DOT, CB 12 Hold Firm as Cranks Attack Fort George Hill Bike Lane

Some residents of Fort George Hill were upset by a new protected bike lane. Image: DOT [PDF]
Fort George Hill co-op owners had a freak-out over a new protected bike lane at a Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee meeting Monday evening.

The bike lane, installed earlier this year to provide a safe two-way connection between Washington Heights and Inwood, was among a handful of streets CB 12 suggested to DOT for bike lanes in 2012. The agency came back with a proposal for Fort George Hill last year, and received the board’s sign-off before installing it this spring. Installation is still underway.

That didn’t keep some residents of Fort George Hill co-op buildings from getting upset about the change. About 25 people packed Monday’s meeting to show their displeasure. “How come we didn’t have an open meeting with the buildings before this thing was built?” asked Paul J. Hintersteiner, president of the co-op board at 17 Fort George Hill. “Nobody knew anything about it until it happened.”

Things escalated from there, with some residents yelling at DOT staff and demanding that the bike lane be removed.

“They don’t care about anybody in the neighborhood. They care about putting in the bike lanes,” said Abraham Jacob, 58, who didn’t like the street redesign because his car gets snowed in during the winter. (The bike lane was installed this spring.) “When the winter comes, I don’t like to take the subway. I don’t take the subway. I haven’t taken the subway since I graduated high school in 1974,” he said. “So I have the choice of either taking the subway or losing my job. So where’s DOT’s concern on that?”

The audience applauded in support. “Thank you,” said CB 12 member Jim Berlin.

DOT and most CB 12 members tried to take the verbal abuse in stride. “We understand that it is a very upsetting situation for the residents there,” replied committee chair Yahaira Alonzo. “Going back to the way it was is not an option.”

Some spoke in support of the changes. Fort George Hill residents Sergiy Nosulya and Jonathan Rabinowitz spoke separately about how grateful they they are to be able to ride bikes down the hill legally and without heading straight into oncoming car traffic.

DOT conducted a walk-through on May 26 with Fort George Hill residents upset about the changes, and heard concerns about entering and leaving angled parking spaces, difficulties exiting driveways on Fort George Hill, deliveries and ambulettes blocking traffic, and worries about crashes.

Monday evening's Manhattan CB 12 transportation committee meeting. Photo: Stephen Miller
Monday evening’s Manhattan CB 12 transportation committee meeting. Photo: Stephen Miller

“A lot of people say, ‘Well, what’s wrong with having a lot of extra space on the street?’” said DOT project manager Preston Johnson. “It allows people to speed. It allows people to drive recklessly.”

The street handles 550 vehicles during a peak hour, which can easily be accommodated in a single traffic lane. There were three crashes earlier this year before the street was redesigned, including two pedestrian injuries, Johnson said. There have been two crashes, none with injuries, while the lane was being installed last month.

“Our experience when we make changes to streets is that people are uncertain at first. Maybe they are surprised that there is only one lane,” Johnson said. “Sizing Fort George Hill to the amount of traffic that it gets is going to improve safety and reduce reckless driving.”

DOT is considering tweaks to the street, including “hidden driveway” signs, speed humps, convex mirrors to improve visibility, new striping to direct uphill drivers away from angled parking, and additional loading zones closer to building entrances.

“Historically, the way the hill is, there’s always been issues,” CB 12 chair George Fernandez said after the meeting. “Nobody likes change. I know that.”

  • J

    “When the winter comes, I don’t like to take the subway. I don’t take the subway. I haven’t taken the subway since I graduated high school in 1974,” he said. “So I have the choice of either taking the subway or losing my job. So where’s DOT’s concern on that?”

    Hah! Clearly we should design our streets so this guy never has to ride the subway (the horror!).

  • Brad Aaron

    I’m just wondering how he managed to graduate.

  • Thank god this guy doesn’t need to get to a weekend house in Vermont or the project would be in real trouble.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    you shoulda been at the CB8 Hatefest last night – 200 furious East Siders ready with pitchforks to prevent Citibike. What I learned at the meeting

    1) Schoolchildren need to kept far away from Bikes
    2) Criminals from outside use Citibikes to loot and pillage
    3) Upper East Siders own their own bikes, they don’t need Citibikes
    4) Dalton Parents will be unable to use Limos to pick up their kids from school
    5) Historic Buildings and Nieghborhoods are disfigured by Citibikes

    it was hilarious

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, this sounds like the rantings of a child, not a 58 year old adult.

    “I don’t wanna take the train! I don’t wanna take the train! I’m not taking the train, and you can’t make me! Waaaaaaaaa!”

    He evidently has some sort of train-phobia here. Maybe he should seek help for that instead of expecting NYC to cater to his illogical psychosis. This has to be some kind of a record, living in NYC and not being on the subway in 41 years.

  • guest

    DOT doesn’t help itself when it sends representatives who suggest things like hidden driveway signs. Those are no longer MUTCD compliant, so they won’t get installed. But somebody might remember it and feel DOT lied to them.

  • Brad Aaron

    I’m glad DOT and the CB didn’t cave (assuming they actually don’t) but this should never have made it to the CB 12 agenda. DOT already made its presentations and the CB already endorsed them.

    This is a prime example of how the city wastes resources to pander to people who will never, ever be satisfied unless everything remains exactly the way it is.

    But hey, at least Jim “Honey Child” Berlin got his licks in.

  • Mark Walker

    I agree with Joe that it’s an infantile response. What I would add is that it’s based on a notion of social promotion: He’s not in high school any more, he thinks he’s ascended the social ladder, and now his ego is too big to be confined in a subway train. Making matters worse are those pesky cyclists who, like transit riders, mock his social promotion by choosing vehicles other than cars. This makes him feel threatened, so he bawls like a baby.

  • BBnet3000

    The cranks lost this one but they are winning.

  • Tyson White

    LOL Definitely a performance that outshines the UWS! Have you asked how many of them have ventured below 59th St in the past 2 years?

  • Joe R.

    Sometimes I wonder if these people live in the same city I do. I doubt you would get these kind of ignorant, insular responses even out by me in car-oriented eastern Queens.

  • Jesse

    I bet Streetsblog has a form now for these kinds of stories with a line in it:

    Some residents showed up to [whine about parking], “This [street design] is crap. It [benefits people who don’t drive]!”, [cantankerous white guy], [age 50+].

  • Some Asshole

    Somebody get that man a binkie.

  • Some Asshole

    The world tortured him by not letting him drive at age 13.

  • AnoNYC

    These people are not the majority. Most New Yorkers want more liveable streets and Citi Bike is seen as an amenity.

    These people are just selfish and afraid of change. They also do not take into account the benefits of these changes.

  • AnoNYC

    No, I disagree. The city has changed a lot and is still changing. Slowly…

  • BBnet3000

    So slowly at this point that it’s hard to distinguish from not changing at all. Cycling has plateaued by all available measures for years now. There are very few places in the city where cycling is actually comfortable.

    We still haven’t finished any of the Manhattan Avenues or comfortable connections to any bridge. They are finally proposing to finish 1st Avenue now, but good luck getting back downtown when you’ve made it to the UES.

  • Hold on. While I agree that we have plateaued and that we are now in a period marked by rollback, I find the assertion that “[t]here are very few places in the city where cycling is actually comfortable” to be completely untrue.

    The bike-laned Manhattan avenues, even with their flaws, are very comfortable. And the cumulative effect of bike lanes has made all the avenues more comfortable than they once were, whether they have bike lanes or not. For instance, riding on Madison Avenue is great. (Use the left side.) And that’s just Manhattan.

    The Bronx has plenty of good bike lanes; and Queens is a bike wonderland, especially on a weekday afternoon when the streets are all yours.

    Taking advantage of last week’s good weather, I used a few vacation days, and did a total of 300 miles, with four days of 50+ miles. Except for a brief jaunt over the George Washington Bridge, I was in New York City the whole time. And it was wonderful. Despite the fact that the true Golden Age of Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan is over, we are still close enough to it to be able to enjoy its great successes.

    We bicyclists still enjoy a great quality of life in New York City. Each election cycle will surely erode this; but, as of right now, bicyclists of this great City have a degree of comfort that would have been inconceivable to me the first time I rode in Manhattan back in 1981.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Bicycling has Manifestly NOT plateaued. The screenline counts are indeed showing slow growth which many have described as ‘flat lining’ the reason Screenline counts are experiencing slow growth is the scree lines are effectively at capacity – Brooklyn Bridge, etc are miniscule bike lanes which have reached peak capacity.

    However, the broader measures of cycling in the city suggest continued double digit growth. Anyone who rides below 60th in Manhattan notices a steady trickle of cyclists growing every year. Anyone who cycles below 23rd street often experiences more bikes than cars.

    the broad counts suggest around 50-75,000 cyclists per day in Mamhattan south of 60Th. vs About 350,000 cars. That amazing ratio is despite a horrible bike infrastructure. It will only get better.

  • roguebagel

    I disagree that bike lanes in Manhattan are comfortable. They are anything but.

    Typically on any given ride there are 3 huge problems:

    1. Cars parked in bike lanes (even protected ones). Every ride.

    2. People walking into bike lanes without looking. Every ride.

    3. Cars left-hooking into protected lanes (pull in front of you, angle for a turn and block your path). Every ride.

  • JudenChino

    ehhh . . . it’s taken a step back with BdB. I like “Vision Zero,” but let’s be honest, as applied by this administration it’s primarily a slogan and nothing else. It’s barely been 18 months since BdB was elected and you can see, in material respects, an actual diminution in the bike lane network as well as a cowered DoT.

    I mean, are we supposed to be pleased that BdB has held firm on a weak, under applied, low level misdemeanor for running someone over who had the right away? Look at this: Nobody should ever be run over like that in FiDi. Ever.

    It’s the same old hippie punching triangulation. BdB holds firm on some weak ass shit that barely, just barely, may be a lever towards accountability, meanwhile, his DoT walks around with their collective dicks in their hands, as major arteries like Christie towards Manhattan Bridge and Jay Street, remain as, or otherwise devolve into, shit. And can we pressure him more? “Look guys, I’m trying as hard as I can but you see how much trouble I’m getting for this right of way law.” Coward.

    He makes me long for Bloomberg.

  • JudenChino

    So fucking stupid. I used to live on the UES (77th btw 1st and York) and, I shit you not, biking to FiDi (44 mins) took just as long as walking to and then taking the train (10-12 min walk, 25 min ride, which, in the rush hour, is stop-start, crowded and unpleasant, with 3 min walk to office).

    But, if there was Citibike I could take to the train . . . . total game changer.

  • Tyson White

    Ok, but remember you don’t HAVE to ride in a bike lane. You can always still still ride on a street without a bike lane. What the protected bike lanes do – while imperfect – is encourage people who aren’t comfortable riding in traffic to get on a bike and ride.

  • phuzzie

    Why does NYCDOT think parking lanes should be more than 8′??? As an outsider I cannot comprehend this. Maybe there is something special and unique about NYC that I am unaware of.

  • Tyler

    The “uniqueness” is that double-parking and the lovely practice of parking *next to* a wide open parking spot is viewed as some sort of god given right here. So, they build roads with room for two, sometimes three, layers of parked cars.

    The resulting dangerous bottlenecks and unpredictability of the traffic flow doesn’t seem to be a concern for the NYPD. Their ‘traffic agents’ enjoy blocking the roads in the same ways…

  • WalkingNPR

    What is it with pulling up next to a wide-open spot and just parking in the road? That one makes no sense and I see it all the time. The other day on my street I saw someone doing that mid-block (for the emergent need for a latte, it turns out) while at the corner good ol’ NYPD was giving a bike delivery guy a ticket. I don’t know what the bike delivery guy did to get the ticket, but c’mon….whatever he did it had to be less lazy and likely only equally dangerous/obstructing to traffic flow as blocking traffic with your car when there’s a parking space right there…

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the question was posed and the NIMBYs howled ‘we have ridden Citibikes and we like Citibikes, we just don’t think it’s right for the UES.’


  • AnoNYC

    It’s true when you say that bicycling infrastructure construction and maintenance has slowed down but traffic calming is still on the rise and that does effect the safety of all road users.

    Also, more development and density is making automobile ownership less attractive and more of a burden.

  • AnoNYC

    I agree that BdB has been largely talk in regards to Vision Zero but there has been substantial traffic calming implemented citywide over his reign. Here in the Bronx especially we are seeing street redesigns decades overdue.

    Traffic calming benefits everyone and being pro-development leads to more density, more traffic, less parking and less incentive to drive.

  • Andres Dee

    This reminds me of the Forest Hills woman (many years ago) who refused me s second date because I didn’t pick her up in a car. “The subway makes me feel dirty.”

  • Joe R.

    One of my cousins had a similar mentality. She actually told me in high school you’ll need to get a driver’s license and car if you want to date. Of course, I didn’t have money or time to date regardless, but none of the girls I knew at the time mentioned needing a car as a prerequisite to dating. Then again, those were the same ones who used to ride the subway with me from school, even when we stayed late and came home past 8 or 9.

    I guess that woman you dated once wasn’t looking for a companion but a chauffeur. Good thing she didn’t waste any more of your time.

  • Tyson White

    Did they also say “this isn’t Amsterdam”?

    I heard that in other cities NIMBYs are now saying, ” this isn’t New York.” lmao


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