Post Unwittingly Makes Case for Northbound Protected Bike Lane on UWS

Today, New Yorkers got a blast from the past in the pages of the New York Post. Less than a week ago, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to ask DOT to study complete streets measures including a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. For today’s paper, the Post sent two reporters to the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane to get some quotes from die-hard bike lane opponents and catch wrong-way cyclists on camera.

To get anti-bike quotes, the Post goes back to the well. Ian Alterman, the president of the 20th precinct community council who has opposed not only bike lanes but also business requests for bike racks, and the Zingone Brothers grocery store, which has previously had its grievances aired on WCBSWNYC — and (surprise!) the Post — both make appearances. Can you smell the controversy?

The NY Post's street safety coverage priorities. Photo: NY Post
If there was a protected northbound bike route on the Upper West Side, the Columbus Avenue bike lane wouldn’t draw so much wrong-way riding. Photo: NY Post

The Post conveniently ignored all the benefits the Columbus Avenue redesign has brought to the Upper West Side: Shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, new concrete islands that get drivers to take turns carefully, safer biking conditions, tweaks to improve loading zones for businesses, narrower lanes and less speeding, and — most important — a 41 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries.

The paper tried to link the bike lane — which creates a safe place to ride in the street — to sidewalk riding and wrong-way cycling. Never mind that sidewalk riding is down: Only 2.3 percent of riders on Columbus currently use the sidewalk, a drop from before the lane was installed, according to DOT.

There’s no evidence that wrong-way riding is any more or less frequent than it used to be either, but if northbound cycling is prevalent on the southbound Columbus Avenue bike lane, there’s a good reason: There is no northbound protected bike lane on the Upper West Side. The Post actually makes a good case for a companion protected lane on Amsterdam, which would give cyclists a safer route heading uptown and draw wrong-way bike traffic off Columbus.

  • Jesse

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever salmoned through the park to avoid the shitshow on CPW.

    I often wonder if people would hyperventilate if the protected bike lanes were just striped two ways. Honestly, there’s room to do it if you consider that the city has no problem putting bike lanes in door zones on other streets. But could New Yorkers handle looking both ways when they jaywalk?

  • HamTech87

    Great point. Another interesting piece about that video was the look of those two cyclists. Both commuting for transportation, and going slowly enough to easily stop. One gray haired and in regular clothes. The other clearly working, with some sort of machine (vacuum cleaner?) on his back.

  • HamTech87

    Cycling on Amsterdam, Bway, or West End is terrifying.

    Just had this same conversation earlier today on Streetsblog. And here’s the pic I posted of what you describe from Montreal.

    http://cycleto.ca/sites/default/files/images/mtl%20bike%20lane%20joel%20mann_flickr.img_assist_custom-520×390.jpg

  • EcoAdvocate

    Noticing where people on bikes are behaving badly and taking a moment to stop and think “WHY?” is important. I see tons of wrong way on a One Way Street riding in my small town. I certainly don’t ride like that, but perhaps the lawmakers would see: OH! The numerous One-Way roads in town make it harder for people on BICYCLES to get where they are going! If we go with a Complete Streets mindset and keep the traffic of ALL KINDS flowing, then we would end the highway slicing through our city and make the neighborhood street bi directional again. Or the next best thing is to create a contra-flow bike lane.

  • Jesse

    That picture is beautiful. How hard would it be to do something like that in New York?

  • Joe R.

    Any intelligent person should ask that question instead of giving the usual response of ticketing, ticketing, and more ticketing. Anything which is safe shouldn’t be illegal. I’m not a fan of wrong-way riding but I understand the rationale behind it in many cases. Same thing with sidewalk riding and passing red lights. These are both logical responses in an auto-dominated landscape where the efficiency/safety of other modes are marginalized. There may be reasons to have one-way streets for motor vehicles but in most cases those streets can remain two-way for bikes. Just make it official with proper markings so everyone knows where they should be.

  • Joe R.

    It depends where. Protected lanes certainly have their uses, but they’re hardly a panacea. The best place to use protected lanes is alongside parks, railways, superblocks, shorelines, or basically any place which doesn’t have frequent intersections. Remember most collisions occur at intersections. Protected lanes are best used where there are long stretches between intersections and the only danger is from motor vehicles alongside cyclists. That picture certainly fits the bill. The next intersection is so far away it’s out of camera view.

  • Kevin Love

    Which is why protected lanes need to be used in conjunction with protected intersections. This video explains how it is done.

    And this video shows several examples of protected intersections in action.

  • anon

    Protected bike lanes protect drivers from having to deal with a slow bike in front of them.

  • Get out of here with your logic and rational thinking

  • Larry Littlefield

    They should do a PPW on CPW, and make the street one-way the way it is south of Columbus Circle.

  • Two-way streets are safer for pedestrians because motorists tend to slow when they perceive traffic coming at them very fast.

  • poncho

    Is there any official talk of making some of these two way cycle tracks? Riding a CitiBike as an visitor made this very clear that the one ways dont work for the scale of bikes and humans.

  • Myra Hill

    I almost collided with the food delivery cyclist going the wrong way. If you have to go the wrong way due to logical reasons, slow down. You never know if the cyclist from the opposite direction is coming at you, especially from a blind spot like big vehicles.

    However, I still think every cyclists must follow the rules. Ride with traffic, stop at red lights and stop signs and avoid riding on sidewalks. If the traffic is deemed not safe, I just simply walk my bike until I get to a spot where the traffic is safe.

    Rules and regulations are there for a reason. To protect and keep everyone safe.

  • HamTech87

    I haven’t heard about it.

  • HamTech87

    Thanks for posting. Any idea what the NACTO or NYC-DOT response to this design is?

  • S

    One-way bike-lanes make sense in some places, but in too many places they make about as much sense as one-way sidewalks. Absent a paired lane on Amsterdam, Columbus Ave is certainly a good example of that.

  • Jonathan R

    Need separate bicycle traffic-light phases as on lower 9th Ave for safe two-way bike lane on one-way avenue.

  • andrelot

    I don’t get this knee-jerk reaction against protected bike lanes. As long as intersections are properly signed and protected (with things like bike-specific traffic lights, bulbs etc), separation of traffic is always better than mixed traffic on any busy street.

  • Andrew

    I am a pedestrian, and I find one-way streets much easier to cross. I don’t have to watch for conflicting traffic in both directions, and I don’t have to worry about left-turning drivers waiting for opposing motor traffic to clear and then gunning it, forgetting about or ignoring pedestrians in the crosswalk.

  • Joe R.

    Same here. If I’m in the crosswalk immediately before traffic enters the intersection, I don’t have to worry about turning vehicles. That said, there is some truth to what Tal said about traffic moving slower on two-way streets, as opposed to one-way streets, assuming in both cases the total road width is the same.

  • Andrew

    Tal gave the common wisdom on the subject, if there is such a thing, but it doesn’t jive with my own experiences. If drivers don’t have to look out for conflicting motor vehicles, there’s a chance that they might bother to look out for pedestrians.

    On one-way streets it’s also often perfectly safe and easy (if illegal) to cross mid-block to avoid the turning conflicts at the intersections. On busy two-way streets it’s a lot harder.

  • Actually it is you who are giving the common-sense answer. It is based on nothing more than just your own casual observations. I don’t have the source at my fingertips, but I recall seeing hard data showing that two-way is safer for pedestrians than one-way (for a given width, obviously). Most collisions are not due to pedestrians “not watch[ing] for conflicting traffic in both directions”. Contrary to what we’d all like to believe when we are crossing the street, the pedestrian has remarkably little role in actually preventing a collision.

    Furthermore, the perception of increased danger in a two-way street may change the behavior of the pedestrian as well, once again making a two-way street safer. Perceptions can be a dangerous thing. Better that something truly dangerous (i.e. any street with cars) is perceived as such.

  • Andrew

    I said common wisdom, not common sense. I’ve read many times that two-way streets are safer for pedestrians, but I have difficulty believing it, at least in the NYC context.

    I’m not blaming pedestrians for anything. I’m saying that pedestrians can often cross one-way streets between intersections quite easily, avoiding the turn conflicts at the intersections themselves – and, at the same time, motorists turning at intersections have fewer vehicular conflicts, so they’re more likely to remember to watch for pedestrians.

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