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New Columbus Avenue Design: Protected Bike Lane By David H. Koch Theater

To provide a better connection to the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane, NYC DOT is now proposing a protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue by Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. Image: NYC DOT

The Columbus Avenue bike lane will provide a more continuous protected route past Lincoln Center under a revised DOT proposal that got a thumbs up from Manhattan Community Board 7's transportation committee Tuesday night [PDF].

Currently, there is no physical protection for people biking between 69th Street and 59th Street. An earlier version of the project narrowed the gap to the five blocks between 67th Street and 62nd Street. The new plan calls for a parking protected bike lane south of 64th Street and some additional safety measures leading up to the "bow-tie" at 65th Street, though the three blocks between 67th and 64th will remain exposed to traffic. The project includes a number of pedestrian safety improvements as well.

Below 67th Street, the plan has cyclists merge across a lane of motor vehicle traffic turning left onto 65th Street. New to the proposal is a line of flexible posts between 66th and 65th that will shield cyclists from through traffic. The bike lane continues for one block without separation through the Lincoln Square "bow-tie" before the parking-protected design resumes south of 64th Street.

The expansion of the protected lane got applause from the audience when DOT presented it, reports Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom DeVito. The CB 7 transportation committee voted in favor of the plan 11-0, with committee member Ken Coughlin adding an amendment calling on DOT to more strongly delineate the bike lane through the bow-tie.

Left: current conditions. Right: DOT's revised proposal. Click to enlarge.

Coughlin called the new plan "a great improvement over the earlier one," but he remains "very concerned about the plan for a block-long mixing zone between 67th and 66th, where cars intending to turn left at 65th are supposed to trade places with cyclists emerging from the protected bike lane. DOT is going to put in green lanes and green-backed bicycle markings to indicate where the cycle lane is but I don't think this will prevent the occasional encounter between car and bike." 

The bike lane upgrades reflect critiques of the previous plan, presented in December. "Overall, it's great to see that the DOT was responsive to the demand they were getting from the community for better, bolder, more equitable safety infrastructure," said DeVito.

It's taken nearly five years since the city first proposed a Columbus Avenue protected bike lane to reach the point where it will form a reasonably continuous route through the Upper West Side. Still missing: a northbound protected lane for the neighborhood. While Community Board 7 has mustered votes asking DOT to study a protected lane on Amsterdam Avenue a couple of times in the past six years, the agency has yet to present a plan. Time is running out to fill this critical void in the bike network before Citi Bike expands to the neighborhood.

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