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Bicycle Safety

Questions Arise Over Placement of Chelsea Bike Lanes

2:37 PM EDT on August 26, 2011

Image: NYC DOT

On Wednesday, DOT outlined a proposal for new Class II bike lanes in Chelsea between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and the Hudson River Greenway. While safe streets advocates welcomed the news, there is concern that their planned location, on W. 29th and W. 30th Streets, may not be ideal for unprotected lanes.

According to DOT's presentation to the Community Board 4 transportation committee (PDF), W. 30th ranks in the 89th percentile in fatalities and serious injuries. Lincoln Tunnel traffic and trucks en route to and from a USPS facility are ever-present. Marilyn Dershowitz was struck and killed by the driver of a postal truck earlier this summer while cycling on 29th between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. All things considered, committee members worried that unprotected lanes won't make the two streets safe enough.

“To encourage bicyclists on these streets is a little like leading sheep to a herd of wolves,” said Bret Firfer, as quoted in a DNAinfo report on the meeting.

DOT emphasized that 29th and 30th are the only streets between 23rd and 34th that would allow for an eventual uninterrupted river-to-river route for crosstown cycling. But members of the committee offered 25th and 26th Streets as an alternative, while acknowledging that 25th would mean a couple of turns to reach the Greenway, and in the future would require riding around Madison Square on the East Side.

DOT reps believe 29th and 30th would be no more dangerous than other area streets, and said they don't believe cyclists would take a detour to find a safer route.

"We are also very concerned about this block, but the fact of the matter is that there are cyclists that exist on this road,” said DOT's Josh Benson. “We’re very limited in what routes work at all for cyclists. I don’t know if there are better choices out there." At this point, DOT plans to stripe lanes on the south side of 29th and 30th, along with other traffic lane alterations, in the fall.

"I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer," transportation committee member Christine Berthet told Streetsblog. "We are just trying to find which pair the cyclists would use most."

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