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Hot Topic at West Village L Train Shutdown Meeting: The 13th Street Protected Bike Lane

3:32 PM EST on March 2, 2018

The DOT plan calls for a two-way bike lane to replace a lane of parking on the south side of 13th Street. Image: MTA/DOT

There weren't many fireworks about the proposed 14th Street busway at last night's Manhattan Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting. Instead the discussion of DOT's street redesign plans for the looming L train shutdown focused mainly on the two-way protected bike lane slated for 13th Street [PDF].

The 13th Street bike lane would be a much-needed improvement to the Manhattan bike network, which lacks crosstown protected routes. During the L outage, it would handle a surge in people bicycling.

Based on past experience with major subway disruptions, DOT expects bicycling to double along the L corridor, translating to 2,000-5,000 daily bike trips on 13th Street. DOT has suggested the 13th Street bikeway could remain in place after the shutdown as well.

DOT chose 13th Street for the two-way lane because it's close to 14th Street, where travel demand is highest, but bike lanes can't comfortably fit alongside the huge number of pedestrians and high volumes of bus traffic on 14th Street itself. Unlike other crosstown streets, 13th Street also provides a direct, uninterrupted river-to-river connection.

The DOT plan calls for a two-way bike lane to replace a lane of parking on the south side of 13th Street. Many of the 200-plus attendees last night were parents from City & Country School, located on the south side of 13th Street between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue, who worried about cyclists riding through the school's drop-off area.

Some objections didn't stem from the specifics of the design so much as the free-floating anxiety that precedes implementation of any bike lane in New York.

"It's just bonkers to think about diverting traffic and adding that bidirectional bike lane on that street," said City & Country parent association co-president Tara Grabel, also a 13th Street resident. "We support a bike lane, it just can't be on 13th Street."

Not everyone was so rigid. Multiple speakers said they would prefer to split the bike lane into a westbound route on 13th and an eastbound route on 12th. Others wanted to remove the other parking lane on 13th Street to maintain wider clearance for motor vehicles. Both of those alterations would make it easier to drop off a kid with a car without blocking traffic, while also leading to more speeding and swerving by drivers on 13th Street.

This led to some unusual moments where people urged DOT to redesign the bike lane to repurpose more parking spaces. "We vigorously argue that the safety of schoolchildren should outweigh the loss of parking," said one parent who wanted to split the bike lane in two.

Many people came out to support the 13th Street bike lane without equivocation. "Currently, to get across town there are no protected bike lanes in this area at all," said Blair Bertaccini, who lives on 14th Street. "Adding one like this, I think, will be wonderful. We need to have a protected bike lane that goes across town and is near 14th Street."

In executive session, the committee discussed a resolution that will call on DOT to put any bike lane on the north side of 13th street, away from the school, and prioritize deliveries and pick-ups and drop-offs over private parking on the south curb, according to committee chair Shirley Secunda.

The resolution also asks DOT to model the potential traffic impacts of a 24/7 busway, as opposed to a peak-hour busway.

CB 2 will vote on that resolution at its March 22 full board meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Greenwich Village Elementary School.

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