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Leaving Co-Chairs Behind, CB 7 Committee Backs Columbus Avenue Bike Lane

After deadlocking in December, Manhattan Commmunity Board 7's transportation committee voted 7-2, with one abstention, to support the extension of the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane before an overwhelmingly supportive crowd last night.

CB 7 transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig explains why he would chuck accepted standards for analyzing crash statistics out the window. Photo: Stephen Miller

The resolution passed without any help from the committee's co-chairs, Andrew Albert, who abstained, and Dan Zweig, who voted against the resolution.

At the end of the meeting, CB 7 chair Mark Diller, who had been emceeing the night's events, came out and endorsed the resolution, while continuing to hedge his position. “I don't think it's a slam dunk," he told committee members, "but it absolutely deserves an airing at full board."

In previous meetings with CB 7, DOT presented data showing that the lane has yielded safety benefits for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers -- including a 41 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. Zweig didn't accept DOT's crash data last night, saying that because one year of pre-lane data had a high number of crashes, it should be excluded from analysis.

DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Director Josh Benson rebuffed Zweig's attempt to cherry pick numbers. "We don't invent new methodologies," he said. "To just pick one year and eliminate it, that's just not what we do."

In his presentation [PDF], Benson also defended mixing zones, spaces leading up to intersections designed to improve visibility between cyclists and left-turning drivers. Some BID representatives and board members had requested that DOT eliminate the zones to preserve parking spots. Instead, the agency will shorten the zones on the existing bike lane to add back one spot per block, while maintaining that they are necessary to reduce the risk of crashes.

DOT has also completed its outreach to 189 local businesses and, as a result, will add or lengthen weekday daytime loading zones at five locations on Columbus Avenue. Additionally, the agency will eliminate the morning rush hour parking restriction between 110th and 96th Streets, opening up 105 parking spots for three additional hours each weekday morning.

At last night's meeting, DOT said that the street redesign could be complete after two months of construction. Although there was no schedule for implementation, Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said it's on track to be installed sometime in 2013.

Albert, appointed by Borough President Scott Stringer, and Zweig, appointed by Council Member Inez Dickens, are long-time co-chairs of the committee. Gale Brewer, the only other elected official who appoints board members, has said it's time for the full board to support a resolution extending the bike lane, while Stringer has not.

Before the resolution went up for a vote last night, Albert and Zweig asked that parts of the resolution citing the traffic flow and safety benefits of the redesign be removed. Zweig also said that a section of the resolution calling on DOT to investigate performance pricing for on-street parking be removed and debated at a later date. Board member Lillian Moore requested the addition of a section asking for more cyclist education and enforcement.

All of these changes were agreed to by the two committee members who introduced the resolution. Minutes after requesting the changes, Zweig cast his vote against it.

The issue now advances to the the full board, where a supportive vote is not guaranteed. "Voting for it at committee does not obligate you to vote for it at full board," Diller told committee members.

Zweig, in particular, has demonstrated a propensity to sabotage initiatives after they have emerged from his committee. In November, the transportation committee supported a plan asking DOT to install bike racks after the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign reached out to businesses and property owners to identify suitable locations. The supportive 7-2 vote didn't carry over at the full board, though, where Zweig and fellow board member Ian Alterman torpedoed the resolution, convincing members to send it back to committee.

The full board is scheduled to take up the Columbus Avenue bike lane resolution on February 5.

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