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CB 12 Committee Backs Road Diet, Bike Lanes on St. Nicholas Ave

A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Photo: Stephen Miller
A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Image: DOT [PDF]
A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Photo: Stephen Miller

A DOT proposal for a road diet and bike lanes St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights got a vote of support last night from the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee. The project could get striped next spring.

The bike lanes will connect with newly-installed bike lanes near the High Bridge in Washington Heights, and to a two-way protected bike lane on Fort George Hill, which has survived attacks from nearby co-op residents.

The proposal, which would cover a little more than a mile of St. Nicholas between 169th and 193rd streets, would bring the avenue from two car lanes in each direction to one, with bike lanes, center turn lanes and, in a potential second phase, pedestrian islands [PDF].

The rate of people killed or seriously injured on this stretch of St. Nicholas is more dangerous than two-thirds of Manhattan streets, according to DOT. There were 25 severe injuries, including 18 pedestrians and 2 bicyclists, between 2009 and 2013, and a total 404 of injuries during the same period.

Intersections at 175th, 177th, 178th, 181st and 185th streets rank in the most dangerous ten percent of Manhattan intersections. These are also intersections with high foot traffic -- people outnumber motor vehicles during rush hours.

Brad Conover, co-founder of Bike Upper Manhattan, would prefer bike lanes on Broadway and Amsterdam, but welcomed the change for St. Nicholas. He also worries that high car volumes near the entrance to Interstate 95 will pose a threat to bicyclists.

Today, drivers often double-park in one of the two car lanes on St. Nicholas. According to Conover, committee members were concerned that by removing one of these lanes, it would congest traffic when a driver decided to double-park. They were especially concerned about providing space for loading near a supermarket at 191st Street.

"My take on it is, people are going to double park in the bike lane," Conover said. "If anyone’s going to suffer, it’s going to be the bikers.”

DOT also said last night that it will be adding long-missing bike markings back to Seaman Avenue, which it repaved last year. Previously, Seaman had four-foot bike lanes in each direction. DOT's standards require five-foot bike lanes, so the agency will be putting a bike lane in one direction and sharrows in the other.

The plan was initially presented to the committee in May, and DOT took board members on a site visit recently. The committee voted 6-1 to support the St. Nicholas proposal, including a positive vote from perennial bike lane skeptic Jim Berlin. The committee also asked DOT to come back with a plan to address loading zones and double parking problems. Next up: The plan heads to the general board meeting on September 29.

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