The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 2 voted unanimously on Tuesday to endorse a community-generated plan to upgrade the Hudson Street bike lane to a parking-protected lane.
Right now, Hudson Street has a buffered bike lane. It’s one of the oldest in the city according to Ian Dutton, a former vice chair of the transportation committee, who proposed the upgrade along with community board member Maury Schott and Mike Epstein, who works in the area. But the lane has become inadequate for safe travel. The paint on the street has been totally worn away and the lane is constantly blocked by double-parked vehicles.
Since it is already buffered, however, upgrading to a parking-protected lane is easy. “All we’re doing is flipping it,” said Dutton. “It has no impact on moving lanes — they stay right where they are.” The only trade-off for the safety upgrade is a few parking spaces that would need to be removed for new mixing zones and pedestrian refuge islands.
“All the statistics point to the fact that parking protected zones reduce both pedestrian, bike and vehicle passenger injuries,” said Schott. On Eighth Avenue, total street injuries fell between 18 and 35 percent after the upgrade. On Second Avenue, injuries fell 11 percent while the number of weekday cyclists using the lane more than tripled.
Hudson Street effectively runs in two segments. Above Abingdon Square, Hudson runs southbound, connecting Ninth Avenue to Bleecker Street. Below the square, Hudson runs north until it becomes Eighth Avenue. If installed alongside existing DOT plans for bike lanes in Midtown, therefore, the upgrade would create continuous protected lanes on Eighth Avenue from 59th Street to Canal Street and on Ninth Avenue from 59th to Bleecker.
Nearly every member of the public who spoke at the meeting voiced support for the proposal; a straw poll of attendees showed seven in favor and one opposed. Testimony submitted by e-mail weighed overwhelmingly in favor of the lane.
Safety — for both cyclists and pedestrians — was the top issue. CB 2 member Denise Collins, said she worried for parents and children cycling to Hudson Street’s P.S. 3. “There are people who don’t even know that we have a bike lane on Hudson, it’s just totally washed away,” she said. “I hold my heart in my hands sometimes when I see these people on bikes.”
Ellen Peterson-Lewis, a public member of CB 2’s environment committee, noted that the neighborhood has a growing senior population, a group she included herself in. “To have that flip and to have that pedestrian island there,” she said, “I do think this is an excellent idea.”
Ellen Baer, the president of the Hudson Square Connection, a local BID, expressed opposition to the proposal. Though the BID has supported a number of important improvements to local streets, Baer asked the committee to put off a decision on the bike lane until she could forge some consensus among her members. Dutton later reported that he had heard some BID members were thrilled about the proposed upgrade while others were vehemently opposed.
The transportation committee debated delaying the issue or endorsing a bike lane upgrade only above Houston Street, north of the BID’s jurisdiction, but decided to move forward with the entire thing. “It’s going to be January or February before DOT even comes back to us,” argued Dutton, which would provide plenty of time for negotiations between the BID, DOT and the community board. The committee also requested that DOT revise parking regulations in the area to reduce double parking.
The full board of CB 2 will vote on the proposal on November 17.