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Adriano Espaillat

Will the Dyckman Street Redesign Survive the CB 12 Gauntlet?

The redesigned Dyckman has made crossing the street safer. Photo: Brad Aaron

With Ydanis Rodriguez, Gale Brewer, and Adriano Espaillat ganging up on a safer Dyckman Street, Manhattan Community Board 12 has scheduled a series of May meetings on Dyckman "traffic calming issues." According to the board, DOT will participate.

To recap: Last December DOT installed curbside parking-protected bike lanes on Dyckman. The culmination of nine years of advocacy by local residents, the bike lanes give cyclists much-needed separation from motor vehicles, while sidewalk extensions shorten pedestrian crossing distances and slow driver turns.

For decades, people on bikes had no designated space on Dyckman, one of Inwood's major commercial corridors. Double-parking was ubiquitous and unchecked. Between 2009 and 2017, traffic crashes on Dyckman caused more than 300 injuries. In a neighborhood where roughly three-fourths of households don't own a car, prioritizing people on the street was long overdue.

But a few weeks after the bike lanes went in, Brewer and Espaillat called on DOT to rip them out. They've offered up loads of excuses to explain their position, but what it comes down to is this: Motorists can't illegally double-park on Dyckman as easily as they used to, business owners don't like it, and Brewer and Espaillat are ready to undo a major street safety project to score political points.

Joining them is Rodriguez, who wants DOT to replace the existing bike lanes with a two-way bikeway on Dyckman's north side -- a design that would create more conflicts between bikes and motor vehicles than the current layout.

Will CB 12 pressure DOT to return Dyckman to the bad old days? Photo: NYC DOT
Will CB 12 pressure DOT to return Dyckman to the bad old days? Photo: NYC DOT
Will CB 12 pressure DOT to return Dyckman to the bad old days? Photo: NYC DOT

It's normal for merchants to complain about bike lanes at first, but objections typically taper off as people get used to the new design. The fear that bike lanes and other improvements are harmful to commerce is not supported by empirical before-and-after data collected on commercial streets with bike lanes.

What Dyckman needs is higher meter rates for curbside parking when demand is heaviest, which reduces traffic and double-parking on commercial streets. Bike lanes are not responsible for Dyckman parking dysfunction, and tearing them out will make the street more dangerous.

Earlier this week CB 12 announced a Dyckman "fact finding" meeting on May 1, followed a week later by a DOT presentation, with a vote on a resolution later in the month. It’s unclear what the community board and Rodriguez have in mind, but with local officials ready to give up on the bike lanes, the board could amp up the pressure on DOT.

DOT hasn't responded to multiple Streetsblog queries concerning Dyckman Street.

We'll have more on the community board meetings in future posts. In the meantime, Transportation Alternatives has posted a petition in support of a safer Dyckman, to deliver to electeds and CB 12. You can add your name here.

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