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Video Shows Dangers of Upper East Side Bike Plan

4:28 PM EDT on August 14, 2007

The City's plan to stripe a bike lane across the Upper East Side continues to generate "controversy." I put that word in quotes because, well, check out the video above and see for yourself what all the fuss is all about. The video was filmed on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at about 2:00 pm, theoretically, prime time for a neighborhood "play street." Yet, you'll see almost no one using the street except two cyclists, one of them a 9-year-old boy, slowly making their way up the pedestrianized street. They are clearly a danger... to no one.

Conflict over the City's bike plan centers around the car-free block of 91st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, pictured above. What is most remarkable about this conflict is the fact that the City isn't planning to make a single design change to the neighborhood's beloved pedestrian mall. DOT's plan is to end the bike lane on either side of the car-free block. Central Park-bound, uphill-traveling cyclists will be able to use the street as part of their bike route. Pedestrians will still have priority.

DOT representatives, elected officials and community members held a site visit a few weeks ago. Word has it, bike lane opponents assembled a Potemkin playground complete with about a dozen children playing in the middle of the street. According to one participant, no more than five minutes after the meeting ended, all of the children picked up their toys and returned to a small park area south of the neighborhood's "play street" where they normally play when not being used as props.

As was the case during the 9th Street bike lane controversy in Park Slope, Brooklyn, it would be hard to take these vociferous opponents of white stripes on asphalt seriously, except that local elected officials do take them seriously. The Upper East Side opposition even has a City Council member from outside the district fighting against the new bike route. After the jump you'll find a letter from Daniel Garodnick, someone you might think of as one of City Council's smart, progressive bright lights and a good potential choice as New York City's next Council Speaker.

Question for Mr. Garodnick: If a Council member can't stand the neighborhood-level political heat over a mere bike lane, what kind of leadership is he likely to show when it comes time to help New Yorkers understand and accept the array of changes that have to be made in response to climate change, fossil fuel depletion and other large scale environmental challenges now impending?

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