Central Park West Needs Protected Bike Lane, Says CB7 Panel

After Madison Lyden's death last month, Council Member Helen Rosenthal proposed a two-way path along the park's western edge.

Madison Lyden's bike after she was killed on Central Park West on Aug. 10, 2018.
Madison Lyden's bike after she was killed on Central Park West on Aug. 10, 2018.

The carnage on Central Park West has to stop, an Upper West Side community board committee said unanimously on Tuesday night.

Community Board 7’s transportation committee singularly called on the city Department of Transportation to design a protected bike lane for the western edge of the park — the first official vote of support for a plan put forward by Council Member Helen Rosenthal after 23-year-old Australian tourist Madison Lyden was killed by a truck after she was forced into traffic by a taxi parked in the existing painted bike lane last month.

“[A protected bike lane] would’ve saved this woman’s life,” said committee co-chair Howard Yaruss. “It’s been over two years since I first raised it. They [DOT] haven’t looked at it.”

Rosenthal’s proposal calls for a two-way protected bike lane similar to park-adjacent  lanes on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn and 111th Street in Queens. Such protected bike lanes are a proven strategy for reducing injuries for people walking and biking — yet DOT has balked at previous requests from the board for such an upgrade, no doubt knowing that a small, but vocal, minority of car owners would object if any on-street car storage is removed.

With Lyden’s death, however, the agency has said it is now considering safety improvements for the street.

Since 2012, over 430 people were injured on Central Park West, including 113 cyclists, according to city data compiled by committee member Richard Robbins. That pressing safety concern is why the 20th Precinct has endorsed Rosenthal’s proposal.

Photo: CB7
Photo: CB7

“We really like that. We think it’s a matter of time before something like that is going to happen again,” said Precinct Commanding Officer Timothy Malin, who was on hand. Earlier in the month, Malin had told the same board members that he had urged Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to prosecute Jose Peralta, the driver of the taxi that cut off and then blocked Lyden before her death. But Vance earned scorn from street safety advocates for failing to do so, just as he did four years ago when he did not prosecute the driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock in 2014.

Vance also did not prosecute a cab driver who hit a cyclist and drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, severing the leg of British tourist in 2013.

By declining to prosecute, Vance “sent a message to all reckless drivers in Manhattan that deadly behavior will not have any consequences under his watch,” Stock’s mother, Dana Lerner, and Lyden’s mother, Amanda Berry, said in a statement issued by Transportation Alternatives. “That absence of accountability has now taken another life. … D.A. Vance’s failure to prosecute reckless drivers is sheer cowardice, and as long as he continues to indulge such dangerous behavior, pedestrians and cyclists will continue to die on Manhattan streets.”

David Vassar read the statement from Madison Lyden's mom to Community Board 7's Transportation Committee before it voted unanimously in favor of a design for a protected bike lane on CPW. Photo: David Meyer
David Vassar read the statement from Madison Lyden’s mom to Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee before it voted unanimously in favor of a design for a protected bike lane on CPW. Photo: David Meyer

Tuesday’s CB7 panel vote was merely a request for DOT to come up with a redesign for the board to review — not an explicit endorsement of a two-way protected lane. Still, committee members are eager to get the street redesigned. One member of the board hinted at the fight to come.

“To do a protected bike lane on CPW would require we either lose one direction of traffic, which is awesome and fine with me,” said committee member Suzanne Robotti. “Or we’d have to lose parking spaces on one side of the street, which is also fine with me.”

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