Bikelash Rehash With Gale Brewer and Adriano Espaillat

Justifying their campaign to rip out the Dyckman Street bike lanes, Espaillat and Brewer recycle the same litany of objections that surface whenever a bikeway debuts in New York City.

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.

Congressmember Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer want to rip out Inwood’s new Dyckman Street bike lanes. They don’t want you to get the wrong impression though — they’re all for bike lanes! Just not the useful, real-life bike lanes that people in the neighborhood fought for.

In a piece sent to Streetsblog yesterday, Espaillat and Brewer insist that Dyckman Street is unlike every other commercial street in New York with protected bike lanes. They then recycle the same litany of objections that surface whenever a bike lane debuts in New York City.

After Inwood residents campaigned nine years to get this project built, these two Manhattan reps are ready to give up on it after a few wintry months. I’ll post the full letter, but to summarize, Espaillat and Brewer warn that:

The bike lanes will be ruinous for local merchants. Businesses on Eighth and Ninth avenues in Chelsea said the same thing nine years ago. So did some businesses on Columbus Avenue in Brewer’s old City Council district. So have a handful of merchants on Queens Boulevard. Every prediction of retail armageddon has turned out wrong.

People will die because of slower emergency response. The universal argument of traffic-calming opponents everywhere. It’s what the cranks say about pedestrian islands, bike-share stations, and protected bike lanes despite the absence of any evidence that emergency response times have been compromised by retrofitting NYC streets with this stuff. Public officials like Brewer and Espaillat lean on the imperative of emergency response when they want to knock a bike lane, but for some reason they never invoke it to argue for smarter parking meter rates, congestion pricing, or the elimination of parking requirements, which would all reduce traffic and get obstacles out of the way of FDNY. Wonder why.

Dyckman is actually more dangerous with the bike lanes. Brewer and Espaillat have no data to back this up either. Just take their word for it! They personally inspected the street, you see. Sure, Dyckman was wide and dangerous before the redesign, with hundreds of people injured in crashes over the past decade. But why get into the very real threat to life and limb posed by the old cars-first design when there’s a bike lane to scapegoat. Bikelash scholars will recognize the tactic from Grand Street, Prospect Park West, Amsterdam Avenue, and every other bike lane fight in the history of bike lanes.

Because they’re serious and reasonable, not spineless politicos willing to sacrifice public safety at the drop of a hat, Brewer and Espaillat propose an alternative bike route, which is not a ridiculously inconvenient detour that no one will use. Kidding, of course it is. That’s how the game is played.

To state the obvious: This is about parking. Double-parking was a problem before the bike lanes were installed, and it remains a problem with the new redesign. The glut of cars made Dyckman a crummy street for walking and biking before the redesign, and there are still too many cars today.

Getting rid of the redesign won’t solve Dyckman’s traffic problem or make the street function any better for retail. It will just expose people to a heightened risk of injury and death. Lest anyone forget, these were the good old days on Dyckman Street:

dyckman_before1
Deliveries were a cinch before the bike lane. Photo: NYC DOT
dyckman_before2
A perfectly functional, uncongested Dyckman Street before the damned bike lane. Photo: NYC DOT
dyckman_before3
Crossing the street in peace, with no bike lane in the way.
Biking in a wide-open free-for-all of double-parking an -- like it oughta be.
Biking like it oughta be — in a free-for-all of double parking, with your head on a swivel as you prepare to overtake the next illegally-parked car without getting creamed by a distracted speed demon passing on your left. Photo: NYC DOT

And here is what Brewer and Espaillat want to erase:

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

Brewer, of all people, should know that every street redesign needs a little patience. She’s the veteran of a zillion bike lane spats. A bout of complaining after implementation is the most predictable thing in the world.

If Brewer and Espaillat were acting out of genuine concern about the traffic dysfunction on Dyckman, they would ask DOT to raise the price of curbside parking during peak hours. That policy has a track record of reducing traffic and double-parking on commercial streets. Instead they’re putting out pathetic bikelash boilerplate, undermining a street safety project nine years in the making. Here’s their op-ed.

About The Bike Lanes on Dyckman Street

By Congressman Adriano Espaillat and MBP Gale A. Brewer

As public officials, it’s our responsibility to address the concerns of our constituents, and sometimes that means pushing back when well-intentioned projects create negative repercussions in the communities we serve. The recently implemented Dyckman Street protected bike lanes were intended to serve a worthy goal: safely connecting the Harlem and Hudson River bike paths. Unfortunately, they’ve had a detrimental impact on businesses and residents in Inwood, and their safety benefits have been much more mixed than everyone hoped, with the narrowed street posing a problem for first responders when every second matters.

Dyckman Street, alongside 207th Street, is one of the two major commercial hubs in Inwood, with dozens of small businesses and mom and pop shops. These businesses, many of which have been in the community for decades, are truly the economic backbone of the neighborhood, and they rely on access to Dyckman Street for deliveries, customer parking, and storefront visibility for potential growth and development. Since the installation of the bike lanes, these businesses have reported that they are struggling, and many are at risk of closing. The bike lanes could threaten the continued existence of the vibrant commercial corridor of Dyckman Street, which was the driving force behind the transformation of the thoroughfare.

We’ve also seen with our own eyes that the bike lanes’ installation has made the street harder to navigate and created new safety problems. We’ve taken several walking tours of the Dyckman area with officials from the NYC Department of Transportation, and witnessed incidents of emergency service vehicles having difficulty getting to their destinations and pedestrians struggling with obstructed crosswalks due to the street congestion created by the new street design. Local leadership in the Fire Department (FDNY) has also written to express significant concerns about the impact that bike lanes on Dyckman Street on their ability to respond expediently to emergencies.

We support utilizing green modes of transportation and efforts to make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars alike — but we also recognize the same approaches don’t always work everywhere, and when a plan has a negative impact in the community, government agencies have to be willing to adjust it. In the case of the bike lanes on Dyckman Street, we’re concerned about the threat to both the surrounding business community and public safety.

As a solution, we propose moving the bike lanes from Dyckman Street two blocks north to 204th Street. This could alleviate some of the street congestion and businesses’ concerns, while still providing area cyclists with access to a safe route connecting the East and West sides of Manhattan. We encourage Commissioner Trottenberg to take swift action on this issue. If not, and the bike lanes on Dyckman Street are allowed to remain, we believe the Inwood community will continue to suffer.

  • iSkyscraper

    Ha ha ha ha. To think that these two can swoop to action over a bike lane but somehow ignore this situation right down the block (which is actually bona fide illegal and also cheats the city of revenue) is downright comical.

    https://dyckmanmarina.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/is-this-really-a-parking-lot/
    https://dyckmanmarina.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/treating-the-traffic-symptoms/
    https://dyckmanmarina.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/crossing-boundaries/

  • HamTech87

    They should be obligated to take a bike ride, and bring any loved ones like children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along for the ride — before and after.

  • Reader

    The “emergency response time” complaint falls apart under the slightest application of basic logic:

    Brewer is basically saying, “We must keep the street dangerous and deadly so that when people are killed on it ambulances can reach them as quickly as possible.”

    There’s another word for that other than illogical: immoral.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Gotta get those things ripped out before the weather gets better and more people start using it. Bikelash is both cyclical AND seasonal.

  • Mike

    Maybe the mobsters who run La Marina made them an offer they couldn’t refuse!

  • iSkyscraper
  • SteveVaccaro

    Really disappointed in Gale and Adriano, two leaders I have actively supported with volunteer work and cash donations in the past. I’ve used Dyckman for years and seen the uniform double-parking and
    not-uncommon triple-parking. They are championing those (now-untenable)
    illegal practices over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

  • JarekFA
  • Vooch

    Ben,

    the tone of your article is perfect. Humor always wins.

  • Reader

    Yeah. My guess is that business is down at some of these stores because this has been an exceptionally long winter. It’s still grey and cold out. I’d imagine that when things get nicer, more people will come out on foot and buy stuff. Very few people are driving to these tiny stores in any weather.

  • Brad Aaron

    It’s absurd in more ways than one.

    Like, where would the N/S connections to 204 be? DOT recently swapped bike lanes on Seaman Ave. for a single bike lane and sharrows, to preserve parking. There’s a steep uphill climb from Dyckman to 204 on Seaman, if you’re approaching from the west. Of course DOT could just slap a protected bike lane on Broadway LOL.

    To the east there’s 10th Avenue, which for sure could use a bikeway and other traffic calming elements. But imagine DOT coming to CB 12 et al. with plans to remove precious parking on any of those streets, much less two of them.

    Brewer and Espaillat are full of it.

  • JK

    Exactly, on-top of being key local route, the Dyckman bike lane is the connector between the Hudson River Greenway and Harlem River Greenway, and will get even more important when Parks finally closes the waterfront gap in the Hudson Greenway between 180th and 187th Streets. (Currently cyclists have to go up/down a very steep, poorly lit, ramp at about 180th.) Closing that gap and expanding Citibike will vastly boost cycling from points South to Dyckman. (And yes, am also disappointed in Gale on this one. Dyckman is an icon of traffic dysfunction because DOT defers to local motoring interests and totally underprices and mismanages curbside parking.

  • Joe R.

    It falls apart also because emergency vehicles can use bike (or bus) lanes if the traffic lanes are jammed. If anything, I would think bike lanes would decrease response times, not increase them.

  • They claim that the fire department “has written to express significant concerns about the impact that bike lanes on Dyckman Street [have] on their ability to respond expediently to emergencies.” Is this true? Is the fire department putting this sort of thing in writing?

  • Reader

    It can’t be true. DOT consults with FDNY and other agencies on every project. What may be true is that some individual firemen have complained to their offices.

  • J

    I (largely) blame DOT for a half-baked design. If you don’t address illegal parking, due to lack of enforcement and poor demand management, the problem just get’s squeezed and doesn’t actually go away. Double parking is an economic problem, and unless you have an economic solution, the problem doesn’t go away, it just gets squeezed somewhere else, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing here.

    http://disq.us/p/1jnoloj

  • Reginag99

    I’ve lived in the neighborhood since 1960 and never has Dyckman Street been so poorly designed. The merchants are unable to conveniently receive deliveries. Emergency vehicles have to find a way to squeeze through.

    Why? Because now there are bike lanes on either side of the thoroughfare with parking lanes next to each of them. This leaves only one lane for vehicles in each direction.

    Dyckman Street is the major shopping street. There are stores that we need. For instance hardware, bakery, clothing, banks, music,appliances, furniture, hot spots for music and dance, upper story businesses, garages, electronic, 99 cents and up, pharmacies, health food, gyms, pizza, bodegas, taxi depots, fast food, take out and sit down restaurants, and more. Plus sidewalk vendors who sell underwear, fix watches, offer useful current and antique items, fried foods, cut up mangoes on a stick, seared corn and fried empanadas, ices, fruit and vegetable vendors, and Spanish language books. Now only pedestrians can shop there and hope that the delivery has been made. You can’t double park for a quick stop for a cafe and flan, or to pick up a birthday cake.

    We have nothing against bicyclists. They bike for miles and miles around the island. But not on our main drag! Let us find another neighborhood street to help them continue their journey.

  • Reader

    Two words: loading zones.

  • qrt145

    People don’t just go biking “around the island” for fun. Cycling is a form of transportation, just as legitimate as cars but at least ten times more space-efficient. The very reasons you mention why the street is so important for people and business are the reasons why it must have bike lanes: to help transport people and stuff to those destinations.

  • Reginag99

    Yes. Changes can be made and loading zones would certainly help. It doesn’t change the other concerns – emergency vehicles, easy shopping, etc.

  • JarekFA

    Bikes facilitate easy shopping. Underpricing street parking is the problem. Not everyone can park. Most people in the neighborhood don’t own cars. And most people don’t drive to Dyckman at all. Loading Zones and increasing curbside parking rates are the easy fixes. The bikes have nothing to do with it.

    You can’t double park for a quick stop for a cafe and flan, or to pick up a birthday cake.

    You can do all that quickly with a bike. I can’t believe you’re endorsing double-parking while denying the easiest form of mobility and shopping around. I bike everywhere specifically because it’s easy to park. Yesterday was my wife’s birthday — Stopped at Whole Foods, got some flowers, bam, not a bad husband.

    For instance hardware, bakery, clothing, banks, music,appliances, furniture, hot spots for music and dance, upper story businesses, garages, electronic, 99 cents and up, pharmacies, health food, gyms, pizza, bodegas, taxi depots, fast food, take out and sit down restaurants, and more

    The amount of people driving and parking on Dyckman to do all that are minimal. The solution are bikes. It’s the easiest way to visit many stores on a shopping strip. There just simply isn’t enough curb space for people to drive and park in this area.

  • eastphilliamsburg

    75% of residents near Dyckman don’t own cars! And we know that citywide, those who do own cars are usually richer than those who don’t. So Brewer and Espaillat simply want to make sure the richest 25% of the neighborhood can pollute and run over everyone else. Some leadership.

  • You can do all of those things without double parking. It’s really as simple as that.

  • JarekFA

    People who run errands by double-parking “real quick” need more shaming.

    Like I don’t exist. Like people who run errands on bike don’t exist. Like Jesus Christ one the biggest reasons I bike is for the ease of running errands!

  • Simon Phearson

    There is no alternative to this street. The bike lanes belong here because that’s where the cyclists are. Putting another lane on some road a couple of blocks away will not entice any cyclists to detour. It just means wasted paint on one street and more deaths and injuries on Dyckman. That is what you’re advocating.

    I bike all around this city, and you know where I find the worst, most dangerous congestion? Steinway in Astoria. Not a bike lane in sight, but good luck getting through even relatively mild congestion. And you know why? Double parking and loading.

    The thing that drivers often don’t seem to understand is that they are the ones causing the problem. If a fire truck can’t get through, it’s not because there’s a bike lane; it’s because there are cars in the way. Who put the cars there? It wasn’t the bike lane!

    Meanwhile, there are bike lanes and businesses all over the place, and they seem to be coexisting just fine. If there is evidence that shops are heavily reliant on customers that drive and park on the street by their businesses, then by all means we should take that into consideration. But who has that evidence? Have shop owners done a survey? These politicians?

  • Simon Phearson

    Shame, apparently, is our only option.

    I was biking past a school the other day in a bike lane that was being used (as usual) as a kid-unloading zone. Another guy was biking his kid to the same school. He shouted at the other driver about how he was putting other kids’ lives at risk.

    That needs to be what these kinds of drivers experience, every day. Shouting from cyclists, pedestrians, etc., until they get the message. Because we shouldn’t start bashing their rear view mirrors with our bike locks.

  • Regina Gradess

    I agree with the parking meter rate. Charging more and limiting the time allowed to park would help open up spaces on a regular basis. Still the one lane both ways is dangerous as it complicates allowing emergency vehicles through.

  • Vooch

    every single study has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that cyclists spend more at local shops than drivers

    If you want to support local businesses, you’d be demanding the car storage lanes be for exclusive commercial vehicle use only.

    don’t punish cyclists because drivers refuse to store their private property off Dyckman

  • Larry Littlefield

    Is Nagle Avenue cobblestones, or am I thinking of 10th?

  • AnoNYC

    There is no evidence that bicycle lanes have negatively impacted citywide emergency service response times.

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed x100. These watered down plans are not scalable if the community is introduced with a poor variant.

  • JarekFA

    And I wasn’t kidding about the flowers! 10.30pm at night, not many places you can get still get a dozen red roses at that time. But, somehow, without a car, I managed to do so. No double-parking involved. I’m not some alien. I’m not a weirdo. I just recognize that parking is a huge pain in the ass in a densely populated city.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bea00e1673dcf21976ee8bf9a8407893654ba54ef26c77c9ab79421ab5d31be3.jpg

  • iSkyscraper

    Why are you double parking for “a quick stop for a cafe and flan” or to pick up a cake? Do you not live in Inwood? Most Inwood residents walk to the store or take the bus. And what happens to traffic when you double park and take out an entire lane of moving traffic.

    Wow. Just wow.

  • iSkyscraper

    There are no cobblestones left in Inwood. They have all unfortunately been paved over.

  • cjstephens

    So stop sending these jokers money. And write them a letter to tell them why. And most of all, stop voting for them. They are not our allies. Never were.

  • cjstephens

    In all seriousness, I think inviting elected officials to ride around the neighborhoods they represent is a great idea, one that we should encourage. Nothing like experiencing the heart-stopping terror first hand to get someone to change his or her mind.

  • SteveVaccaro

    That’s not how politics and relationships work.

  • cjstephens

    How else are you going to hold politicians accountable? You either withhold your money and/or you withhold your vote. Clearly all these sharply worded editorials on Streetsblog don’t seem to be changing their minds.Trying to shame politicians into doing the right thing doesn’t work: they have no sense of shame.

  • DoctorMemory

    I like the fact that La Marina has anchored the (formerly pretty desolate) west end of Dyckman and turned it into a for-real nightlife district and don’t want to see them go anywhere, but the traffic situation there is just insane.

    We should seriously consider closing Dyckman west of Broadway to traffic on weekend nights, but you’d have to close the Dyckman exit from 9A south to do that fully and it’s hard to see that happening.

  • iSkyscraper

    The myth that they worked some kind of miracle over the wastelands of Dyckman is just spin. There was always a parks concession there. It was mismanaged and eventually kicked out after drug busts, so Parks put out an RFP for a greatly upgraded restaurant and cafe. Any respondent to that RFP would have successfully anchored the west end of Dyckman. However, as much as you might personally like nightlife in a city park that use was never approved and could not be approved unless an EAS was done, which would fail due to the obvious traffic geography.

    Dyckman is already essentially closed on summer weekends, at enormous public cost, by many traffic police that now have to deal with the mess. They put up barriers all over the place while on duty. But the issue remains that the use is illegal, the valet parking is illegal, and if Inwood had any laws at all you would not be seeing so much congestion. Just as with the bike lanes, the absence of any normalcy of enforcement of city rules and regulations causes huge problems.

  • HMJ

    Well said.

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