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Upper West Side Community Board Strongly Backs CPW Protected Bike Lane

The city is being sued to block a protected bike lane on Central Park West — where Madison Lyden was killed last year. Photo: David Meyer

Safety advocates defeated defenders of parking on Tuesday night as Community Board 7 overwhelmingly backed a city plan to install a protected bike lane on Central Park West — a vote that came on the birthday of a cyclist whose death on the roadway last summer set into motion this week's action.

After a raucous two hours of debate and testimony, the board voted 27-7 in favor, with five abstentions.

"Madison Lyden died on Central Park West because the city failed her," said Joan Dean, a member of Families for Safe Streets, referring to the Australian tourist who was forced into traffic, where she was killed, because the painted bike lane was blocked by a cab. "If there was a protected bike lane on Central Park West, Madison would be alive today."

The plan that earned the board's approval calls for a protected bike lane alongside Central Park, plus pedestrian refuges. It will allow the city to reclaim 400 spots that sit in the public right of way, but are currently set aside for storage of privately owned cars. Overnight on-street car parking was not legal in New York until the 1950s, though several car owners testified that the bike lane will cause hardships to drivers, who are the tiny minority on the Upper West Side.

Before the board vote, members of Transportation Alternatives rallied in support of the bike lane. Photo: TransAlt
Before the board vote, members of Transportation Alternatives rallied in support of the bike lane. Photo: TransAlt
Before the board vote, members of Transportation Alternatives rallied in support of the bike lane. Photo: TransAlt

Other opponents claimed that the redesign of the street will cause congestion, but Department of Transportation officials, citing analysis from other street redesigns, says that travel speeds for drivers remain consistent.

But the board was persuaded by substantial testimony from supporters, several of whom pointed out that 15 cyclists have been killed this year in New York City, up from 10 all of last year.

"Tickets will not solve this problem — infrastructure will," said George Beane. "The right to safe streets is a real right for all kinds of New Yorkers: pedestrians, old people, young people, cyclists."

"I think a few parking places does not equal a life," added KC Rice.

Even Inspector Timothy Malin of the 20th Precinct — who called himself "agnostic" on the bike lane — held great sway telling board members, "If you're going to do it, do it right and use a protected bike lane."

"It's not a matter of if there's going to be another Madison Lyden," he added. "If the current configuration stays in place, it's a matter of when."

This reporter, testifying as director of Streetopia UWS, reminded the board that it represents all Upper West Siders, not just car owners. The vast majority of Upper West Siders don't own cars and don't park on the streets. And, regardless, the curb is a public space and should be dedicated to the best and highest use, which is most definitely not free parking."

Supporter Reed Rubey delivered 1,000 petition signatures supporting the redesign.

In the end, some would-be opponents were persuaded by logic.

"If something about this bike lane is off, it can be put back," said board member Sara Lind. "However, if someone else dies, that can't be put back."

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