streetsblog has phone calls in with Molinaro and Oddo, the mayor’s office, and Staten Island Community Board 2 to find out about how the decision was reached.

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told the Advance that the “redesign is tailored to meet Staten Island’s unique transportation issues. We heard from the community and worked closely with local leaders to engineer a solution that works whether you’re on transit, a bike or behind the wheel.”

While Molinaro and Oddo may have burnished their reputations with local bike lane opponents, Mayor Bloomberg is undercutting his own legacy on street safety and green transportation by allowing these erasures to happen on his watch without so much as a public hearing. Even as the city makes huge strides in expanding its bike network and introducing innovative designs that are making bicycling safer and more accessible, it is sending the signal that bikeways are vulnerable to political pressure.

Here is TA’s full statement about the bike lane removal:

Transportation Alternatives is deeply concerned about the City’s abrupt removal of the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard in Staten Island. Father Capodanno is an integral piece of Staten Island’s meager bike network, connecting bike commuters to and from the Staten Island Railway and the St. George Ferry Terminal, local cyclists to the Snug Harbor Park and Cultural Center and the Staten Island Yankees Stadium. In a borough that is frequently denied the bike and pedestrian street safety improvements the Bloomberg administration has installed to make NYC’s other boroughs safer, the removal of Father Capodanno is effectively a foreclosure on the right to safe cycling for Staten Islanders.

The Father Capodanno Boulevard bike lane removal occurs one year after the Bloomberg Administration removed the Bedford Avenue bike lane in Brooklyn, another key Manhattan connection for cyclists. The Bloomberg administration has apparently decided that the opposition of a few drivers and local political bosses can trump public process and the irrefutable evidence that bike lanes save lives and make streets safer for everyone. Bike lanes across NYC have proven to decrease crashes for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers up to 60%. Mayor Bloomberg’s public health efforts like the ban of smoking and trans fats are never the subject of backroom negotiation — safe street design should not be either: all are life saving measures. We are working with the Department of Transportation to gain a better understanding of the Bloomberg Administrations’ ostensibly new political criteria for the removal of street designs that are proven to save lives.

Noah Kazis contributed to this post.

  • The shameful thing about this is that while Staten Island’s elected officials and the Staten Island Advance readily acknowledge the speeding and reckless driving that is common on Father Capodanno Blvd, they have been railing against everything the NYC DOT has done to make the streets safer. Like installing bike lanes.

  • Boris

    Just awful. Now, as speeding and crashing gets more severe on Father Cap, will DOT return and say, “I told you so?” If they don’t, they are ignoring SI’s safety concerns (even expressed in the Advance article!) If they do, then they are playing with peoples’ lives for no reason than to annoy a few local officials.

  • The process point is key. If cyclists don’t rate a “heads up” and an advance opportunity to comment on removal of bike routes from the Bloomberg administration, what can we expect after 2013? It’s great to have installed hundreds of miles of bike routes in such a short period of time, but events like this and the dismount zones that keep cropping up in parks around the city make the bike network seem ephemeral.

    And speaking of lack of notice of bike route modifications ….

  • Bromwell

    Look at the notification process for changing signage in city law. What does it say?

  • m to the i

    DOT says, “This is being done in conjunction with the completion of a unique, two-way protected lane on parallel Kent Avenue…Oh wait, Staten Island, I know I have another excuse up my sleeve somewhere. In the name of safety, um community, safe streets. Thank you.”

  • jsd

    To be honest, the lane always seemed a bit redundant. It was almost always entirely vacant, since it is directly next to a well used, well maintained protected lane adjacent to the boardwalk, running all the way from Miller Field (Midland Beach) to Fort Wadsworth(the Verrazano Bridge). This is turn connects to Bay Street, which is a sharrow for almost its entire length. That stretch is the real missing link. However I don’t like how the lane was so quickly removed. In fact, a total repaving a few months ago gave those opposing the lane some ammunition to simply never re-stripe the lane. Very underhanded.

    Father Capodanno needs traffic calming. But an empty bike lane does nothing for the movement. We need full bike lanes. The best kind of traffic calming we get on Father Cap is wintertime. Once the potholes start coming out, the drivers slow down. That makes me think we need some speedbumps, but not an unused bike lane.

  • chris

    Actually VERY happy that they removed the bike land from Fr. Cappodonno boulevard.

    That was done with minimal community input (little hypocritical to be bitching about community input that they removed it), and Staten Island will benefit a hell of a lot more from an express bus to the Ferry rather than a bike lane for the few bike commuters in relatively suburban Staten Island.

    This is an example of when ideology is correctly displaced by reality – a place a lot of bike advocates on this blog are severely divorced from.

  • Danny G

    Any idea if the new bus lane will have enforcement and/or priority signalization?

    Will the dawn to dusk restrictions on the parallel greenway be lifted?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Staten Island wants its automobile dependence, suburban sprawl and soul-crushing traffic congestion. Let them have it. Let them secede to New Jersey if they want.

  • J

    I have to say that I’m not entirely outraged at this, especially if there is a parallel greenway. I think we should consider the fact that bike lanes are not an end in themselves. It is access, safety, and mobility that we are after. An empty bike lane doesn’t achieve any of these. Empty bike lanes are not helping bikers and often galvanize the opposition. If this was heavily used, than I’ll grab the protest signs and get out there with everyone. However, it doesn’t seem that way. I’d prefer DOT spending more time and money to work with the community to create a good network of greenways and protected bike lanes that extend outward from the Ferry. These would actually get SIers to get on bikes, and would likely be well used. Maybe some would get their own facebook pages.

    In short, I say pick your battles, and this doesn’t seem like one worth fighting, especially if bus lanes will replace it.

  • Danny G

    J,

    I think you sum it up well. Thanks. And Class I to the ferry sounds worthwhile.

  • Thank you, Streetsblog, for turning your attention to New York’s forgotten borough. My personal Staten Island bike bugaboo is the St. George ferry terminal, where bicyclists are forced to dismount but DOT workers (and other random placard holders) can park in the area directly in front of the ferry slips. I suppose it’s a safety issue, to keep cyclists from speeding through the parking lot to try and catch a departing ferry, but I wonder how often the men and women who park their cars in that area are tested for drugs or alcohol or both before being allowed to drive inside. If it’s safety we want, let’s be consistent!

  • tom

    In the spirit of “I told you so”: SI should have all the highways Robert Moses had planned out for it. Then they can have all their speeding and crashes in a limited-access and controlled manner; and leave the streets safer.

  • jsd

    J,

    Class one to the ferry is definitely doable along Edgewater Street, directly adjacent to the water, Bay Street and the unused Stapleton Home Port. That stretch is barely used, and a great route to the ferry even as is.

  • J

    Jonathan,

    The city is actually working on the SI Ferry dismount issue as we speak. The reconstruction of the ramps at the terminal will include a grade-separated 2-way bike path up the bus ramp to the front entrance, as well as a new bike parking facility. All of this is funded by the stimulus. Check it out here:

    Project website:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/ferrybus/statfery.shtml

    Presentation (See slide 24):
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/20100511_stgeorge_ramps_slides.pdf

  • Ah, but what is the DOT and ferry terminal going to do about the mandatory bag searches for cyclists? Yes, in addition to making us dismount, we can’t go aboard the boat unless our bikes and bags are searched by a bomb-sniffing dog. And, when there’s no dog, we get to open our bags and let the guards poke around. Is that going to end with the new design? I hope so.

    While I am pleased that there will be a bus lane, it is a bit suspect that it is allegedly only going to be on the northbound side. I also can’t wait to ride next to the new strip of parking and see how many doors will fly in my face.

    I am also incredibly excited to see the inevitable backlash, right around May or June, from pedestrians on the bike-ped path parallel to the boardwalk saying that there are too many damn bikers on the path, they go too fast, and they endanger/scare the children. Mark my words.

    It feels like some of you are missing the point. The boardwalk and path are no Kent Ave, and no West Side greenway. SI only has 11 bike lanes, and Father Cap, at almost 3 miles, was one of the longest. The rest break off or go in a circle. And this one wasn’t exactly empty, but even if it were, it still contributes to traffic calming. If any of you are still doubtful that this, or any other bike lanes on SI make a difference, I invite you to come riding with me on Amboy Road.

    After you get searched for bombs at the ferry, that is.

  • Paul

    People who say that there is a alternative path next to boardwalk should take a ride on it. With all the traffic (kids, people walking dogs, runners, people rollerblading etc. ) it is almost impossible to ride your bike given the fact that this thing is 6 feet wide.

    People already doing 50-60 mpg on that road. Opening another line there is not what anybody wants. Cyclist will still be riding on the road as they have the right to do so. It is just going to be more dangerous for everybody.

  • While I am pleased that there will be a bus lane, it is a bit suspect that it is allegedly only going to be on the northbound side.

    I agree, Meredith! Similarly suspect is how the bus lanes on the Gowanus, on the LIE and in Union City are also inbound only.

    I understand that the morning rush hour packs people into a shorter time window, but anyone who’s ever sat in a bus on one of the outbound lanes knows that those are still necessary. The city, and the Port Authority is going to have to move beyond morning rush hours if they want to expand transit ridership.

  • Boris

    jsd,

    Just about all Staten Island roads are “almost always entirely vacant”. That’s the nature of suburbia. Try driving on Father Cap after 9 pm, and you’ll wonder why the road exists at all.

    Or try riding a bike on the supposedly well-maintained lane next to the boardwalk on a summer afternoon, when portions of the lane are jammed with valet-parked cars, kids are running amok all over the place, and pedestrians, rollerbladers, and other users of the park glare at you for having to get out of your way.

    The real problem with Staten Island is the lack of a grid system in many parts of the borough, which forces traffic onto a handful of arterials. The older street network is basically made up of small one-way streets that vary in width and randomly dead-end when you least expect it. Attached onto them are Moses-era speedways that can actually get you somewhere if you are in a car or bus. Making bike boulevards out of the quiet streets is the best overall solution, but that would require a lot of street (re)building.

  • StevenF

    Replace the lost bike lane miles on Cappodanno by completing the Verrazano Bridge. VNB bike access will do a lot more to help Staten Island transportation than Cappodanno.

    The Verrazano Narrows Bridge has never been finished: the bridge was designed for two bicycle/pedestrian paths. But Robert Moses took the paths out in last year of construction, 1963, because he was worried about the negative impact of suicides on his TBTA bond ratings. Moses thought that removing the paths would prevent suicides. So instead of people quietly walking up, thinking about it, and walking down, they drive up, during rush hour, dump the car, block traffic, and then jump. One poor guy got up there in a taxi.

    Having no path didn’t stop suicides, it just stops cyclists, joggers, walkers and tourists from enjoying the world class view of New York harbor. It stops the 10 percent of VNB traffic that travels only 8 miles door to door from the option of traveling by bicycle. The VNB is less than 2 miles long, 10,000 feet street to street, and is a 10-15 bike ride. The 8 mile trip is 30-50 minutes – well within current driving times when the SI Expressway is backed up.

    The path can be installed in the empty space waiting for it – the space under the cables outboard of the roadway, and won’t take any of the 12 roadway lanes away. Costs, documented by a City Planning engineering study, would be about $35 million for the two paths, complete.

    For a quick and dirty and cheap path, install a steel Jersey Barrier to block off one lower level lane and create a two way bike/ped path. A couple million dollars and we can be riding the VNB.

    Of course, once there is a direct VNB bike route to Brooklyn, there may be a lot more cyclists along Cappodanno Blvd, and the bike lanes may have to be re-installed.

    Side thought about Cappodanno that has not been mentioned, is how it works as a cyclist bypass of Hylan Blvd. Though Cappo ends at Miller Field, a cyclist can cross the park and keep riding on the south side along relatively quiet streets. By the time you go inland just before Great Kills Park, Hylan traffic is significantly less crazy than north of Miller field. This route covers about a third of the SI east shore.

  • random9900

    at least the 51 is faster

  • OB1

    Can we protest the anniversary of the death of a great bike lane?

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