DOT Criticized for One-Way Central Park West Protected Bike Lane Plan

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.

Insert frown-face emoji here.

The Department of Transportation finally revealed late on Friday its long-awaited plans for a protected bike lane on Central Park West from 59th to 110th streets — but the agency’s tweet that the cycle track would consist only of a one-way northbound lane was roundly and immediately slammed on bike Twitter.

“This needs to be a 2 way bike lane just like Prospect Park,” said Melodie Bryant, referring to the two-way lane alongside Brooklyn’s greenspace, which like Central Park, was designed by Olmsted and Vaux. “No reason not to do this.”

“There’s a chance to do something transformative here and make a very wide-two way bike lane,” added activist Doug Gordon. “Why make this one-way?”

Current conditions on Central Park West could be altered to create protected bike lanes on both sides of the two-way road — or an extra-wide two-way lane on the northbound side. Photo: Google
Current conditions on Central Park West could be altered to create protected bike lanes on both sides of the two-way road — or an extra-wide two-way lane on the northbound side. Photo: Google

The reason, others speculated, is parking. Protected bike lanes on both sides of Central Park West would likely require some reuse of public space that some residents and visitors believe exists solely so they can store their private cars. Several regular cyclists pointed out that Central Park West — which carries two lanes of travel in both directions, plus parking and bus stops on each side — is wide enough to handle more than just a single northbound protected bike lane. DOT often reconfigures four-lane roads into two-lane roads with turning bays to avoid backups created when drivers want to turn left.

The widespread call for a protected bike lane on Central Park West began in earnest after Australian tourist Madison Lyden was killed last year on the roadway by a drunken truck driver after she was forced into traffic when a cabbie cut her off and pulled into the painted bike lane. It was widely assumed that the agency would present a two-way protected lane to Community Board 7 on June 11 — but days before the meeting, the agency revealed its one-way, one-side proposal.

At least one member of the board put the proposal in a positive context.

“[A one-way lane] is something less than what many people wanted, but much more than we currently have,” said CB7 member Howard Yaruss.

But for now at least, Yaruss seemed to be in the minority of people able to see a half-full glass.

“You guys love to disappoint!” tweeted Macartney Morris. “But on the other hand: those who drive and park their cars will be overjoyed! Nice work, team.”

There is no information about the Central Park West plan on the DOT website, so it is unclear if the design calls for anything beyond a standard protected lane. Central Park is one of the city’s pre-eminent tourist attractions, drawing large crowds of out-of-towners, who are often unaccustomed to cyclists. Agency spokespeople did not return a late Saturday email for comment.

At the June 11 hearing, DOT officials will likely point out that there is a southbound protected lane on Columbus Avenue, one block to the west of Central Park. Plus, the roadway inside the park — which was was made off-limits to cars last year — goes in a southbound direction, meaning that cyclists can get from points north to Midtown along Columbus or within the park.

Still, the the one-way/one-lane plan will likely disappointed local Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who has called for a two-way protected lane along Central Park West’s eastern side — just as Prospect Park has a two-way lane along its edge.

Community Board 7 has also called for more protection — and redoubled that call after Lyden’s death — but, as Streetsblog reported last year, “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.”

The board was motivated by statistics showing that between 2012 and Lyden’s death on Aug. 10, 2018, over 430 people were injured on Central Park West, including 113 cyclists, according to city data compiled by committee member Richard Robbins. Since August 2018, there have been 386 crashes along Central Park West, resulting in injuries to 26 cyclists, 14 pedestrians and 34 motorists, with Lyden as the lone fatality.

  • thomas040

    They COULD also remove bits of the side walks on either side, or you know…. simply disallow parking of private property on public streets. Empty cars that just sits around takes up SO much space on a street. It’s around 20-25% at my best guess, and that’s a lot of space that could be used for people, or other modes of transportation.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I figured the would make CPW one-way, and perhaps go with two sets of one-way pairs rather than one one-way pair and two two-way streets, changing West End Avenue.

    But that would be a bigger deal. And politicians running for higher office don’t want big deals.

  • This is inefficient.

  • crazytrainmatt

    A two-way lane would really help out cyclists trying to enter the park so they didn’t have to backtrack or ride in traffic on CPW.

    It would also permit people heading downtown to skip the Columbus Circle exit, which is crowded and without provision for bikes, by switching to CPW at 72 or 67th.

  • AMH

    Why do cars need to drive southbound on CPW when they have Columbus Avenue one block west?

  • HamTech87

    Accompanying PBLs should be a priced parking system for the remaining CPW parking spaces. What to price a parking space? Here’s one possible answer to maximize turnover: Assuming square feet cost of CPW housing rent is about $2,000 (a premium over the $1,773 Manhattan average). Then multiply that by the 180 feet in a parking space. Divide by hours in a year (8,760) and get $41/hour or $10 for 15 minutes. Primo parking pricing for primo real estate. Given the limos I see waiting for passengers outside CPW buildings, shouldn’t be much of an imposition for them to charge their passengers a 10 buck surcharge while waiting in front.

  • MatthewEH

    The trouble with this plan is the PBL would become the Upper West Side’s greatest salmon run. The existing nonprotected lane already attracts many more wrong-way riders than any other comparable lane I can think of.

    The First Avenue PBL above 59th Street used to be like this, back in the day when Second Avenue Subway construction was still wrapping and there were *no* bike facilities on 2nd Ave south of 98th street or so.

    Since people are going to ride wrong-way on any proposed CPW PBL, the plan simply needs to provide for 2-way traffic from the get-go.

  • Jacob

    DOT makes its priorities crystal clear:

    2-way for cars
    1-way for bikes

  • qrt145

    It looks like you are using the price per square foot for _buying_ an apartment as if it were the annual rent. (Trulia says it is currently at $1484 per sq ft., but let’s round it up.)

    But $41/hour for parking is ridiculous, considering that the existing parking garages manage to charge much less than that and still make a profit, even after paying their employees. Monthly rates are generally under $1000, about the daily rate you’d estimate ($41 * 24 is $984). That said, some garages might charge you $20 or more for the first hour because they want to minimize turnover, which is labor-intensive.

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