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Adriano Espaillat

DOT Doesn’t Plan to Rip Out the Dyckman Street Protected Bike Lanes — For Now

Inwood resident Phil Betheil takes the mic to speak up for the Dyckman Street bikeway. Photo: Laura Shepard

Inwood residents and Upper Manhattan bike commuters turned out last night to defend Dyckman Street's new protected bike lanes from attacks by elected officials.

The big news from the hearing, which was convened by Manhattan Community Board 12, is that DOT left the door open for more changes to Dyckman in the future, but for now is planning only minor tweaks to address complaints.

The Dyckman Street bikeway began with a 2008 citizen proposal for protected bike lanes connecting the east- and west-side greenways. After a nine-year public process, the current design received CB 12's near-unanimous approval last summer.

Implemented last December, the project is too new for DOT to have substantive safety data. But unlike before, cyclists have designated space on the street, pedestrians have shorter crossing distances, and drivers are forced to take slower turns.

DOT staff noted last night that protected bike lanes have enhanced safety all over the city, especially for people walking.

More than 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman between 2009 and 2017, according to city data.

DOT undercut anecdotes that gridlock on Dyckman is worse than before the bike lanes went in. After a brief spike in morning commute times, DOT said, travel times gradually improved and are now faster than they were prior to the new design.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who are leading the charge for the lanes to be ripped out, have repeatedly claimed that the Dyckman bikeway slows FDNY response times. That's a go-to bikelash canard, and it was shot down too. An FDNY battalion chief attributed "problems with the new traffic patterns" to double-parked drivers. FDNY presented no data showing that Dyckman's new design has had any impact on firefighters' ability to do their jobs.

The redesigned Dyckman has made crossing the street safer. Electeds are ready to give it up to make it easier for drivers to double-park. Photo: Brad Aaron
The redesigned Dyckman has made crossing the street safer. Electeds are ready to give it up to make it easier for drivers to double-park. Photo: Brad Aaron
The redesigned Dyckman has made crossing the street safer. Photo: Brad Aaron

Regardless, electeds still want the bike lanes gone. In response, DOT has agreed to study the long-term possibility of a two-way protected bike lane on Dyckman’s north side -- a concept favored by local Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. However, DOT said, that idea has serious drawbacks because it would create more conflicts between bikes and cars than the current design.

Rodriguez again called for the removal of the bike lane on the south side of Dyckman. "I don't know if I can satisfy everyone, but I believe that we can reach a solution," he said, framing a bi-directional bikeway as a benefit to street users and business owners, who want drivers to have more room to double-park.

Espaillat and Brewer weren't there, but sent representatives to again ask that DOT erase the bike lanes. Electeds' staffers made a show of discounting the effort of locals who worked nearly a decade to see the project to fruition.

"Who is this for?" asked Espaillat community liaison Laurie Tobias-Cohen.

"Whose needs were considered?" wondered Angel Vasquez, who chimed in on behalf of State Senator Marisol Alcantara.

"You asked who uses the bike lane," said Maria Ryden during the public input session. "Me, an Inwood resident." Ryden called for more double-parking enforcement.

Identifying himself as a cyclist and pedestrian, Phil Betheil was greeted by a heckler: "Where do you live?"

"I live in Inwood," Betheil said. "We walk, we bike, three-quarters of Inwood residents don't own cars. We walk, we take the subway, or we take the bus. This is a pedestrian safety project, this is a cyclist safety project. Everybody benefits."

"If my elected officials won't protect these lives, then they've lost my vote," said Betheil.

H. Michael Jalili said he now bikes up and down the greenways with his nine-year-old son, thanks to the Dyckman bikeway.

"The bike lanes are a true asset," said Jalili. "They connect one bike lane to another. Prior to that, the only way I could do that was to bike on the sidewalk. There was no way I was going to let my nine-year-old child bike on any avenue, without a bike lane."

All told, 16 people expressed support for the new design, and 11 were opposed to it.

DOT reps outlined some near-term adjustments, including changes to signal timing, narrowing parking lanes, adding loading zones, adding right turn markings at Nagle Avenue,  and extending meter hours from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to improve parking turnover for restaurants and clubs.

At another recent CB 12 hearing, DOT reps said they would consider adjusting meter rates — which are currently $1 an hour — to make it easier to park on Dyckman. But that doesn't seem to be on the agenda.

CB 12 took no action yesterday, but plans to consider a resolution based on public comments at the next meeting of the full board, scheduled for May 22.

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