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West Harlemites Put Bike Lanes Back in the Picture for Broadway Redesign

West Harlem residents succeeded in getting NYC DOT to consider adding bike lanes to a road diet project for Broadway between W. 153rd and W. 135th. But they had to fight for it during Thursday night’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

DOT's proposal for a road diet with no bike infrastructure didn't cut it at last night's CB 9 meeting. Click to enlarge. Image: DOT

DOT had shown a design for the street this summer with wider medians and parking lanes, fewer traffic lanes, but no bike lanes. At a town hall hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell last week, several residents called on the agency to add bike lanes to the project. Last night, residents and board members were quick to point out that despite updating its plans to reflect feedback since the summer, DOT’s redesign still didn’t include bike lanes.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring Broadway into the 21st century by bringing bike lanes into the mix,” said neighborhood resident Rose Seabrook. “Bike lanes do nothing to hamper traffic but it helps to organize road traffic by creating that structure.”

At first, the DOT officials argued that cyclists would be fine using a 13-foot-wide parking lane. But board members and residents cited the prevalence of double-parked cars and trucks that would get in the way of cyclists.

Responding to pressure from Seabrook and others, a DOT official said, to much applause, that the agency would consider adding bike lanes in the project.

The safety improvements on Broadway are part of DOT's Vision Zero action plan for Manhattan. On this stretch, there were 455 traffic injuries between 2009 and 2013 and 6 deaths since 2007, according to DOT. The current design with three traffic lanes in each direction encourages speeding: DOT clocked drivers frequently traveling 45 mph, significantly higher than the 25 mph speed limit. The danger of these high speeds is exacerbated because of the large concentration of senior citizens in the area. In surveys, people told DOT that the top problems on the streets are unsafe crossings, speeding, drivers not yielding, and double-parked vehicles.

Residents and community board members generally expressed satisfaction with the plan, especially after DOT agreed to consider bike lanes. Several board members and West Harlem resident Glenford Jeffrey, a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives, requested that DOT also amend the plans to include loading zones, to help cut down on double-parked cars and trucks.

DOT will also change one of the left-turn bans in the plan. Instead of a turn ban from northbound Broadway onto 138th Street, which feeds into the Henry Hudson Parkway, the agency agreed ban lefts from southbound Broadway at the same intersection.

With all of these suggestions in mind, DOT is expected to return to Community Board 9 in December to present a final plan.

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