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 lies crumpled on the sidewalk after she was killed by a truck driver on Aug. 10.
Madison Lyden's bike lies crumpled on the sidewalk after she was killed by a truck driver on Aug. 10.

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.”

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Might be time to finally decide that parking along every inch of curb isn’t mandatory, especially where there aren’t any adjacent residences or businesses.

  • There should never be parked cars along a park. It’s a blight and awful use of public space that attracts tons of humans who walk and cycle, of all ages. CPW should have dedicated 2 way bus lanes and 2 way bike lanes and then, if there’s some room, barely enough room for 2 min width lanes for private cars so there’s no way for drivers to go more than 20 mph. This has always been a gross misuse of public space.

  • MatthewEH

    Watching this with interest, for sure. The treatment at the transverse entrances and exits will have to be carefully done; I think the obvious approaches here would be problematic.

  • walks bikes drives

    Not at all. It should actually be quite simple. There are only 4 transverses that they need to deal with in a stretch of 2.5 miles. Split phase signals and raise the grade of the bike lane at these 4 points. The bis stops should also be to the west of the bike lane and not on the sidewalk. While I have been shown nothing but respect by M10 drivers while in the CPW bike lane (unlike many express bus drivers on 5th Ave), cutting the interaction, especially for a bus line that is not nearly as busy as some of the other routes nearby, like the 7, 11, and 104, just makes sense.

  • MatthewEH

    Well, the 66th & 96th Street transverses actually split on westbound approach to CPW; both of those affect two intersections each at CPW (65th plus 66th, and 96th plus 97th, respectively.) So it’s really 6 intersections in play. I suppose the westbound legs of that (66th; 97th) don’t _overly_ complicate things in that any north/south bike traffic should be facing a red when those drivers have a green, but it’s not nothing either. It’ll be super-frustrating if the timing of these light pairs tends to let you through the first of the lights but then stops you cold at the second one. So the design would have to account for that, for both northbound and southbound cyclists.

    The trouble I anticipate with split-phase is that it’ll cut down on the amount of time cyclists have to go through. At 65th and 86th, this is already not in a good place due to a dedicated left-turn-only phase for south-to-eastbound drivers. Anyway, if cyclists are given even less adequate time to proceed, I’m sure that northbound riders especially will just tend to proceed on a bike-red, car-green-arrow like they do in other places where the bike green phase is inadequate. (The Broadway lane and the every-block-a-split-phase treatments on 8th & 9th Ave in Chelsea come to mind.)

    This could be mooted only if DOT makes the hard decision just to give cross-traffic less time and possibly “degrade” level-of-service. (Maybe they could do something where northbound traffic gets a green right-arrow, eastbound traffic gets a green left-arrow, and everyone else gets a red? Not sure.)

  • MatthewEH

    Or maybe this’d be a good use of the “soft” split-phase design where bikes get a long leading interval (and drivers a red arrow). Then later the arrow for drivers turns into a flashing yellow, perhaps accented with a white strobe, indicating that drivers may proceed but are still obliged to yield to straight-through traffic.

  • AMH

    “To do a protected bike lane on CPW would require we either lose one
    direction of traffic…Or we’d have to lose parking spaces on one
    side of the street…”

    There’s a third option, of course. One lane in each direction. There’s no reason we need FOUR lanes of traffic on CPW.

  • MatthewEH

    I think a 4-to-3 conversion would leave enough space for 2 parking lanes and a bidirectional protected bike lane. Especially as the existing door-zone bike lane space could now be spent on the PBL and its buffer. For what it’s worth.

  • J

    Great. Maybe someday in the future, we can build safe streets BEFORE people are maimed and killed.

  • AMH

    Exactly–DOT has done this exact conversion on so many streets.

  • Daphna

    Converting from 4 to 3 lanes on Central Park West would be great. Eliminating parking on the park side of Central Park West would also be great. Then there would be enough space for a robust, comfortably wide-enough bi-directional bike lane protected with concrete jersey barriers.
    Tremendous to see CB9 Transportation Committee advocating for safer streets as opposed to when Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert were co-chairs of that committee and led the committee to fight against safer street designs.

  • Daphna

    That is my vision too: that there is no parking along the park side of a street. That space is better dedicated to bike or bus infrastructure, or wider sidewalks if those are needed. There is no excuse for parking on the park side of a street. No one can claim loading/unloading, picking up/dropping off, etc. Those are rarely what curbside parking is used for, but those are typical the reasons given for defending it. But on a park side of the street, the parking is blatantly long term car storage (for free).

  • walks bikes drives

    True, they are separated there, but this is not important because only one of the intersections for each transverse will potentially have vehicles crossing at the same time as bikes. For the westbound portions of the transverse on 66 and 96, no treatment is necessary.

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