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

The fight for a safer Dyckman still isn't over.

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.
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

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.

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.

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.

  • AnoNYC

    In a community where the overwhelming vast majority people don’t drive on a regular basis, let alone own a car.

    Raise the parking meter rates to increase turnover.

    And Dyckman St is so short that any decrease is travel time is negligible considering the safety improvements.

  • eastphilliamsburg

    Within a half-mile radius of Dyckman St, 75% of households are car-free and only 10.5% of commuters drive to work.

    Another sad display from Uptown politicians screwing over their poorest constituents.

  • NYCBK123

    Surprised by Brewer.

  • Toddster

    That’s sarcasm right?

  • NYCBK123

    No! I guess I’m just uninformed. I like her on other issues and knew she was supportive of congestion pricing. But this opposition is…absurd.

  • qrt145
  • Up until now Rodriguez has been supportive of bicyclists’ interests. This will be a test of whether he is a genuine champion like Reynoso, or whether he is a fair-weather friend like Van Bramer.

  • JarekFA

    This is what the failed de Blasio leadership brings us. Instead of promoting ebikes as a car disrupter — this neighborhood, in which many people take black cars, is drowning in traffic. If we had leadership at the top, to make a comprehensive argument in favor of bikes and ebikes and a willingness to address common fallacies (tragedy of the commons and induced demand), these pols wouldn’t be so willing to roll back necessary safety infrastructure as they know City Hall would have their back in the face of angry business owners accustomed to parking by their businesses. I actually think DoT does a decent job of trying to explain but with little City Hall support and the NYPD being an active detriment to safety and congestion – I almost can’t fault these pols for their cowardice (cf Antonio Reynoso — I admire pols who are willing to speak truth, in plain English and not hedge).

    These car people are irrational. They cannot be persuaded. The only thing that works is speaking firmly and letting them know you won’t budge. The ONLY time Bloomberg caved was a craven political calculation re: Bedford bike lane in Brooklyn.

    For example, this was my morning commute today. I didn’t hold this guy up at all, and he was just irate for me having taken the lane for 3 blocks. Again, I cost him absolutely zero time. But driving and the lack of parking and congestion makes people go crazy.

  • Andrew

    The project imposed order on what used to be a free-for-all.

    And some motorists resent it.

  • Gale really has no excuse. She’s been through this many times, she knows why a project like this reduces traffic injuries. Look at the difference in crossing distance with that pedestrian island! To claim that undoing the redesign will somehow benefit public safety is truly despicable.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    When making a left turn a week or so ago, the guy driving behind me was going nuts with his horn, he then pulled up beside me and started screaming abuse through the window, I said what’s the problem (no cursing yet) and then he said he would punch me in the Fing face. I said again what’s your problem and he said he would kick my ass. So then i dropped the kick stand and said get out of the car and do it. Then followed 2-3 minutes of me shouting through his window cursing him up and down and telling him to get out of the car. He didn’t and eventually drove away. It’s absolutely the dumbest response I could have made, since someone who was less of a coward than that guy would have actually gotten out of the car and kicked my ass or maybe tried to run me over. Hard not to get heated though with the scum who drive in this city but it’s better to get home alive than to try to feel tough. Better not to engage at all maybe. even politely.

  • Waterguns!

  • I was one to propose this idea to community board 12 in February 2008 and I am one who founded Inwood Preservation. I wrote these thoughts in response to a more recent article in the Manhattan Times about this all devoted to the business desires.

    I put some perspective about the Rezoning on the Manhattan Times article below.

    I am pleased that DOT gave Inwood the same street structure as many avenues downtown. Why should cyclists here be at greater risk of dying than cyclists elsewhere? Installing bike lanes in winter gives these owners an out to say the bike lanes aren’t used. Isn’t that obvious?

    Were traffic studies done before and after the bike lanes were installed? If there’s no data, then the businesses just want the status quo of double parking so they get free parking for themselves and what I expect is a small percentage of their clients. Face it, people shop in Inwood on foot mostly. The businesses want four lanes of parking out of the six on Dyckman unenforced by the 34th precinct. Who cares about most of us who walk and ride. It’s fascinating that only business owners interests are going to be brought to DOT. It was the cyclists who spent 10 years showing CB12 studies of how having a Greenway connector could enhance business. But are we interviewed for this story? Do we get a chance to rebut?

    Why are traffic studies never done? Unified Inwood requested numerous environmental and social studies ahead of the dozens of 10 to 30 story buildings that will be built when Inwood is rezoned the way Ydanis Rodriguez wants it. The City blew us and CB12’s requests for studies off. You want to see traffic congestion? Just add several thousand additional cars owned by the 15,000 or more new residents, most of whom will be luxury tenants thanks to MIH which ensures this. These businesses won’t know what hit them when their buildings are bulldozed for 11-17 story buildings after the rezoning. Bike lanes are a distraction from what is Really important.

  • I am very disappointed in her for her stance on this. I expected better.

  • JarekFA

    When I first moved to Manhattan 10 years ago, I loved that we had this [mostly] beautiful greenway in which you could essentially do “laps’ around the island. But then you’d get dumped off on Dyckman. One minute you’re circling the Cloisters with beautiful views of the Hudson river. The next, you’re in a concrete jungle, spatially confused and surrounded by black livery cars and unsure of how to get to the east side and safely.

    The proximity to the Greenways should be an amazing boon for local businesses. Dyckman is such a disgusting traffic sewer.

  • JarekFA

    I was pretty calm and polite in this interaction. However, what you describe, reminds me of my most memorable road rage incident from DC.

    This was the Spring of 2008, I was on Mass Ave NW, heading NW towards 5th st and I was approaching the red light at the intersection. This was probably 9:00 pm at night. This car, behind me, was just honking like crazy, screaming “mother fucker this, mother fucker that.” I get to the intersection (you can turn right on red after stopping, but I wasn’t turning right, nor should I accelerate to hit a red) I throw down my bike on the grass, turn around (see a well dressed white couple, like they’re going to the theatre) and put my hands in the air and yell what the hell man, and I as approach the window I see the guy brandishing a gun and saying, “ya, that’s right mother fucker, I’m a cop, you want to mess with a cop.” I immediately turn around and froze. Just total shock. Traumatized even. Some guy threatened me with a gun because I was in his way as we approached a red light. I wish I had a helmet cam like I do now, so I could’ve called 911 on his ass. I was too shook up to even think to catch his license plate. He didn’t point the gun at me. He just showed it to me and screamed at me in an aggressive tone. What a piece of shit was that guy.

  • KeNYC2030

    Et tu, Brewer?

  • MatthewEH

    I watched your videos… yesterday morning, maybe? I think Bike Snob had a link from the bike forecast. Yeah, that dude in the car was out of his gourd.

    Apart from being perfectly advisable, your riding was completely within the letter of the law. Oddly, NYC traffic law is completely silent on where a bicycle should ride on a two-way street. (Unless there’s a bike lane in your direction, doesn’t apply here. Would apply southbound on 3rd Ave.) There is some “as far right or left as practicable” language in RCNY 4-12(p), but it only applies on one-way roads greater than 40 feet in width. As slower traffic, you’d have a general responsibility to stay in the right lane, but you were preparing for a turn and were in a designated turn lane the whole time.

    Staying right until you were closer to the turn and merging over then would be a defensible strategy too, but on equal footing with what you did. Just nuts.

  • MatthewEH

    I’m strongly considering calling her office and saying that she needs to recant on this if she ever wants me to vote for her ever again.

    I even know someone who was a staffer in her office before her BP days, for crying out loud…

  • Andrew
  • AMH

    It was obvious that she was opposed to safety when she sent a staffer to a pedestrian/cyclist community workshop to oppose anything that would reduce car parking spaces. She lost my vote years ago.

  • This is a direct quote from the person that wants to get ride of the bike lanes. A true politician. He is taking both side. I Mark Kabbash will be at the next event fighting to keep the bike lanes. Join me and say hello. Let the world hear your voice. They will hear mine again!

    Congressman Adriano Espaillat said, “I commend Governor Cuomo on today’s announcement to invest and modernize New York’s infrastructure with clean alternative transportation projects that will benefit communities throughout the state. Innovative strategies that help expand infrastructure through projects such as pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, recreational trails, and safe sidewalks for area schools, as well as lessen congestion and gas emissions throughout our cities, are projects that will continue to promote health and wellness that benefits each of us and our communities, today and for years to come.”