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Upper West Siders To DOT: Make Central Park West Bike Lane Even Safer

Madison Lyden’s ghost bike, commemorating where she was killed by a driver in 2018. Photo: David Meyer

A group of Upper West Side residents that fights for livable streets has asked the Department of Transportation to make the incoming Central Park West bike lane even safer.

The members of Streetopia UWS fired off a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg commending the agency for its proposed protected lane on Central Park West, but asked for upgrades that would make the area safer for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders — through a design that would start to rebalance public space away from drivers in the minority car-owning neighborhood.

Specifically, the organization asked the DOT for two upgrades to the plan. One, to install split phase turning, a design that gives pedestrians and cyclists a separate signal phase from drivers so they can get through intersections. The group proposes such light timing at 65th and 66th streets, 81st Street, 86th Street and 96th and 97th streets, key intersections where drivers will be attempting to make left turns.

"Without split phases, southbound drivers will still primarily be looking for gaps in motor vehicle traffic and will be less likely to look for walkers and bikers when they do find a gap. We need split phases at these intersections," the group wrote to the DOT.

Second, Streetopia asked the DOT to consider installing bus boarding islands along Central Park West to ensure that northbound buses can safely pick up passengers without having to fight through traffic. These islands, sidewalk-level platforms installed in the bike lane that allow buses to stop in traffic as opposed to having to pull over to the sidewalk, have been successfully piloted in Los Angeles. The DOT has already proposed using the floating bus stops in a planned bike lane on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, so the ask isn't exactly in the realm of science fiction, Michael Kaess pointed out.

Such bus platforms, Streetopia points out, could keep drivers from pulling into the bus/bike lane and starting a series of unsafe maneuvers that end with cyclists trying to go around buses by pulling into the car traffic lane — the very scenario that cost Madison Lyden her life in August, 2018.

At the heart of Streetopia's requests is a philosophy that the "balance"-obsessed DOT simply has not embraced, even as other cities around the country and around the world attempt to take cars off the road: dramatically reducing the level of service for drivers.

"Our concern for the safety of our most vulnerable far outweighs any concern we might have for level of service for motor vehicles," the organization wrote to the DOT.

The agency has yet to respond.

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