Everyone’s On Board for East Harlem Bike Lanes — Except NYCDOT

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallies for the completion of the First and Second Avenue bike lanes in November, with Sen. José Serrano to her left and Assm. Brian Kavanagh to her right. The lanes will only extend to 57th Street this year, not 125th Street. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Is there any neighborhood in New York City that has asked for more and received less, in terms of safe street improvements, than East Harlem?

In 2010, days after it was announced that the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes were on hold between 34th Street and 125th Street, Community Board 11 members blasted DOT for seeming to put a low priority on their neighborhood.

A few months later, East Harlem residents wrote to Mayor Bloomberg, asking him to ensure that they’d be able to ride safely.

And in November, City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Sen. José Serrano stood on the steps of City Hall demanding that the city make good on its promises and finish the East Side bike lanes in 2011.

It’s no wonder why the neighborhood feels strongly. East Harlem boasts more cyclists than any neighborhood outside Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn, even though it hasn’t received any new bike infrastructure in years. That means its cyclists — like Marcus Ewing, who was fatally doored last October — are in particular danger, while its would-be cyclists don’t ride. With the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in the city, the community is also clamoring for more safe and accessible ways to get exercise.

After it was announced last night that DOT would only be installing bike lanes on First and Second up to 57th Street this year — suggesting that it may be years before improvements come to East Harlem — representatives again called for their neighbors to get a fair share of the safety-enhancing infrastructure being built further downtown.

Said Mark-Viverito:

I am very disappointed to learn that protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues are not being extended to my community in El Barrio/East Harlem. We should be encouraging greener and healthier modes of transit in all parts of our city, particularly in a community like mine that suffers from disproportionate rates of asthma and obesity. I urge DOT to re-consider its decision and to afford the residents of my community the same opportunities for safe bike travel that are being offered to other neighborhoods on the East Side.

And Serrano:

I am extremely disappointed that, once again, the next phase of the Select Bus Service plan will not extend protected bike lanes Uptown to East Harlem and Yorkville. Last night at the SBS Advisory Committee meeting, the project team announced that that transit signals will also be installed starting at the south end of the corridor, moving northbound to Houston. I understand that this is due to the street network in that area. However, Uptown residents always seem to get shortchanged when it comes to these large scale transit projects. It’s time to break this pattern, and ensure that upgrades begin on 125th Street and work their way down, so that the residents of East Harlem and Yorkville are not the last to benefit from transit improvements.

  • wkgreen

    We don’t want to go cramming elitist bike lanes down the throat of a nice working class neighborhood like Harlem now do we. What would those editorialists at the NY Post and the Daily News have to say?

  • Anonymous

    NBBL will fail in having the bike lane they oppose removed, but will succeed in preventing anyone else from getting one for a very long time. Nice work–time and money well spent!

  • wkgreen

    But NBBL doesn’t oppose bike lanes. No way! They’re just neighbors advocating for BETTER bike lanes.

  • Mark

    Nice reporting Noah. This is a no brainer. DOT should be able to find demand from many parts of the city for street improvements. The push back against street improvements in many neighborhoods need not slow the rate of change in the city, only the location of that change.

  • Eric McClure

    I hear there’s some paint and thermoplast in NYCDOT’s Bay Ridge garage that’s not being used — how about we use it in East Harlem, where Council Members and State Senators are a bit more enlightened.

  • molly

    Am I missing something? What is the DOT’s explanation for stopping the lanes at 57th Street?

  • wkgreen

    I understand that were going to but the truck got stuck in traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Ha! Exactly–they will fail at both their real AND stated goals. Real tiger blood those guys have.

  • Greg

    The only things East Harlem ever got from the city were neighborhood-destroying housing projects.

  • Daphna

    The lanes are NOT being continued to 57th Street:

    First Avenue from 34th Street to 49th Street will get the bike lane extended. On First Avenue from 49th Street to 57th Street will just be sharrows in a motor vehicle travel lane.

    Second Avenue will just get sharrows in a motor vehicle travel lane from 34th Street to 57th Street.

    The only real lane going in is 15 blocks on First Avenue. The rest is just sharrows which are not going to help reduce speeding or make traffic more orderly. Sharrows are just arrows saying to the bike rider “Good luck! You are on your own. No traffic calming help here.”

    I am glad for the 3/4 mile extension of the lane on First Avenue, but there needs to be so much more! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  • christine

    Hell’s kitchen in manhattan has asked for 7 years now and got nothing ..

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Uptown residents always seem to get shortchanged when it comes to these large scale transit projects. It’s time to break this pattern.”

    Then start fighting for Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway – to 125th Street. Silver killed a full phase I to 125th because it wasn’t good enough, and succeeded in having the project stop at 96th Street at a far greater cost.

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