CB 12 Expected to Call on DOT to Erase Dyckman Bike Lanes, Which CB 12 Endorsed

Thank Gale Brewer and Adriano Espaillat.

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Less than a year after endorsing long-awaited DOT bike and pedestrian safety measures for Dyckman Street in Inwood, Manhattan Community Board 12 is expected to vote next week on a resolution calling for their removal.

In an email blast to Upper Manhattan residents, Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, who chairs the board’s parks committee, said the resolution would ask DOT to “consider a more thoughtful proposal for a crosstown bike path connector on another street.”

“After several meetings and much public testimony,” wrote Ritter, “it is clear that everyone agrees there’s a problem with the current configuration, even if there’s disagreement on how best to fix the problem(s).”

Ritter’s assessment is misleading, to say the least.

Implemented last December, the Dyckman Street redesign — which added bike lanes that separate cyclists from car traffic, shortened pedestrian crossing distances, and slowed driver turns — didn’t come from nowhere. If a citizen-generated project shaped by nine years of public feedback sessions and community board hearings isn’t “thoughtful,” what would qualify?

Nor by any stretch is there consensus that the new design is a failure.

It’s too soon for DOT to have definitive Dyckman data, but in other locations protected bike lanes have improved safety across the board, particularly for pedestrians. Travel times on Dyckman have actually improved with the new design, according to DOT. Anecdotes concerning slowed emergency response times have not been supported by data, and last week an FDNY official attributed what problems there are to double-parked drivers.

And there’s the rub. In reality, CB 12 is relitigating the Dyckman Street bike lanes because a handful of business owners are upset that drivers can’t illegally double-park as easily as they used to.

Seeing an opportunity to curry favor with merchants who are anxious about Mayor de Blasio’s plan to rezone the neighborhood, local Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer amplified those complaints by conflating the Dyckman redesign and the rezoning as dual threats to commerce, contrary to before-and-after data showing no negative impact to businesses on commercial streets that have bike lanes.

Brewer and Espaillat have requested that DOT undo the Dyckman project and replace it with bike lanes on 204th Street, two blocks north. This would create a circuitous bike route no one would actually use, and it suggests pedestrian and cyclist safety should be an afterthought on a commercial street in a neighborhood where close to three-fourths of households are car-free. It also dismisses nearly a decade of advocacy on the part of locals who volunteered time and effort to see the project through.

More than 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman between 2009 and 2017, according to city data. There is no real-world justification to return the street to the dysfunctional mess it used to be. Which is why Espaillat and his protege Marisol Alcantara, the local State Senate rep, have resorted to framing Dyckman improvements as an attack on Inwood’s majority Dominican population — none of whom, according to surrogates for Espaillat and Alcantara, have any use for a street that is safer to walk and bike on.

Dyckman before and after. Photos: DOT, Brad Aaron
Dyckman before and after. Photos: DOT, Brad Aaron

To reduce traffic and double-parking on Dyckman, DOT should raise meter rates when demand for curbside spaces is heaviest. Dyckman safety upgrades are not the problem, and erasing them will only make the street more dangerous for everyone who uses it.

DOT has signaled that the Dyckman bikeway is safe for the time being, but has not ruled out future changes. CB 12 needs to hear from the public — again — that there is no going back to the bad old days.

The board will meet next Tuesday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m. at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Milstein Center, 173 Ft. Washington Avenue.

  • DoctorMemory

    Meanwhile, Brewer is calling for the expansion of the Wall Street pedestrian zone, because the FiDi BID actually has its shit together and apparently Brewer simply blows whichever way the local merchants’ association wants her to, actual planning be damned.

  • Liz Ritter

    I stand by what I wrote in my eblast, which reflects *MY* opinion, not the Community Board’s thinking. I am not empowered to speak for the Board other than to state what happens at its meetings and what resolutions it passes.

    It’s important to note — not that anyone would know from reading your post — that I VOTED AGAINST the resolution passed by the Executive Committee for the full Board’s consideration on Tuesday calling on DoT to remove the bike lanes. I do not believe the reso captures the range of opinion on the subject or effectively advocates for shared use of our City’s streets, and I found the entire experience quite frustrating. I also think that this radical and unnuanced approach will be rejected by DoT and undermines our credibility with the agency. If the substance of the resolution isn’t changed in the course of our discussion next week I will against it then, too.

    I have been advocating for more than a decade for a Dyckman connector for the Harlem & Hudson River Greenways. I wrote the original 2008 and 2009 resolutions. I really don’t appreciate how your blog post utterly fails to reflect my passionate (and alas unsuccessful so far) argument for a more thoughtful consideration of DoT’s problematic execution. Personally I think that 204th St. is a silly idea because it is circuitous. That’s why we rejected it a decade ago. I think the way to go is to look at a protected 2-way lane on one side if the street (probably south side since there are fewer intersections, but I don’t know) and to have parking on only one side of the street (I don’t know which side) and enough room for one lane in each direction that traffic would still flow if there’s a double-parked vehicle. I also think we need more enforcement, as well as traffic agents helping flow at intersections innthe months as people get used to the new configuration. That’s a resolution I can get behind, and would have advocated for if I’d had any sense that a majority of my colleagues would support that.

    Instead of picking on me — who pretty much shares your position — has it occurred to you to object to those who don’t actually agree with you?

  • Liz Ritter

    Me again. I’d like to point out that your blog “helpfully” quotes from the eblast I wrote BEFORE the Executive meeting, when I thought the reso would take a more nuanced approach based on the diverse public opinion we received at the joint Committee meeting and the Public Hearing.

    Your blog post did not quote from the eblast I wrote AFTER that meeting and which follows:

    “Dyckman Bike Lanes Two weeks ago Community Board 12 hosted a joint meeting of the Business Development, Licensing, Traffic & Transportation, and Public Safety Committees to discuss the current situation with the new Dyckman Street bike lanes, and was joined by representatives of the NYC Department of Transportation, the NYPD, FDNY, elected officials, and many members of the business community. Traffic is a hot mess, emergency vehicles can’t get through, and businesses are having issues with deliveries and decreased number of customers. Last week there was a public hearing at which DoT presented both short-term fixes and long-term solutions, and last night the CB’s Executive Committee passed a resolution requesting that DoT remove the bike lanes in the interest of public safety and business development. The resolution will go before the full Board next week. Personally I oppose this resolution, and voted against it. While I agree that the current configuration is not working, I believe that we need an east/west connector to link the Harlem & Hudson River Greenways and to support the safe shared use of our streets by multiple types of users. I think that some of DoT’s proposed fixes (change the signal timing, widen the existing lanes and narrow the bike lane buffer) combined with aggressive enforcement of double-parking and increased public education will help to mitigate the current situation.”

    I do not have polite language to characterize what I think of your standard of journalism, so I guess I’ll just leave what I’m not saying to your imagination.

  • Brad Aaron

    Hey Liz.

    It seems like we don’t agree.

    I think a 2-way bike lane on one side of the street is a bad idea, since as proposed it would create more conflicts between cyclists and drivers than the current design, as you say. We’ve published several posts to that effect since CM Rodriguez floated it. As I understand he chose the north side because that was less objectionable to certain business owners, so I don’t see it flipping to the south side.

    Also, any design intended to facilitate double-parking (“enough room for one lane in each direction that traffic would still flow if there’s a double-parked vehicle”) should be a non-starter.

    Again, the only reason we’re having this conversation is because people are unhappy that double-parking isn’t as easy as it used to be. Undoing the current design would be conceding the argument.

    I appreciate your email blasts, and get a lot of info from them. I understand that you’re speaking for yourself, but what impression do you think people get from this >>?

    “CB12 is disturbed by the public safety hazard posed by traffic on Dyckman Street, always a problem from double-parking but deeply exacerbated by the recent placement of bike lanes and the elimination of driving space to only one lane in each direction. It’s also posed a serious threat to the health of the local business community due to restricted access of the curbside both for deliveries and for customers.”

    “Although an east/west bike lane is desperately needed for cyclist safety and biking infrastructure, the current configuration has proven to be a challenge for local businesses, and is posing a serious public safety hazard due to congestion.“

    It sure seems like you’re saying that you share the board’s opinion that the redesign is dangerous and harmful to business. I don’t see any other way to read it. And there is no evidence that any of it is true.

    As it says here and in other Streetsblog posts, Dyckman has an illegal parking problem, not a bike lane problem. Erasing this design isn’t going to change that.

  • Liz Ritter

    Hey Brad:

    Is there some part of “I voted against this resolution” that you didn’t understand?

    It’s fine that we disagree on the best solution for Dyckman Street but I agree that there should be protected bike lane(s) on Dyckman. I am not a traffic engineer so I don’t pretend to know what is the best solution. Clearly it has to involve some loss of parking, and some loss of road space for use by motor vehicles, but beyond that I don’t claim to have answers.

    I do believe that the reconfiguration of Dyckman Street has exacerbated some difficulties that the local businesses are experiencing and I think this is a problem which needs to be addressed. To say so is not to pander, nor is it to suggest that the bike lanes be removed.

    I think it is possible to disagree with someone while also being sensitive to their needs and priorities, which may well be different than my own.

    But once again let me repeat: I oppose removing the bike lanes.

    If your goal is to get get CB12 to pass a resolution that preserves the bike lanes, publicly arguing with someone who SHARES YOUR POSITION is an odd strategy, and one that is unlikely to succeed.

    But you just go on doing you, and let me know how that works out for ya.

  • Brad Aaron

    “I’m for bike lanes, just not these” is not my position.

  • Liz Ritter

    It’s not mine either.

  • cjstephens

    Indeed. So please, please people: stop voting for Brewer.

  • DoctorMemory

    At this point I would sooner vote for Charles Manson, and plan on volunteering for anyone running against her.

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