Helen Rosenthal Asks DOT to Install Protected Bike Lane on Amsterdam Ave

Council Member Helen Rosenthal has come out strongly for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, sending a letter to DOT this week asking for a plan to calm traffic and provide a northbound complement to the Columbus Avenue bike lane.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal. Photo: NYC Council
Upper West Side Council Member Helen Rosenthal. Photo: NYC Council

“We need to make Amsterdam Avenue safer for families, and that’s just what this street redesign would do. I’ve seen it work on Columbus Avenue,” Rosenthal told Streetsblog yesterday. “It’s something that’s important to me, for my district.”

What prompted the letter? “It’s something that I knew I wanted to do from comments I’ve heard throughout the years from residents along Amsterdam Avenue,” said Rosenthal, whose district stretches from 54th Street to 96th Street on the West Side. She was especially inspired by the recent release of an anti-reckless driving video from Families for Safe Streets and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Street safety advocates have spent years trying to bring protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands to Amsterdam Avenue.

Although DOT installed (and then expanded) a bike lane on Columbus Avenue in recent years, with another extension proposed earlier this year near Lincoln Center, Amsterdam Avenue remains unchanged.

Any street redesign plan must be sent to the community board for advisory review. The hitch: DOT is reluctant to act without community board support and CB 7 has a track record of stalling when it comes time to implement protected bike lanes. In particular, procedural maneuvering by its two longtime transportation committee chairs, Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig, has led to a pattern of stasis and inaction.

Rosenthal, herself a former CB 7 chair, now recommends board members for appointment as a council member. She is confident that CB 7 will quickly support a protected bike lane plan.

“At the end of the day, the community board is advisory. I’m always interested in hearing from the community board. They always have insights, kernels of truth. I’m sure they’ll have some idea of tweaking DOT’s plan,” Rosenthal said. “I’m sure they’ll have some tweaks here and there, but I’m sure this will sail through.”

Updated 2:58 p.m.: DOT says it is “reviewing possible safety enhancements” on Amsterdam Avenue and will work with Rosenthal and CB 7 to discuss next steps.

The full text of the letter, sent to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Monday, is below:

Dear Commissioner Trottenberg,

I write to you to extend my support to convert Amsterdam Avenue within my district and beyond into a “safe street.” The avenue is wide with heavy commercial traffic, lined with many public and private schools, senior centers and the consequent pedestrian use. It is badly in need of safety measures and it is incumbent on the city to act quickly to ensure its residents’ safety. A protected bike lane, the shortening of the cross walk and clearly marked lanes create a street calming effect and go a long way towards ensuring safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

The safety corridor on the UWS is incomplete without an uptown protected bike lane. It is a much needed addition to compliment the Columbus Avenue bike lane and in anticipation of the coming Citibike program which will add many bikes to our neighborhood streets. Currently, the Columbus Avenue bike lane is being used by both uptown and downtown riders creating hazardous conditions for pedestrians. This can be mitigated once an uptown bike lane is added to this portion of the West Side corridor creating an alternative pathway and enabling better enforcement of roadway rules. I plan on working closely with the 20th and 24th precinct as well as local restaurants to ensure these bike rules are strictly enforced.

Vision Zero policies within my district have already had a significant and positive impact and I want to thank you for the work that DOT has already done to make the UWS a safer place to walk, ride and drive. The safety benefits of street calming for Amsterdam Avenue would be an important step in achieving our mutual goal of Vision Zero.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to working with you and the community on this issue.

Sincerely,

Helen Rosenthal

cc: Elizabeth Caputo, Chair, Community Board 7

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