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Adriano Espaillat

Adriano Espaillat and Gale Brewer Want DOT to Erase the Brand New Dyckman Street Bikeway

Gale Brewer and Adriano Espaillat are calling on DOT to rip out protected bike lanes on Dyckman Street, which would undo a major street safety project that took a decade of citizen advocacy.

It took nine years and countless public meetings for residents of Upper Manhattan to get DOT to put protected bike lanes on Inwood's Dyckman Street. With the paint barely dry, Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer want DOT to erase them.

After an umpteenth round of back-and-forth with Community Board 12 last year, in December DOT installed parking-protected lanes abutting the curbs on Dyckman's north and south sides between Broadway and 10th Avenue. The project was the culmination of a citizen-generated plan from 2008, when locals first proposed a river to river "Dyckman Greenway Connector." Before the lanes went in, cyclists had no designated space in the heart of a major neighborhood commercial corridor.

The project imposed order on what used to be a free-for-all. Whereas people on bikes once had to slalom through double-parked cars and trucks, they're now separated from motor vehicles where traffic is heaviest. Painted lanes to the west of Broadway, where traffic is not as intense, link Dyckman to the Hudson River Greenway. The project also includes sidewalk extension treatments that shorten pedestrian crossing distances and slow motorist turns.

There's finally a safe route for biking on Dyckman Street, and Adriano Espaillat and Gale Brewer want to take it away. Photos: Brad Aaron
There's finally a safe route for biking on Dyckman Street, and Adriano Espaillat and Gale Brewer want to take it away. Dyckman photos: Brad Aaron
There's finally a safe route for biking on Dyckman Street, and Adriano Espaillat and Gale Brewer want to take it away. Photos: Brad Aaron

But Espaillat and Brewer want Dyckman back the way it was. According to the Manhattan Times, in a February letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, they called the new design "untenable." Citing complaints from businesses, Espaillat and Brewer recommended DOT erase the bike lanes on Dyckman and install new ones on 204th Street, two blocks north.

“Moving the bike lanes from Dyckman Street to 204th Street will dramatically reduce traffic congestion on one of the most utilized two-way streets in New York City, leading to a reduction of traffic accidents and improved public transportation service,” they wrote.

More than 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman during the nine years locals pressed for a safer street. A few weeks in, Espaillat and Brewer can't make a credible claim that the new design is somehow more dangerous. As for reducing congestion, what project critics actually want is a return to the days when motorists had more room to illegally double-park.

I hesitate to even entertain the notion, but trading the Dyckman Street bikeway for lanes on 204th Street doesn't wash. For one thing, Dyckman connects the east- and west-side greenways. Forcing people to go several blocks out of the way makes no sense. Unlike 204th Street, which is mostly residential, Dyckman is a commercial destination, and is lined with businesses that employ delivery workers who deserve a safer street.

In the past, these trucks would have been double-parked, forcing people on bikes to maneuver around them.
In the past, these trucks would have been double-parked, forcing people on bikes to maneuver around them.
In the past, these trucks would have been double-parked, forcing people on bikes to maneuver around them.

The pressure is mounting on local council member and transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez to disavow a safer Dyckman. Rodriguez recently held a meeting where he fielded complaints from business people who called the bike lanes a "waste of space" and claimed that the project, which took twice as long to execute as the construction of the George Washington Bridge, was pushed through with little notice. According to the Manhattan Times, Rodriguez suggested a two-way bike lane on the north side of Dyckman as an alternative.

If Rodriguez joins Espaillat and Brewer and comes out for undoing the project, odds are good that DOT will rip the bike lanes out. Considering DOT's history of removing Inwood bike infrastructure with little to no public input, the fight for a safer Dyckman Street still isn't over.

The project shortens crossing distances and slows motorist turns. More than 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman between 2009 and 2017.
The project shortens crossing distances and slows motorist turns. More than 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman between 2009 and 2017.
Photo: Brad Aaron

Correction: This story originally said DOT installed a bi-directional bikeway on Dyckman east of Nagle. That part of the plan was altered. The copy was edited after publication.

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