Separated Bike Path Isn’t Gay Enough for CB4

Manhattan Community Board 4’s transportation committee unanimously approved DOT’s plan to install a physically-separated bike path on Eighth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. The committee enthusiastically recommended the plan to the full board on Wednesday. The board then voted to ignore their own committee and block the plan. Apparently, some members feel that complete streets and safe bike infrastructure are somehow incompatible with the neighborhood’s gay-friendly environment. Chelsea Now has the play-by-play:

member Allen Roskoff was more specific. “I refer to Eighth Ave. between
14th and 23rd Streets as ‘Gay Boulevard,’ he said. “Large numbers of
gay people go there… It’s where we feel at home. … The atmosphere
there—the restaurants, the activity, the people walking— it’s a home to
many of us that no other avenue is. I don’t think these changes are for
the positive in any way, shape or form.”

Which reminds me… Have you looked in to joining your local Community Board lately? This kind of thing is going to keep happening until either the Community Board system is overhauled or we get more Ian Dutton’s, Christine Berthet’s and Teresa Toro’s serving on local boards.

The DOT’s plan for a pilot project on Eighth Avenue, which can be downloaded here, mirrors the complete street redesign of Ninth Avenue one block to the west. The Eighth Avenue bike lane also runs through part of CB2, which unanimously approved the project last month.

It’s also worth noting that outcry against the bike lane at CB4 was not at all universal and that Community Boards only have advisory power. DOT can go ahead with the project with or without the board’s support. Again, from Chelsea Now:

member David Hanzel observed that “walking down Ninth Ave., I think
it’s an improved experience.” He said there’s less traffic, fewer cars
making sharp turns, and it’s “more of a leisurely stroll now.”

Hanzel was seconded by longtime member Bob Trentlyon, who observed that
the discussion was the “most retro conversation I’ve heard at a board
meeting in a long time. … There must be two Ninth Aves., because the
Ninth Ave. I see, the traffic is moving very smoothly along… There are
no businesses that have gone out of business since this has happened;
there are more people starting to use the bike lanes.”

  • Okay. I. don’t. get. it.
    I’m serious. I don’t know what the objection is?

  • The link in the story to the Chelsea Now story doesn’t seem to work. It’s

  • Mike

    This is so bizarre. I’m gay, I work in this area, and I support the separated bike lane!

  • I don’t understand the tendency to locate the separated bike lanes on the left: if slower traffic is on the right, and this is where most cyclists tend to travel even on unidirectional avenues, why wouldn’t the bike lanes go there? (Not a hypothetical question; anyone know?) In general, I don’t find that I ever use bike lanes because of their unpredictable location, and because they relegate us to a situation of enhanced danger (speeding buses, taxis pulling in, possibility of getting doored.) I’d prefer to have signage in the entire right lane indicating my right to be there as a slower moving vehicle.

  • Max

    This is just a guess, but I think they put them on the left since it’s more practical to put a guarded (arrow) left turn for motorists than a guarded right turn.

  • aliostuni, this might not be helpful because it’s only a guess, but I’ll chime in anyway: the right-slower, left-faster is simply not observed at all by drivers on NYC avenues. NYC drivers go wherever there’s open space. I would hazard a guess that that’s why DOT doesn’t seem to apply that right/left speed principle in their installation of bike lanes.

  • momos

    According to the Chelsea Now article the Board has two basic objections: 1). the bike lane will hurt businesses 2). the bike lane will worsen traffic. Opponents cite 9th Ave as evidence.

    Those objections are predictable. Trouble is, there’s no grounds for them. Nobody has bothered to look at hard numbers on 9th Ave — it’s all just speculation.

    Modern planning theory counters these objections: foot and cycle traffic, not auto traffic, generate business in built-up urban environments, and shrinking car space actually reduces the number of cars using a street.

    At a minimum CB4 needs to listen and consider the *unanimous* opinion of its traffic subcommittee, which has studied the matter and better understands the various issues involved in the plan.

  • I object to the idea that all gay people feel “at home” on 8th avenue Chelsea, land of the muscle queens. I’m deeply offended by Roskoff’s implication that as gays “we” don’t feel at home in mixed company, or even in a gay culture that isn’t homogenous like Chelsea’s. Hetrogenousophobist!

    This is all just a big misunderstanding, anyway. Clearly some people have not seen the best picture on the internet, which will instantly and irrevocably repair their 1980s ideas about bicycles:

    Click there and call us in the morning (by which time the massive PNG will have loaded). Nothing could be better for the very special street life of 8th avenue than the improvements the DOT has proposed.

  • m to the i

    I can’t even comment on the ridiculous gay argument.

    But just to chime in on why bike lanes are on the left, especially along the avenues. I think that it is to avoid conflict with public transportation, namely buses. Bus doors open on the right side so all bus stops have to be located on the right side of the street. Having a bike lane on the left side avoids conflicts with buses and bus riders.

  • for the 10th time

    bike lanes are safer on the left on one-way avenues because:
    1) few to no bus conflicts (if applicable)
    2) less chance of dooring (since it’s the passenger-side door, not driver’s side, that will open into traffic and the driver’s side door is the most likely to open)
    3) better visibility of bicyclists by drivers since drivers are on the left side of the car

  • Why bike lanes are safer on the left side of a one-way avenue….

    Someone needs to turn that into a Streetswiki page.

  • vnm

    Mr. Roskoff,

    Restaurants, activity and people walking are all helped by a traffic-clogged, horn-blaring, pedestrian-menacing, air-polluting Interstate feel?

  • Paul

    Man, I’m beginning to think that Americans really are dumb.

    @ for the 10th time:

    In this case the bike lane will be separated, therefore being on the left doesn’t make it safer from opening doors.

  • CB4’s decision is ridiculous. Bikers make meaningful contributions to the lives of gay pedestrians every day. Bulging triceps and well-defined calves, to name but two.

  • Timmy

    As a gay man I’m embarrassed that the guys are trying to play the gay card. Attached is a better article on what really went on. My take on it is that the people on the board are in the pocket of the bar owners and other merchants along those blocks and they are afraid that if you change the look of those blocks (eg, put in trees etc like they did on 9th Ave) it will decrease the number of gay men shopping (perhaps cruising) along the avenue.

  • I… huh? I don’t get it.

  • Aliostuni – For some time, I was uncomfortable with the placement of bike lanes on the left side. My main complaint, however, was different from yours — it concerned the need to look backwards over my right shoulder.

    I even bellyached on this site about it last September: “Looking backwards over my left shoulder while riding is something I can do very comfortably and naturally; indeed, it is second nature. However, I cannot look backwards over my right shoulder without swerving dramatically — maybe partly due to some natural predeliction, but mainly because I just never had the need to develop this practice.”

    However, almost a year later, I have changed my mind. I am forced to conclude that my problem with looking over my right shoulder was down mostly to (lack of) practice, because I can do it somewhat more easily now, and without swerving. I have found that I can look backwards to the right if I hunch forward a bit, position my head sideways, and look *around* my right shoulder (not *over* it).

    While this isn’t as good as the greater-than-180-degree twist that I can do (while still sitting upright) in order to look backwards to the left, it is certainly sufficient for using left-side bike lanes.

  • Wiley

    I’m noticing a pattern of full boards voting down progressive stuff that gets resounding approval from their transportation committees (Vernon Boulevard, anyone?). Proves the value of having livable streets proponents on non-transpo committees as well.

  • Max

    But why on earth would trees, calm traffic, bikes and a planted median *decrease* shopping and restaurant traffic? If anything, it would enhance the area for those “on the ground.” It sure as heck not trucks flying by at 50 mph that are shopping in this district!!

  • Hilary

    Is the problem that the placement of the lane interferes with curbside pickups from cars? If that is the case, they should say so, and let smart minds get to work on a technical solution. Lower barriers that are easier to step over? Special cruising lanes along the sidewalk (with a crawling speed limit) and a high speed bike lane in the center? There’s gotta be a way to accommodate everyone.

    Think of the stretch like Sunset Strip. Why that works is because the traffic crawls anyway. We could enforce crawling.

    On the other hand, I guess you can tell them that cruising in the post-carbon era is over and to go jump in a lake.

  • From a Dirk McCall quote in Timmy’s link:

    It’s impacting the LGBT community disproportionately, because most or a lot of the storeowners on Eighth Avenue are either gay or cater to the gay and lesbian community.

    It’s hard to tell for sure, but it seems like all the people complaining about this are gay men, no lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. As a member of the transgender community, I would like to stand with the gay men who’ve commented above and say that the cycle track would not have any net negative affect on transgender people. Speak for yourself, Dirk. No NIMBYism in our name.

  • for the 10th time

    Paul – good catch. i was referring to regular bike lanes, not separated ones. i think that the first (transit) and third (driver visibility) issues are still applicable for the separated lane, however.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    This is a classic example of a community rejecting a livable streets project for reasons that have nothing to do with the project itself and everything to do with long-standing grievances around a whole other set of issues.

    You really get the sense of that in the Gay City News article that Timmy links to above. The gay community seems to be worried about gentrification and the dissipation of the area’s gay identity as new buildings, businesses and people move in. The bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements end up being viewed by active, vocal community old-timers as being part of this change that they feel is pushing them out of their neighborhood. Really, these changes being proposed by DOT have almost nothing to do with those other issues.

    We saw similar phenomenon on Prince Street in Soho and 9th Street in Park Slope. In Soho the community has longstanding grievances regarding street vendors and the commercialization of their neighborhood. On 9th Street, the neighbors have lots of anxiety around development, traffic congestion and parking. Small groups of vocal, old-time community people rose up on Prince to try to kill the car-free weekend idea. And on 9th Street they tried to kill a really nicely designed road diet. In both cases, the list of grievances often had nothing to do with the actual DOT project. On Prince, for crissake, the car-free idea would have gone a long way to SOLVING the vendor problem. But no.

    My theory is that these livable streets projects often end up serving as easy targets and good opportunities for aggrieved old-timers and Community Board types to take out their frustration on an official target. After all, the real estate developers putting up the condos as-of-right don’t have to go before a Community Board. The European tourists walking through the neighborhood don’t need approval. No one has to get permission from a CB commmittee to ride a bike down the street.

    But DOT does need to go before a Board to make a bike lane. And this is the only chance these folks have to vent and to put their foot down and just say NO. So they do.

  • momos

    @ Marty

    Well said. Your analysis is right on point.

  • best headline ever.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Who woulda thought that bike lanes had a sexuality?

  • S.U.V.

    Ha-ha, reality hits Streetsblog.

    You guys just don’t get it, do you? Every time I log on here, it is the same myopic coterie of zealots blogging away day after day in a massive circle jerk, and who are out of touch with the rest of the citizenry. No wonder you are constantly mocked on the other blogs.

    Point is that members of the community have no respect for you. E.g. Recently CB1 in Manhattan objected to the Summer Streets closing down Centre St as well as bikes in City Hall Park. CB2 earlier voted down the Prince Street Closing, the Gerritsen Beach CB also rejected another of your silly schemes, CB 8 uptown opposed bike lanes on a closed street (west 92nd?) and now CB4 turns this bike lane down.

    And you still don’t get it!

    No one cares much about your agenda, and most view cyclists as reckless lawbreakers who endanger more citizens than cars do. At least you break more laws.

    CB4 gave you your latest comeuppance. Good for them.

    When Bloomberg leaves, he’ll take that hippy bike-riding DOT commissioner over to Bloomberg News with him. Your Messiah will have departed, and you will all be relegated back to the fringes.

    Hats off to Roskoff, Dirk McCall, Corey Johnson and the rest of CB4 for a breath of sanity.

    The residents and businesses of Chelsea applaud you for saving us from these agendaists.

  • Davis

    Oh, hey, here comes “reality” in the form of a Gothamist or Curbed commenter.

    Note to Mr. S.U.V.: Every single one of the projects above have been or will be implemented except, perhaps, Gerritsen Beach. If those people down there at the end of the road want to keep their communtiy a cesspool, by all means. It doesn’t hurt anyone else.

    Your Community Board axe-grinding and your angry little blog comments are irrelevant. So feel free.

  • Man, this is the second retarded trolling of these boards (the other troll is in the Prospect Park thread) I’ve seen tonight.

    Kudos Streetsblog! You’re now big enough to attract the bottom feeders of the internet. Onward and upward.

    To “S.U.V.” – how about those gas prices, huh?

  • The critics are right that the design of 8th Avenue has different needs than 9th, and I think since these lanes are a testing ground for ideas that can be used throughout the city, it would be useful to try a different approach and see how it works. 8th Avenue could benefit from wider sidewalks as well as the separated bike lane. The problem is that the DOT does not have the money to completely redesign the streetscape. The 9th Avenue lane was put in on the very cheap and easy. It has made a tremendous improvement to pedestrian and bicycle safety on the avenue for very little investment.

    The real battle here, as Timmy pointed out, is winning over the restaurant and bar owners, and finding ways to solve the problems they have with the design. That anyone could argue that the current dangerous truck and car dominated streetscape is more “gay” just leaves me gobsmacked. Then again, people will always play cards when they want to cover their real interests, and it is always the “silly season” when it comes to politics.

  • gecko

    Easy enough to make it gay enough. Go for it!

  • I gasped when I read the Gay City News article. It was surreal, ludicrous! I can’t even begin to fathom how adding a bike lane on 8th Avenue is going to make the LGBT community feel uncomfortable “holding hands, walking down the boulevard, strolling, shopping, going to different bars.” (For one thing, cruising is *much* easier on a bicycle than in a car!) Did anyone *ask* gay pedestrians in Chelsea if a bike lane would make them feel less comfortable walking and holding hands on 8th Avenue?

    After reading this article a few times, here’s what I think is going on. It’s no accident that the Greenwich Village – Chelsea *Chamber of Commerce* is the main party claiming that a bike lane will be harmful to the LGBT community. I read it as a group of gay business owners who believe the old canard that a bike lane will negatively impact their revenue because it will be less convenient for people to shop there by car. So then they try to alarm everyone by claiming a bike lane will have a negative impact on the gay community. Here’s one gay man who doesn’t buy it.

  • Ray

    If I were a business owner – I would be in favor, yet I can understand a neutral to negative POV. And DOT is required to ask for opinions. I don’t see a material benefit to property owners or their commercial tennants. There was no additional sidewalk space, no additional area for commerce, no enhancement of the pedestrian experience. This was all about taking back a lane of traffic and transferring it to cyclists. A great idea, but not nearly far enough.

    If the plan included converting a lane to wider sidewalks – and permissions during warm weather months for businesses to take advantage of that new space I bet the proposal would have gotten farther …

  • gecko

    #33 Ray, Cyclists are more mobile pedestrians who can cover four times the distance in the same amount of time.

  • Congratulations, S.U.V. You’ve managed to make wacko NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser sound reasonable (by comparison only).

  • Never mind the proposed street design’s effect on the LGBT community. It’s obvious from the Gay City News story that the separated bike lane is already having a great effect on those with a very loose grip on reality.

  • No.8

    Hello…this is stupid. I would be more likely to shop and eat on a street that has bike traffic (with fit men) and plantings to separate the sidewalk from autos.

    Wouldn’t you likely have more foot traffic which equals more walk-ins for your business??

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