CB 8 Committee May Not Love Cyclists, But Still Votes for Safer First Avenue

The transportation committee of CB 8 voted to upgrade the buffered bike lane on First Avenue, here blocked by a line of trucks, to a parking protected bike lane. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/5020374761/in/photostream/##BicyclesOnly via Flickr.##

On the Upper East Side, community board members are willing to vote for safer streets, so long as they can vent about cyclists beforehand.

After a discussion that emphasized bad bike behavior, the transportation committee of Community Board 8 voted 9-2, with one abstention, to support the construction of a protected bike lane on First Avenue from 60th Street to 96th Street.

Above 72nd Street, First Avenue already has a buffered bike lane. Upgrading to a protected lane requires only that DOT flip the lanes for bikes and parking, while maintaining existing lanes for drivers. Between 60th and 72nd, though, there isn’t any bike lane at all. Filling that gap between the shared lane through Midtown and the buffered lane further north would be DOT’s top construction priority, said Ryan Russo, DOT assistant commissioner for traffic management. Construction could start as early as this fall.

DOT is neither building nor presenting plans for a new bike lane on Second Avenue, and won’t until Second Avenue Subway construction is complete years from now. Even in the few blocks below the construction zone, where DOT had originally planned to paint a shared lane, Russo said the combination of subway and water tunnel construction meant that no changes would be made.

To some extent, the limited scope of the redesign contributed to the committee’s endorsement. “I see 72nd to 96th Street as a no-brainer,” said committee co-chair Jonathan Horn. “There’s already a bike lane there. We’re trading a few parking spaces to get pedestrian islands which shorten the crossing for seniors and other people.” A 2009 resolution from the community board said that if bike lanes were to be built on the Upper East Side, they should be protected lanes.

Even so, for many committee members, the idea of drawing more cyclists to the neighborhood was tough to tolerate. “Unless you enforce the laws and make the penalties enough to deter people from doing what they’re currently doing, you should not be encouraging bicycling,” said board member Elizabeth Ashby.

Barry Schneider told the story of a friend of his who was hit by a cyclist 20 years ago and urged that the state register cyclists. “Be an advocate for that,” Schneider told DOT. “Make them part of the vehicular culture.”

“The bike lanes are preceding education,” complained another board member. “You have given us the perfect picture to look at, but in reality it’s really not a perfect picture.” She asked for a public service announcement on safe cycling, and when informed that “Don’t Be A Jerk” ads were already running demanded far wider distribution.

Many board members who complained about cyclists nevertheless voted for the lanes. In the end, the proven increase in safety from the new design further downtown and the desire for pedestrian refuge islands carried the day. In fact, a proposed compromise put forward by Horn, in which the protected bike lanes would be built north of 72nd while a shared lane would be built south of 72nd, was shot down because it wouldn’t improve pedestrian safety.

“In our area, I’m one of them, there are more and more seniors,” explained Judy Schneider. “I like having a shorter street to cross.”

Public testimony, which was overwhelmingly in favor of the protected lanes, surely helped swing some votes in favor of the lanes as well. “It is very tough to go on the streets of Manhattan and without having a protected bicycle lane, it is very dangerous,” said Upper East Side bike commuter Steven Moss. He explained that while he rides in the protected lanes further down on First and Second, uptown he often ends up riding in the Select Bus Service lane for safety reasons, slowing down transit riders in the process. “I’m not supposed to be there,” admitted Moss, “but what is a bicyclist to do?”

The committee’s resolution does request additional cyclist enforcement on First and Second Avenue (specifically praising the 19th precinct for its borough-leading level of bike citations), as well as a stronger education campaign. The committee will discuss a proposal to require licenses for all bike riders at next month’s meeting.

The full board of Community Board 8 meets to vote on the issue on September 21.

  • Guest

    Great to see this come on the heel’s of yesterday’s news about Harlem bike lanes. 

    One question — what jurisdiction do CBs have over licensing of bikes, or other vehicles, for that matter? 

  • Albert

    I was very impressed with DOT’s presentation, especially their calm, no-nonsense answers to often very unfriendly questioning, as if they’d anticipated it.  It was kind of delightful to hear one well-known bike-hater shut down when, after berating the DOT rep over & over for not knowing “How much is this going to cost!?,” he calmly said that the earlier 1st & 2nd Avenue bike lanes cost [paraphrasing] “1/30 of the amount they commonly spend to fix potholes.”  That was her last question of the night, I think.

  • UES’er

    “Make them part of the vehicular culture.”

    That attitude is the problem. Instead of expecting cyclists and pedestrians to find a way to fit into the “vehicular culture,” we need to get drivers to realize that when they enter a highly dense area such as the Upper East side, they need to be part of the “pedestrian culture.”

  • This is a long time coming.  That section of bike lane is one of the least respected in the city, constantly blocked by sanitation trucks, sanitation cars, NYPD TEA’s, NYPD, delivery trucks, and jaggoffs. 

    Can’t wait to ride up a truly protected bike lane on first ave.

    Now if they just finish that three block section of the green-way that would effectively reopen the green-way from 83rd ST to the Queensboro bridge.

  • You see the same complaint from every cranky CB member about needing more enforcement and more education.  We can’t even manage keeping up with enforcement and education on automobiles.  Automobiles are heavy machinery and should be properly enforced and operated by educated users.  No amount of bike education or enforcement will improve overall street safety when it is still the cars that kill people.

  • Eric McClure

    I’m not going to overdo the kvetching since they voted overwhelmingly to support the plan, but come on: where were all the CB8 hearings about the regular mayhem caused by drivers?  Three people could have been run over by cars yesterday, but somebody’s going to hold up the memory of a friend being hit by a cyclist 2 years ago?  Jeez.

  • @EricMcClure:disqus 20 years ago

  • Eric McClure

    @google-c6398336480a4370fd1d7ac9268efb0e:disqus , damned keyboards.

  • J

    This is fantastic news! A few thoughts:

    1) I’ll take all the kvetching in the world from CB members if it means that they vote for 1.8 miles of protected bike lanes in an area that desperately needs them, and with good links to bridges as well.
     2) I imagine that with only a northbound bike path from 60th-96th, First Ave will experience a lot of wrong-way cycling. Unlike on 1st Ave downtown, where you can yell at salmon to use the path on 2nd Ave, there won’t really be a viable alternative uptown. That said, maybe this keep up the pressure to build the bike path on 2nd Ave, once SAS construction wraps up.3) Are there any plans for the stretch between 57th & 60th? Currently, the shared lanes simply end, 3 blocks short of the bridge entrance, and soon to be 3 blocks short of the protected lane. 4) Does anyone have a link to the pdf?

  • J
  • J

    Cool! According to the presentation, DOT is planning to construct protected bike lanes on 2nd Ave, between 68th St & 100th St as part of the roadway restoration. Maybe they can build them out fully, with concrete separators like they have in Amsterdam.
     
    Also, the city is aiming to build the 60th – 72nd bike path on 1st Ave THIS FALL. That is pretty ambitious, but they certainly left themselves some wiggle room by saying “Fall 2011 desired implementation”. Maybe Streetsblog can host this file on the site as well. I’m still looking for the CB11  presentation.

  • TRUE STORY: this one time in 1991, I knew a guy who was hit by a bike, and also the USSR collapsed.  THAT WAS A LONG TIME AGO.  I’ve been in like three car accidents since then!

  • J

    I also think that DOT has created a genius strategy of including pedestrian refuge islands in their protected bicycle lane projects. These projects truly make the streets safer for everybody, whether they bike, walk, or drive. The debate at this meeting is a fantastic example of that. 

    Witness the creation of pedestrians for protected bike lanes (PPBL)!

  • Not John Allen

    If I could “Like” @UES’er’s comment 100 times, I would.

    Instead of expecting cyclists and pedestrians to find a way to fit into
    the “vehicular culture,” we need to get drivers to realize that when
    they enter a highly dense area such as the Upper East side, they need to
    be part of the “pedestrian culture.”

  • Not John Allen

    It’s nice that Barry Schneider is advocating on behalf of his friend who was hit by a bike messenger 20 years ago. He’s a good friend.

    However, as a policy-maker, Barry leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll start taking people like Barry Schneider seriously when they also start to advocate for the 7,500 New Yorkers who have been run over and killed by cars and the hundreds upon thousands who have been injured and maimed by reckless, lawless NYC motorists in that same time period.

    Anyway… Despite all their kvetching it sounds like CB8 has come a long way on these issues and have really gotten themselves educated on street design issues and they deserve big kudos for their vote. Even Barry.

  • J

    Here is the official link to the presentation pdf:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/201109_1st_2nd_aves_bicycle_paths_cb8.pdf

    Previously, I found the UES to be one of the least friendly Manhattan neighborhoods for biking. All the north-south Avenues are quite busy and fast, with only one crappy northbound bike lane which was on a poorly paved road with no buffer (1st Ave). This project will (eventually) make this into one of the best bike neighborhoods, with protected lanes cutting through nearly the entire neighborhood, and making important connections at both ends. This will also make the area much better for walking, by dramatically reducing crossing distances and vehicles speeds at many many locations. We are talking a 20 foot reduction in crossing distance on a street that’s 70 feet wide. That’s a really big deal, especially for seniors.

  • J

    Here is the official link to the presentation pdf:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/201109_1st_2nd_aves_bicycle_paths_cb8.pdf

    Previously, I found the UES to be one of the least friendly Manhattan neighborhoods for biking. All the north-south Avenues are quite busy and fast, with only one crappy northbound bike lane which was on a poorly paved road with no buffer (1st Ave). This project will (eventually) make this into one of the best bike neighborhoods, with protected lanes cutting through nearly the entire neighborhood, and making important connections at both ends. This will also make the area much better for walking, by dramatically reducing crossing distances and vehicles speeds at many many locations. We are talking a 20 foot reduction in crossing distance on a street that’s 70 feet wide. That’s a really big deal, especially for seniors.

  • Nandan

    Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and probably more expensive to New Yorkers than adding a few bike lanes.  Let’s help people in New York City stay fit and let children be children, encouraging them to ride (slowly and with care) on sidewalks and even park paths so that we don’t have to pay for their legs to be amputated at  a later date.  It’s only fiscal sense!

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