CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT
The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

A two-way protected bikeway will be added to the steep section of 158th Street between Broadway and the Henry Hudson Parkway, where riders connect to the Hudson River Greenway. Between Broadway and Edgecombe Avenue, the project would shift to shared lane markings on 158th and 159th Streets.

In addition to a protected bikeway, the intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place is set for major pedestrian safety upgrades. Image: DOT
In addition to a protected bikeway, the intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place is set for major pedestrian safety upgrades. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing painted curb extensions on the northeast and northwest corners of Broadway and 158th Street, and on the southwest corner of Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, which becomes 159th Street. Sharrows would be installed on Broadway between 158th and 159th Streets, which connect to the existing painted bike lanes on St. Nicholas Avenue.

At the multi-leg intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place, DOT is proposing painted curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and clarify where drivers should go. The new pedestrian spaces will eventually be built out in concrete where feasible, DOT says.

A second east-west two-way protected bikeway will be added to the north, on 170th Street between Haven Avenue and Edgecombe Avenue. The street, currently 42 feet wide, would have the lane added to its south side. Parking would be preserved, except for a handful of spots at key intersections, and the travel lane would be narrowed to 13 feet. The bikeway connects to a bike route on Fort Washington Avenue, which is already used by cyclists bound for the George Washington Bridge.

Where 170th crosses Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue at Duarte Square, the bikeway would be built out in concrete and shift to the north side of 170th as it approaches the intersection of Amsterdam and Edgecombe.

After crossing Amsterdam, the two-way protected bikeway would curve south on Edgecombe until 165th Street. From 165th to 155th, it would become shared lane markings. Unsignalized crosswalks will be added at 165th Street at the entrance to High Bridge Park, at 162nd Street at a bus stop, and between 155th and 157th Streets near Coogan’s Bluff Playground.

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