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Brewer: CB 7 Should Pass Columbus Bike Lane Reso; Stringer Non-Committal

4:15 PM EST on December 18, 2012

Buried in the pile of uninformed New York Post letters to the editor following Steve Cuozzo's unhinged rant about the Columbus Avenue bike lane, intrepid readers found a note from Council Member Gale Brewer. "Bike lanes in my district are highly popular and strongly supported by the wider community," she wrote. "Expanding these benefits is the right thing to do."

Brewer has long been a booster of street redesigns in principle, but in her testimony before Community Board 7's transportation committee, she fell short of requesting a vote in support of the specific plan on the table to extend the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane.

That night, a resolution supporting the plan failed to decisively clear the committee after a 5-4-1 deadlock.

Afterward, Brewer said she wanted the full board to take up the issue for more debate at its next meeting on January 3. Brewer now says she would like a vote in support of the plan at that meeting so the process can move forward.

"I hope it will go before the full board and pass," she told Streetsblog yesterday.

DOT has been reaching out to each business on Columbus Avenue about how the plan can address their parking and loading needs. The agency will share the results of those discussions with the board in the next few weeks, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione told the committee last week.

Brewer, who said she was disappointed with DOT's outreach on the bike lane's initial segment and worked with merchants to tweak the lane after it was installed, is more encouraged this time around. "To be honest with you, it's a lot of outreach," she said.

Because that process takes a good deal of time, Brewer said, CB 7 should not wait until it's complete before giving the project a supportive vote at the next full board meeting.

Leaders from two business improvement districts on Columbus Avenue asked DOT to eliminate mixing zones, where bike traffic merges with turning car traffic, in order to maintain more parking. That would be incompatible with safe practices in protected bikeway design, which provide space for drivers and cyclists to clearly see each other as they approach intersections where their paths may cross. Although "you need some parking," Brewer said, "neither BID has the total picture."

At the same time, Brewer believes that parking is critical to the health of many local businesses, despite the fact that a 2007 survey of the area revealed that only 2 percent of people walking past Columbus Avenue shops had driven there. "We may be able to lose a few spots, but you can't lose a lot," Brewer said.

At the end of the day, Brewer said, "I would suggest passing the resolution."

CB 7 chair Mark Diller told Streetsblog last week that he would prefer that the transportation committee discuss the issue again at its January committee meeting before the full board takes it up in February.

Borough President Scott Stringer, who along with Brewer appoints most of the board's members, would not join the council member in calling for the board to vote yes on the lane. "There are still outstanding questions that need to be answered, but I trust that if DOT works closely with the community," he said in a statement to Streetsblog, "we will see a safe and successful extension."

In testimony before CB 7's transportation committee last week, Stringer said, "I wanted to thank the community board for taking so much time on this issue."

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