After over an hour of public comment, and another hour of deliberation, Community Board 2 last night voted to recommend the DOT proceed with bike lanes parallel to Houston Street, to be located primarily on Prince and Bleecker.
The resolution crafted last week by CB2's Traffic & Transportation Committee -- defining the new bike lanes as "additional interim" routes while affirming support for a Class I lane on Houston itself -- was altered slightly. After members of the public expressed reservations about the viability of Prince Street as bicycle corridor, CB2 is now encouraging DOT to "seriously consider" alternatives.
Pointing to large numbers of pedestrians, vendors and delivery trucks, some speakers predicted that a Prince Street re-striped for bikes would be a "failure," a "disaster," a "no-auto zone" and a "suicide alley." Said one, who described herself as a cyclist: "We should all ride our bikes, but not on Prince Street."
For every citizen who opposed the Prince-Bleecker plan, however, almost two spoke in favor. "It's past time that we start taking our city back from the cars," said Villager Laura Tanenbaum. Charle Cafiero, a former CB2 board member and a veteran in the fight for Houston, said, "The DOT alternate plan is the best we have been able to get in 20 years."
Still, at one point the board went so far as to vote on casting aside the Prince-Bleecker proposal in favor of a substitute motion to "reiterate" CB2's position that an "acceptable bike lane" be built on Houston. Though several board members were vocal in their opposition to bike lanes on Prince, and in some cases Bleecker, the substitute motion failed by a wide margin.
Instead, Traffic & Transportation Chair Brad Hoylman accepted a "friendly" amendment that DOT explore alternatives to Prince (though it was noted that the agency has already done so). Some board members endorsed Broome Street as an option for westbound cyclists.
Interspersed among last night's citizen commenters were appearances by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- who, speaking in support of bike lanes "throughout Manhattan," said New York's "out of control traffic crisis" required "bold new initiatives" -- and Council Member Alan Gerson, who also favored the lanes.
CB2 ultimately approved the amended resolution with only a handful of members opposed. In a late-night e-mail following the meeting, Ian Dutton, board member and head of CB2's Ad-hoc Committee for Bike Lanes on Houston, wrote: "From here, I hope to meet with DOT to carry the concerns that I share with the community and seek design solutions that mitigate them to the extent that's feasible. Thus far, DOT has expressed their willingness to consider new ideas to make this bike lane a success, and I look forward to working towards that with them."
Brad Aaron began writing for Streetsblog in 2007, after years as a reporter, editor, and publisher in the alternative weekly business. Brad adopted New York's dysfunctional traffic justice system as his primary beat for Streetsblog. He lives in Manhattan.