Video Shows Dangers of Upper East Side Bike Plan

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?

  • nobody

    This is disappointing of Garodnick. He doesn’t even have the basic facts correct.

  • mfs

    not to be a bomb-thrower here, but does anyone think that the animus against cyclists uptown has its genesis in the complaints of the elderly against latino and asian delivery people on bikes? just a hypothesis, not an accusation.

  • Christopher

    mfs is nearly right, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. It’s not the ethnicity of the delivery men that ticks off so many Upper East Siders, especially the elderly (most of whom are extremely left wing, by the way). It’s the behavior of these delivery men that sets them off. Indeed, while I agree 100% that the arguments against this bike route are without merit (that block is simply too steep for a cyclist going in that direction to cause any harm), the video actually captures a delivery man going down the hill in the “wrong” direction.

    Aggressive riding from bike delivery men are the biggest complaint that local elected officials receive (more than noise, crime, etc.). If you live long enough in this neighborhood, you are bound to have a near miss. While this kind of cycling is a completely different world from the TA/Critical Mass experience many of this blog’s readers are more familiar with, it is another example of cyclists being their own worst enemies.

    Of course, none of this excuses the battiness at the community board or Garodnick’s complete lack of spine.

  • mfs

    I’m actually wondering if the fact that there are language and or racial/ethnic barriers make it more likely for the deliverymen to be resented.

  • Ian D

    Yup – that’s about what it looked like at 7:30 this evening: a couple of bikes huffing and puffing up the hill, one or two people walking across the street, and dozens of people sitting in the benches. Nice and peaceful.

    I rode up here from downtown to see what all the fuss was about (and because my post-surgery physical therapy assignment is to bicycle more) and had to laugh at the “controversy”.

    Councilmember Garodnick, would you like to come on a bike ride with me and see for yourself? This block can be a great model for other streets we should be establishing all around the city, where people can enjoy peaceful activities like sitting on benches, or walking, cycling and playing in the streets without the threats, noise and pollution that are endemic of car and truck traffic.

  • MFS,

    I think there are lots of reasons for the seemingly disproportionate anger often directed at NYC cyclists.

    During the 9th Street bike lane battle in Brooklyn one of the neighborhood old-timers specifically said that he didn’t want the bike lane because it would just encourage more Chinese and Mexicans to come to the street. He was referring to the delivery guys who, presumably, serve dinner to his neighbors. He said this in a meeting in a room full of people.

    So, yeah, for some small segment out there, I think racism might be part of it. But this old guy was clearly a crank and didn’t seem to have a constituency with him.

  • We have a similar situation over on the East River where the greenway overlaps with Carl Schurz Park. There was lots of fuss before they allowed bikes to share the space, but afterwards, the opposition melted away. He’s the NY Times almost 4 years ago this week.

    The city’s push to patch together a 32-mile bicycle and pedestrian loop around Manhattan by early this month has brought back buzzwords not heard since kindergarten. But over on the East Side, not everyone thinks sharing is such a good idea.

    And although the city plans to open the walk to bicycles this month, Community Board 8 ”adamantly opposes” the development, according to its resolution on July 16.

    ”We have a lot of children in the neighborhood and a lot of elderly people,” said David D. Williams, president of the Carl Schurz Park Association. ”We’re concerned for the safety of our residents.”

    Same thing in Queens, same thing on the Upper West Side where bike lanes were voted down by the Community Boards. It’s a simple case of overblown fears that proved to be completely unfounded.

  • steve

    Thanks for digging out the NYT coverage Glenn–no better approach for bicycling advocates here than stressing that this very same community opposed bicycle access to another car free promenade on an identical rationale and the parade of horribles never happened. I agree the deliverers are the main problem for bicycle PR on the UES but fitness cyclists in and en route to the park are not blameless. Plus some messengers commuting south via UES each morning that will cut thru crowded crosswalks.

  • Hilary

    I was at a meeting in West Harlem and was sure I misheard the woman claim credit for keeping bikes out of Riverbank State Park, but no, that is what she said. It would probably help if Parkies rode bikes.

  • And just to go back to the video for a second. See how the kid riding the bike swings out in a non-linear path up the hill. It’s a natural thing for anyone going up a steep slope. He would probably do the same thing going up the parallel hill on 89th Street. Unfortunately, there he would be at risk from a passing car, even with a bike lane.

  • UES_Realist

    Open the street back up to traffic.

    The closing of the street added to congestion. Streets are for vehicles and bicycles. Parks are for kids. Go to Central Park or Carl Schurz Park. BETTER YET — if you want to ride in the streets move to the quiet burbs.


    It is New York “CITY”, not New York “Private PARK”.

  • Ollie

    Clearly none of the posters so far have kids. In fact, they are all cyclists – which I don’t have a problem with per se. What I do have a problem with is this notion that bikes are not dangerous on pedestrian walkways. They ARE.

    My 3-year old son has been hit by a cyclist in Carl Schurz. Before you tell me that was my fault, he was walking next to me on the river promenade. It was the cyclist, in my opinion, who came too close and frankly too fast. For that matter, I have been hit by a delivery cyclist too. Luckily both hits ended up being very mild, and everyone walked or strollered home.

    So don’t tell me cyclists on pedestrian walkways aren’t dangerous. It defies common sense.

  • Gizler

    If you’re going to single out the delivery guys, don’t forget the bike messengers. This notorious clip: , in which pedestrians crossing with the light almost get creamed countless times, is the kind of thing that earns plenty of enmity for the larger biking community.

  • susan

    I can’t believe you all have made this about the delivery people and made it into an ethnic issue. You are so off base. This is a safety issues for the folks that live on the block and for years have crossed the street with no concern for traffic of any kind. Additionally, as a biker coming from East End Avenue I can tell you that all of 91st Street east of 3rd avenue is a safety issue. I do want a biking lane, I just want it to allow me to go from EEA through without having to worry about turning on York Ave to get to 91st then competing with the buses who use it as their turn around street. Look beyond the easy out folks – this is not an ethnic nor a delivery person issue. It’s a quality of life and safety for all bikers!

  • Drew

    UES Realist, Opening the street back up to traffic will bring the neighborhood nothing but more traffic. Is London not “a real city” because they are transforming taking street space away from cars and re-allocating it to peds, buses and bikes?

    Ollie, I have kids and the main way I get them around the city is by bike. This is EXACTLY why I want more bike facilities like the route being planned on the car-free block. As an adult bike commuter, by myself, I am completely comfortable riding in traffic and mixing it up with cars and trucks. When I’ve got a squirmy 2-yo on the back of the bike, I want and need bike facilities that are separated from traffic.

    The street isn’t a walkway, btw. It’s a car-free street. What strikes me most about the video above is just how much space there is on this street for pedestrians and cyclists to share. Thanks to this video I now see the opponents of DOT’s bike plan as nothing more than selfish, short-sighted babies, unwilling or unable, simply, to share.

  • Barbara

    I commend all of the upper east side elected officials, including Dan Garodnick for standing up for our community. I live a few blocks south, and have always loved to stroll through this oasis on 91st street. This issue has NOTHING to do with ethnic fears. It is aimed to protect a small park that has been closed off for the elderly and children for many years. The buildings surrounding the park house an ethnically, age, and economically diverse population. Whoever shot the video must have waited for the specific moment when the street was not filled with seniors resting on the benches, children playing, and parents wheeling baby carriages. The street is very steep, so it seems ridiculous to think an average biker riding to work will choose this street for his/her path. And for those that do, the steep street will add to the danger of the biker running into a child or senior. Before you accuse racism, visit the site. I am sure you will understand why Dan Garodnick, as well as the other officials, feel adamantly this is the wrong street for a bike path.

  • Jim

    OMG Stop stop STOP! This is all such a dumb non-argument.

    I live two blocks from the “play street” and I’m there all the time, on bike and on foot. Here’s the controversy from my POV:

    “Shall we or shall we not take a block where people already ride their bikes whenever they want and, with no physical change or even striping, CALL it a bike route?”

    They can go ahead and call it a moon landing site if they want to. It will have about as much effect on actual activity.

    They’ve already striped the eastbound bike lane on 90th Street and I’ve seen zero effect on bike traffic. People ride 90th if they’re going there anyway, or elsewhere, same as before.

    Also to pick a nit with the blameless author of the post — calling it “the neighborhood’s beloved pedestrian mall” puts words in quite a few mouths. I don’t know anyone here who cares very much about it.

    But let’s all keep posturing and shouting over this “issue.” After all, real change — like finding a peaceful middle ground in which scofflaw cyclists are held accountable and non-cyclists give up their hysterical phobias — would take actual effort.

  • Jim,

    People in the neighborhood really love that pedestrian plaza. I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic or snotty when I called it “the neighborhood’s beloved.” You should have seen the outpouring at the CB8 meeting a few weeks back.


    Obviously, a 2 minute video isn’t a comprehensive study but I don’t think the shooter of the video had to wait for just the right moment. If you look off to the sides of the street you can see that the benches and sidewalks on either side of the street are all filled with people. Those people don’t seem to be endangered by the cyclists one bit. They appear to co-exist rather nicely.

  • Rita Popper

    Once again, distortion is the method of portraying that which isn’t truthful. DOT’s visit to E. 91st was at 4:30 PM and lasted until past 5:30 PM. The children, who live in the neighborhood play on the street every day and evening. The reason they left by the time the visit was over was it was dinner time. You featured the street, a Pedestrian Mall, on a hot Sat., July afternoon. DUH! That’s when families are at the beach or a city pool. Council Member Garodnick has taken the time to visit E. 91st Street at various times. Obviously, you haven’t. We believe in bike paths. We also believe in our bench lined Pedestrian Mall that serves as a sitting area for our Senior Citizens, some of who are in wheelchairs and handicapped. This is the ONLY area for our children to play ball. Yes. They do play ball on the street. If the Upper East Side streets and blocks are being marked for bicyclists, why can’t one “block” be just for people? Thank you Council Member Garodnick. The people of the Upper East Side applaud your efforts on our behalf.

  • Drew

    Rita, that sounds reasonable and all but it is deeply flawed. As we can see in our own Carl Schurz Park and scores of European cities, there is no reason why this space can’t accommodate both cyclists and playing.

    If the “play street” is such a boon to the neighborhood, why not turn your community activist energy towards fighting for DOT to create more of them? If seniors need more places to sit, why not transform on-street parking spaces in front of senior homes into small plazas with park benches and tables? Why do you turn this issue into peds vs. cyclists when, truly, the issue on the UES and the rest of NYC is that we’ve given over almost our entire public right-of-way to motor vehicles.

    How about some progressive, creative, forward-thinking problem solving and vision rather than just “No, no, no, no” which is all we ever seem to hear from the Community Board-types.

  • Steve

    Ollie, I am a parent also, who gets around the UES by foot and bike. During the school year, there are lots of kids who skateboard and bicycle down this block at dangerous speeds. In the winter, kids sled down the hill at high speeds as well. Then there are the delivery people who may use this block as a downhill shortcut. The notion that a marginal increase in uphill bicycling traffic comprised of bicyclists that prefer to travel on Class II routes–a group that probably is more safety-conscious and less aggressive than the run of the mill–is not reasonable. And Glenn is exactly right that this particular block (bet. 2nd-3rd Aves.) presents the highest grade up Carnegie Hill between 89th and 91st Streets; allowing bicycles to use the car-free block to climb this steep grade significantly improves safety.

    I’m sorry that your child was involved in a collision in Carl Schurz Park, and that you were involved in a collision on a sidewalk. Those things shouldn’t happen to anyone. I would disagree, however, that “luck” was the reason no one was seriously injured. Bicycles do not tend to seriously injure people, even in collisions. Especially in shared spaces where bicyclists are cautioned to use care to avoid hitting bicyclists. I don’t question your opinion that the bicyclists that hit your son was moving too fast and coming too close, but I don’t know of any way to absolutely prevent individuals from doing dangerous and inappropriate things. I hope you will agree that generally speaking, the sharing of the esplanade has been a success. It is one of the few places on the UES where kids can safely learn to ride scooters and bikes, and one does not often hear reports of collisions (yours is the first I have heard).

    On the more general point of why the bike antipathy among UESers, some food for thought: many of the same UESers who profess to loathe bikes and want to banish, restrict, license them, etc., take a totally different approach when they are on vacation on LI’s south shore. Check out these clips:

    Why would motorists who routinely play chicken with bicyclists and pedestrians in the roadway when in NYC, take a completely different approach on the south shore? Possible reasons:

    1. The motorists view the bicyclists and pedestrians they encounter on the south shore as social/economic peers worthy of consideration, while those encountered on the UES (who tend to be non-white and non-propertied) are presumed to be scum.

    2. Variation on 1: because this is ostensibly a small community one follows community mores of driving slowly and cautiously, is careful not to be rude or to endanger people in the road because it may be your neighbor, while motorists feel comfortable being rude and reckless towards others in the anonymous NYC roadways.

    3. The motorists perceive bicycling and walking as recreational high-priority activities deserving of roadway space in a leisure/country/vacation setting, but merely utilitarian activity in NYC roadways where motorists feel very entitled to assert their rights to the road based on allocation of space by government and relative invulnerability to harm due to protective steel cage.

    4. The caution of the motorists in the video clips reflects infrastructure differences from NYC–two-way traffic with a single, shoulderless ~ 12′ lane in either direction, 30 MPH limit, potential for stricter enforcement (though I saw no cops in these areas).

    What do you think?

  • Sarah

    One of the main points that most commentors seem to be neglecting is that no one is AGAINST bike paths (not Council Member Garodnick and not Community Board 8). In fact, they only suggest sparing East 91st Street for pedestrians, kids, and seniors and putting the bike lane on East 89th Street instead. That’s all! No big deal! And it’s a really a great compromise that looks out for everyone.

    Also, Council Member Garodnick should be praised, not criticized, for taking the time and having the forsight to go outside his district to suggest a compromise that will benefit his constituents and the entire Upper East Side. The mark of a poor leader is one who only deals with issues inside the drawn “lines” in his or her mapped district. Mr. Garodnick knows that it is important, for the Upper East Side as a whole, to be aware and involved in issues that affect those in his district (who will, no doubt, be affected by the bike lane or playing on East 91st Street) even if the actual issue takes place in an adjacent district.

    Real life doesn’t have “lines” drawn into it. If someone asks me where I live, I say “Upper East Side,” not “District 05.” Because of his willingness to recognize that, Mr. Garodnick’s is the sort of vision and leadership that we should expect of our leaders and precisely what he has demonstrated through his actions on this issue. Bravo!

  • Anonymous

    Council Member Garodnick is correct in his position as are all of the Upper East Side elected officials.

  • mfs

    steve- all great points. i think this is what i was trying to get at.

  • Steve

    Sarah is correct that there is a diversity of opinion among members of Community Board 8. At the recent meting discussing this lane, some of them expressed general support for the idea of bike lanes, while others stated that bicycles were “not a legitimate mode of transportation.”

    However as a group CB8 voted against DoT’s proposal for routing a bike lane on 91st Street because a majority of them were convinced by the assertions of residents that bicycles would disrupt and endanger pedestrians and others on this block. That does not strike me as a fair compromise because it is factually incorrect. I understand you and others may disagree with me, but for the reasons stated above, I think 91st Street is the superior route because it adds safety for bicyclists without disrupting or endangering pedestrians or others.

    Rita’s arguments are typical of the disingenuous “evidence” that local opponents of the 91st Street route have been presenting. She says “This is the ONLY area for our children to play ball.” That is just not true. Sure, we would all like more space for our kids to play ball in this area, but kids can and do play ball at Carl Schurz, Asphalt Green, and of course in Central Park, along with a number of local school yards during the summer and after-hours. What Rita is really saying is “our children MUST have a space to play ball right next to where they live, so no bicyclists allowed.” That’s not a fair compromise. And in any event, Rita’s premise that kids in fact do “play ball” here is incorrect. I am on this block all the time and I can’t recall seeing a single organized game of ball–I’ve just seen kids playing catch. There is no way to play baseball, softball, or soccer in this space because of the steep grade. If the ball gets by someone, there’s no way to catch it before it rolls into traffic on Second Avenue at 15+ MPH. No ball, and likelihood of motor vehicle collision on Second Avenue. That’s why “ball playing” here is limited to catch, which is linear and would not be disturbed by some uphill bicyclists. Rita’s “play ball” argument is completely manufactured, like the “Potemkin playground” put on for the politicians.

    Rita is correct that this was a hot day and so there was less traffic than usual on this block, but not a whole lot less. And the key group missing is the kids who skateboard and bicycle at unsafe speeds down the hill. Rita, why do they not present a much greater danger to seniors and little kids than the incremental increase in slow-moving uphill “traffic” a bike route would bring?

  • Sproule

    I don’t live in this district, but I do ride my bike through the block in question all the time, while returning to my neighborhood from Asphalt Green. I have NEVER seen any conflicts between pedestrians of any age and cyclists here. This may be the rare case where the status quo is the best option. I’m all for more bike lanes, but changing the designation of this block to make it part of the bike route system or putting down bike lanes seems unnecessary to me.

    I have to say that I strongly agree with Drew (#20) in his call for some bigger picture thinking from community boards and residents who keep saying no to any changes in how streets are used. Instead of saying “no” to bikes, how about saying “no” to cars by pushing for more car-free blocks like the one in question?

    Cars are the real demons here, not people on bikes. Delivery guys and messengers need to clean up their acts, but their transgressions pale in comparison to what drivers are doing out there.

    I’m chagrined that people have lost sight of the big picture here – the only reason people are defending this block is that it’s closed to cars. Let’s get more of these all over!

  • Ollie

    I chuckle thru this entire thread because the following is very apparent…those who live on or right nearby (i.e., one or two blocks away) from E91 object to the bike lane. Those who live elsewhere, want it. Hmmmm…reverse NIMBY? It’s ok to stake out this bike lane when it’s not on YOUR street, but ok when it’s on someone else’s.

    Regarding a couple of the other comments:

    Drew – I started reading your entry with interest but became confused given your long dissertation about the merits and demerits of South Shore bicycling. I thought we were talking about E91 on UES.

    But what do I know? Probably as much as my own experience, which suggests that if you paint bike lanes on E91, you will get far more bike traffic than you do there now.

    Steve – you say, “However as a group CB8 voted against DoT’s proposal for routing a bike lane on 91st Street because a majority of them were convinced by the assertions of residents that bicycles would disrupt and endanger pedestrians and others on this block”

    Maybe I’m thick, but isn’t this representational government at work? The local people (the “residents”) went to their local government (“CB8”), and said “hey, this doesn’t work for us & here’s why”. Sounds like CB8 did it’s job…in fact I’m proud of CB8.

  • Sarah

    I live on 2nd x E90th Street and used to live in Ruppert Towers where the proposed bike path is located. Although the video was taken when the street was deserted, the play street comes to life in the evenings and weekends when families bring their children to play. The benches are set very close to the street which would make it dangerous for slower moving seniors who can’t react to cyclist.

    However, the city needs more bike paths for sure and there is nothing better we can do to decrease traffic congestion and be kind to our environment than to increase opportunities for cyclists to travel safely. Dan Garodnick still supports having a bike path, but just relocating it nearby so both the cyclists and pedestrians can co-exist. I don’t think that this is an example of animus against cyclists, but a compromise for the community. I think it’s great that Garodnick is showing leadership by listening to the communit and paying attention to an issue outside his district that would most certainly affect the constituents in his own. Isn’t listening to the people you serve and finding a solution to meet the needs of all the groups involved the kind of action we expect from our elected officials?

  • Steve

    Ollie, I’d be happy to have a bike lane on the street where I live, but it has not been proposed. There is likely going to be only one crosstown bike lane in this neighborhood and that is the one I and my kids will use. I happen to live about 5 blocks away, others may live closer, so what? Are you saying only those who live within a certain number of blocks should have a say?

    As for CB8 doing its job, I’m glad they are willing to listen to residents, but it seems that what they heard and acted upon included a staged charade set up by local opponents and stories about kids having no where else to play.

    Sarah, I believe it is bicyclists’ job to avoid pedestrians, not the seniors job to avoid the bicyclists. Bicyclists know that. The proposed bike route would have slow uphill bicyclists sharing the space with pedestrians, including seniors. Just as in Carl Schurz. That is co-existence. Moving the bike route because of stories about the impossbility of co-existence is not co-existence.

    If the alternative is no westbound bike lane at all, sure, I favor a bike lane on 89th. However the various reasons DoT and others favor 91st have been laid out and the counterargument seems to be: “we on 91st like things as they are and we are afraid that bikes and kids, seniors and other pedestrians can’t co-exist safely”–even though they do just two blocks away at Carl Schurz in a very similar space.

    I am glad that CM Garodnick and some of the CB8 members are not taking a broad anti-bicycle position, but I do believe they have the facts wrong. And I expect that the clearly-expressed animus against bicyclists of certain CB8 members was a factor in his and the CB’s decision regarding this lane.

  • Jim


    You make a good point about the outcry at the CB8 meeting, and it’s true I wasn’t there.

    But as a former community reporter I can attest that the people who show up at meetings are not a true cross-section of the population, especially when you’re measuring degree of engagement vs. apathy. They’re a self-selecting subset of the most torqued-off.*

    I still feel that if you polled a random sampling of my neighbors you’d find very little passion over this. Most people would say something like, “Huh? You mean it’s not already a bike path?”

    *So are blog commenters, which makes me odd — the voluble, energetic moderate. What’s wrong with me?

  • george

    I have lived in this community my entire life. I also have two daughters who love to use play street. one of the things they enjoy is having the independance of running ahead of me and being able to go into that street on their own. I wouldnt allow this with a bike lane in place. While there are bikes on this street already, I think to actually designate a bike lane on the only truly safe street we have for our children would increase bicycle traffic drammaticly and make for an unsafe enviorment.

    I would like to applaud councilman Garodnick and the other elected officials for trying to find an alternate route for this bike lane and keep “play street” living up to its name.

    Of any street in our community you will not find one with more children playing so care free than this one. Why change something so beautiful?

  • Steve


    Can you give me an example of a street you know where routing of a bike lane increased bike traffic dramitically and created an unsafe environment? What about John Finley walk where bikes were introduced 4 years ago–do you consider that an unsafe enviornment for your kids?

  • mfs

    hey here’s a crazy idea.

    don’t just designate this street as a bike route. make a bike lane on it. that way seniors know to look out for slow-moving uphill bikes on one particular part of the street.

  • Hilary

    I favor sledding in winter. Don’t plow the street, and maybe even artificial snow?

  • East 90s resident

    I have lived in the area for about 17 years and would just like to echo a few of the points already made:

    1) Many people are not here in the summer, which means that their kids aren’t either. Come back in the fall and view the street around 3:30, right after school, and then say the street isn’t used by children.

    2) My fear is not at all of the law abiding cyclists – it is of the delivery people. As someone noted above, this video showed a delivery person riding DOWNHILL. All the striping would do is make them think it is okay to do that, and there would be a lot more delivery people speeding downhill. Due to the large amount of 30+ story highrises in the area, there are a lot of delivery people in the area and many do not obey traffic rules. Speeding through lights, riding on sidewalks, going the wrong way, etc. There is a legit fear that the bike lane will help promote this rather than deter it.

    3) As far as singling out Garodnick, the person who constructed this thread neglected to state that every other elected official on the Upper East Side who reps the district also wrote letters – so I’m wondering why there was selectivity in attempting to ding him for writing it. Especially when his district borders this one on the next block and his constituents use the street?

    4) As also stated above, the board isn’t anti-bike path, nor anti-cyclist in general, so painting it as bikes versus pedestrians is simply not true.

    And BTW – anybody who thinks the issue with delivery people is a race one, is WAY OFF BASE. I am a middle class minority and understand that they need to make a living – I just don’t want to get run over in the process…

  • Drew

    Well, East 90’s Resident, Here’s my prediction:

    DOT is going to go ahead and do their plan over all of your objections and Garodnick’s ridiculous letter and you’re going to have a chance to see what the effect of it is, and I would be willing to bet an entire year’s salary that you will find that the block is made not one iota more dangerous or unpleasant by the addition of these two stripes of paint to the streets on the blocks beyond the pedestrian plaza.

    DOT will do their plan. The kids will still be playing. The elderly will still be sitting. The cars will still be clogging streets elsewhere.

    And here’s another prediction: None of the folks who are kvetching about this project will lift a single finger to create new pedestrian plazas, bus rapid transit lanes, bike improvements, greenmarkets or more livable streets on the UES. But the next time someone else does try to bring these modest livable streets improvements to the neighborhood, the very same group of CB8 kvetchers will be kvetching, protesting the elimination of a parking space or the inconvenience that buses and bikes and pedestrian plazas cause to local motorists.

    Mark my words.

  • East 90s resident

    Hey Drew – since you addressed me, right back at ‘ya:

    I would not be so sure about DOT. The odds right now are 50-50, but this is certainly not a done deal. I know that for a fact.

    As far as those who are ‘kvetching’ and not doing anything else to help the neighborhood, I would beg to differ there as well. In fact, a new greenmarket was placed in the neighborhood on 93rd & 1st, only one year ago, and this very same board approved two new greenmarkets last year. Also, isn’t the sole BRT pilot in Manhattan on First and Second Avenues?

    If you do the math and note the large number of 30+ story buildings in a small radius, and the small number of garages above 90th, very few people who live in the immediate vicinity own cars relative to the population. So I don’t think you would find large amounts of people in the 90s east of Lex complaining about parking spots being taken away for pedestrian improvements. I have lived here for 17 years and I don’t know anyone in my immediate vicinity who owns a car. Certainly there are many people who do – but the vast majority of people up here east of the wealthy section of town do not.

  • Dave Rosenstein

    I write as a Yorkville resident for over 40 years. I watched the old brewery come down and the Ruppert Towers complex grow up around the much-discussed pedestrian mall and the adjoining Ruppert Park. The surrounding community truly values the quiet enclave that the park and the closed street create. As a local community board member who serves without compensation, I take offense at the anonymous critics who seek to turn a local preservation issue into an us-against-them, cyclists vs. toddlers debate.

    I was particularly struck by comments directed against Councilmember Dan Garodnick, one of the many elected officials who represent Community Board 8. This block is out of his district? In my city, neighbors work together. Do you think anything would get done in a legislative body if each representative selfishly ignored their neighbor’s need for support, when facing an unwanted mandate from the Executive branch?

    Just so you know, were it not for Councilmember Dan Garodnick, the subway entrance at 59th and Lexington Avenue, in the “Bloomberg” building, would still be closed and we would still be walking to 60th Street to enter the sole uptown entrance at the north end of the station. Dan Garodnick listened to subway riders “outside of his district” and negotiated a long-delayed opening of that vital subway entrance, closed since Alexander’s was demolished. We, Community Board 8 and Community Board 6, worked together, with both councilmembers Lappin and Garodnick. So, thanks, neighbor.

    There is no animus against cyclists, except for those who ride on sidewalks, so please, you know who you are, don’t create divisiveness; it doesn’t advance your “green” agenda. It just makes you appear mean. Today, a mom can sit on a bench on the play street and let a toddler wander 10-15 feet up or down the block in relative safety. Pre-teens come running out of Ruppert Park chasing a ball — and don’t get hit by the occasional bike that chooses to use the play street. We live with the occasional; it’s the DOT-directed flow of bikes up the play street that is so upsetting the local community. “If you build it, they will come.”

    Please note: This is not an anonymous posting.
    — Dave Rosenstein
    “Friends of Ruppert Park”

  • steve

    Resident, bicyclists who disregard the law now will use this block the same amount and in the same way they do now if the route is established–as it suits their convenience. Don’t exclude me because of them. This is not about a striped lane, no one is insisting on that, it’s about a safe bike lane to connect the UES with the rest of the city. An 89th St. lane would dead-end on 5th rather than connecting with the park like 91st. And the absence of summer activity favors establishing the route.

  • steve

    It’s wonderful that kids can play on this block without fear of cars. None of the previous comments attempt to rationally explain why that would change with an uphill bike route on this block. And though I am your neighbor, you don’t seem to care much that an 89th St. bike lane would fail to provide a safe route for me and my family (and the rest of NYC) connecting EEA to Central Park. Resident seems more concerned with keeping the block clear for when his neighbors get back from their summer vacations.

  • UES_Realist

    OPTION: If the residents want a PRIVATE PARK, raise the money necessary to buy an entire block (or portion thereof), tear the buildings down and create a proper park like the family-friendly St. Catherine’s Park on First Avenue between East 67th & 68th Streets.


    Open the street back up to traffic.

    The closing of the street added to congestion. Streets are for vehicles and bicycles. Parks are for kids. Go to Central Park or Carl Schurz Park. BETTER YET — if you want to ride in the streets move to the quiet burbs.


    It is New York “CITY”, not New York “Private PARK”.

    Open the street back up to traffic.

  • v

    UES_realist: Yeah, it is a city. Get out of your car.

  • Ian D

    Here’s why E91 works and E89 doesn’t: when you reach Fifth Ave. and want to access Central Park, from E91 you turn south on one block of Fifth and enter at E90. If you were to use E89, you’d make cyclists ride against traffic on Fifth (or worse, on the sidewalk) to get to CP – a bad idea for pedestrians, motorists AND cyclists.

    Anyone want to guess the likelihood of taking the parking off of the east side of that block of Fifth Ave. and establishing a one-block contraflow bike lane?

    All over the world, streets are closed to car traffic so that they may be used by pedestrians, bikes and even kids playing. A true bicycle-boulevard is exactly this model. Why are people so convinced that the UES can’t handle something that is popular elsewhere? I really think the question should be, does the neighborhood want the bike lane striped so that bikes consciously have an area they should stay within, or no stripe to preserve the randomness as it currently exists.

  • UES_Realist


    I live in the city, a short walk from from the closed off street, walk everywhere (unless I am taking public transportation) … but I also understand the need for “streets” in “cities”. I’ve always viewed the closed street as nonsensical.


    – a closed street screws up traffic flow
    and creates the problem of double parking.


    If I were mayor I would increase the fines for double parking to $500 per event – no excuses. Three strikes (tickets) and you loose your vehicle). That would eliminate MOST of the congestion nightmare and we could then abandon the congestion fee proposal which will OF COURSE lead to additional traffic nightmares north of 86th street (and within this area WITH A CLOSED OFF STREET).

  • “Realist,” you’re way off topic. If you want to open Manhattan’s one pedestrian street to cars and free parking you should rant about it somewhere else. The only question here is whether some grumpy residents will force the DOT to paint a bike detour that no one will take. As a pedestrian downtown, I’m both jealous of this block and ashamed of its greedy pedestrian users. Their street could be a model of cooperation for the rest of the city, but it’s almost as if they’re trying to make it weird, “playful,” and silly so that no one else can have car free streets. Mothers in other neighborhoods would like to let their children toddle ten feet in front of them too, you know.

  • EN

    Hey Gizler in post #13, good job trying to stoke a fire and disparage working cyclists at the same time. That’s a Lucas Brunelle video of an alley cat messenger race (which are crazy, but only happen a few times a year). If you really wanted to fire it up, you should have at least picked the version with a good Guns ‘N Roses Welcome to the Jungle soundtrack:

    For how progressive NYers style themselves, there is such an unbelievable fear of change, progressive design, and the like. I am a strong rider when I ride, can go quite fast on flats and downhill, but am physically incapable of going up that hill with anything that even approximates real speed, or danger. And those same messengers on fixies (single speed bike without small gears) are certainly not going to go up that hill much faster than the kid (and will likely avoid it all together).

    What we’re doing with this issue and with many other transportation-related arguments in the city is fighting over the crumbs. Rather than looking upwards at the real problem–streets in NYC designed solely and myopically for the movement of private vehicles–we squabble like mutts for the scraps that might fall off the table.

    Assuming that NYC and this DOT are able to achieve real progress–like many other large cities around the world–and reclaim space from cars (which have only been at the top of the food chain since the 50s–for the last 3,000 years, city streets have not been ceded to them), we will look back on this argument and think, god, what the hell was it like to live in a city like that! Thank goodness we’re not back in the Stone Ages.

  • george


    If bike traffic will not be greatly affected by installing a bike lane and as others have said there are already bikers there so it should’nt change anything,then I ask, why bother putting a bike lane there at all?

    Also if anyone has seen the latest issue of Our Town Newspaper, the front cover has an article about how empty the city is in August.When was that video taken?

    My final concern is ,if so many of you are so quick to say that there is no reason to have concern for the safety of our children or seniors with a bike lane in place.WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF THE D.O.T.’s ENVIORMENTAL IMPACT STUDY? WAS THERE ONE?

  • UES_Realist


    Just check out 1st avenue in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s on any morning or afternoon.

    The congestion fee pricing proposal will OF COURSE lead to traffic nightmares north of 86th street (and within this area WITH A CLOSED OFF STREET). This street needs to be opened to traffic. They have beautiful plaza’s to sit it. Why block traffic flow. If they keep this street blocked there will be ** ADDITIONAL ** DOUBLE PARKING nightmares within a 4 block radius.

  • Steve


    A bike route on 91st Street would bring two kinds of bike traffic to the street that isn’t there already:

    -Some portion of UES crosstown bicycle traffic composed of bicyclists who prefer to travel on designated bike routes will detour and use 91st because of the route.

    -Some people who live near the 91st Street route (perhaps, the woman shown bicycling in circles in the video clip?) who may now feel uncomfortable bicycling amidst cars will be emboldened by the route, and start bicycling on 91st Street.

    Your question is why the addition of this traffic wouldn’t result in the pedestrian mall being “greatly affected.” Here is why:

    1. Bicyclists that prefer bike routes are only a subset, probably a minority, of the UES bicycle traffic. Even for many who prefer bike routes, it’s just not worth it to detour more than 5-10 blocks to access one. So it’s just not that many people who will be concentrated on an E. 91st Street bike route.

    2. The bicyclists who will detour to 91st St. to use a designated bike route will be generally, if not exclusively, bicyclists who believe in following the traffic laws. This group will be composed disproportionately of beginner, senior, commuter, and family bicyclists. Ask anyone you know who bicycles regularly and they will tell you this is true.

    3. Bicycle traffic detouring to use a 91st Street route will be eastbound uphill traffic (westbound downhill traffic will not detour to 91st because 90th Street is available). So any added traffic will be slowed to the point it presents no danger of serious collisions.

    4. In judging whether the effect of this additional uphill bicycling traffic on the pedestrian mall will be “great,” one has to consider the now-existing traffic mix on the mall. I have on many occasions observed that there are bicyclists and skateboarders on the mall who are not law-abiding or safety conscious. Some may ride down the hill at unsafe speeds or on the sidewalk. I have observed small children, including my own daughter, put in potential danger by teenagers and tweens bicycling or skateboarding down the hill. In the context of that existing traffic, adding some additional law-abiding, uphill bicyclists into the mix will not cause any “great effect.” If anything, the designation of the uphill route will assist in communicating to downhill riders that what they are doing is wrong and unsafe.

    5. As much as I’d like to believe in David Rosenstein’s (#38) fantasy that “if you build it they will come,” we are dealing with reality, not fantasy here. Large numbers of new bicyclists will not suddenly materialize due to the designation of this route. Those who are inspired to bike will be drawn disproportionately from Yorkville/Ruppert Towers because of the proximity, and will be definition be beginners and less likely to engage in high-speed, risky conduct.

    6. A 91st Street route would not attract high-volume, high-speed, or unlawful bicycle traffic to the pedestrian mall, for the following reasons:

    a. It is irritating and unsafe for bicyclists at higher speeds to use bike lanes, because of the risk of collision with pedestrians and others. Attempting to travel at high speed up that steep hill on the pedestrian mall (apart from being physically impossible for anyone but a professional athlete) would hold little attraction for any bicyclist (aside from someone deliberately seeking to menace pedestrians using the least efficient means possible).

    b. It is true that occasionally bicyclists seek out a bike lane in which to travel counter to the flow of traffic. This sometimes happens with downtown bicyclists on First Ave., but that is because there is no designated downtown bike route in the area. You will not have a problem with eastbound bicyclists on a 91st Street route because those bicyclists can just as easily use 90th Street as an eastbound route.

    c. Bicyclists who break the law to suit their convenience are not going to be drawn to E.91st Street by the bike route, they will do what is convenient, as they do now. The kids will continue to seek out the pedestrian mall because it is fun to ride skateboards and bikes down a steep hill at high speeds. The designation of a one-way, uphill route on the mall will not encourage them, and as noted above, may discourage them.

    One question you do not ask, George, is what the effect would be of putting the bike route on E. 89th. The effect would be significantly increased danger for bicyclists, for two reasons:

    1. A westbound 89th Street route would terminate at southbound 5th Ave, leading bicyclists seeking to continue into the park to ride against the flow of traffic or on the sidewalk to get to the 90th Street entrance, or detour onto 91 at Park or Madison where there would be no bike lane.

    2. A westbound 89th Street route would force bicyclists to climb Carnegie Hill at its point of steepest grade–between Second and Third Avenue–amidst motor vehicle traffic instead of on the existing car-free space on 91st. Routing beginner, family and senior bicyclists onto 89th Street between 2nd and 3rd Aves will promote far more conflicts and safety issues (and more serious ones, because motor vehicles and higher speeds will be involved) than routing them onto the pedestrian mall.

    As for the date of the video, George, it is stated on the YouTube page to which the video is linked–August 4. Of course many people go away for vacation during August. But I travel this block year-round often enough to know that even when the weather is nicer, there is room enough for uphill bicyclists and all manner of pedestrians to all share this block safely. To see what I am talking about, just visit John Finley Walk in Carl Schurz Park (three blocks away), where bicyclists proceed safely among kids, seniors, anglers, kite-fliers, and every other kind of pedestrian one might find on the pedestrian mall, in a very similar space. The fact that the pedestrian mall does not see much traffic during the summer is yet another reason to expect that conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians on a 91st St. bike route would not occur.

    As for an environmental impact study, I don’t think any is required, but if one were to be conducted I would expect it to reach the conclusions I have outlined above.

    Finally, I’d like to hear the responses of opponents of the 91st bike lane who claim they are not anti-bike to the following points:

    1. The city is installing these bike lanes because its is trying to encourage more people to bicycle in a safe and law-abiding manner. A bike lane on 89th Street that encourages bicyclists to ride against the flow of traffic or on the sidewalk does not further this goal.

    2. To conclude that a one-way uphill bike route will attract downhill outlaw bikers or cause large masses of bicyclists to suddenly materialize, based on a cliché from a movie about fantasy baseball, is irrational and anti-bike (see comment #38).

    3. This proposed bike lane is in fact a boon to Yorkville/Ruppert Towers residents. Using the new bike lanes, families from Yorkville/Ruppert Towers can bike to Central Park in about 10 minutes, or to Carl Schurz in about 3 minutes, without schlepping to or paying for the crosstown bus. One commenter (#19) makes the patently untrue assertion that the pedestrian mall is the “only place” for local children to play ball; even if that were true, the bike lane expands options for ball and other play.

  • steve

    Confirmation that DoT will move forward with its preferred E. 91st crosstown route (including the pedestrianized block) was given tonight by Keith Bray, Acting Manhattan Commissioner of DoT, at the UES Transpo forum.


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