Upper West Siders Strengthen Push for Crosstown Bike Lanes

The vote gives the DOT a mandate to improve an important transportation and business corridor. 

W. 72nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Photo: Google Maps
W. 72nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

An influential Manhattan community board voted Tuesday night to support a protected bike lane on 72nd Street — joining a growing push for safe routes for cyclists to traverse upper Manhattan amid the city’s pandemic-induced bike boom.

Community Board 7, following unanimous approval from its transportation committee in July, voted 37 to 6 to call on the Department of Transportation to install a two-way protected bike lane on 72nd Street from Central Park West to Riverside Drive — a wide thoroughfare with two lanes for cars in each direction, where a total of 178 crashes, causing 38 injuries, including to 10 cyclists and 17 pedestrians, have happened since June 2018, according to Crash Mapper.

Cyclists need a safe route that connects them to two popular green spaces, including one of the world’s busiest bike lanes, the Hudson River Greenway, and Central Park — the district has three north-south protected bike lanes but no way to safely ride across town on a protected bike lane, advocates say. The vote gives the DOT a mandate to create a plan that improves an important transportation and business corridor.

“The Upper West Side is asking for a 72nd Street that works for the neighborhood — one that safely connects bikers and walkers to our beloved parks, the Upper East Side, and the Hudson River Greenway,” said Lisa Orman of local street-safety advocacy group, Streetopia UWS. “And, especially during this bike boom, a protected bike lane across 72nd Street would allow families to bike together, kids to get to school and the park, and all members of the cycling community a safe way to connect to our north-south corridors.”

Community Board 7’s resolution also calls on the city to implement loading zones to meet the demand for deliveries along 72nd Street to reduce the rampant double-parking that puts cyclists in danger when they are forced to swerve out into traffic.

“Despite this abundant space, West 72nd is often reduced to a single lane in each direction due to rampant double-parking,” the resolution states.

The support comes after Transportation Alternatives mounted a campaign for crosstown bike lanes, including on 72nd Street. An informal poll from Streetopia UWS found that the most popular crosstown path is 72nd Street, despite its lack of a protected bike lane.

It also comes as several upper Manhattan community boards are urging the city to create safe routes for bike riders through Central Park, following the death of a doctor who was killed by a school-bus driver while riding a Citi Bike last year, and a surge in ridership near the park throughout the pandemic.

The co-chairman of  the transportation committee, Howard Yaruss, said that the protected bike lane and other improvements to West 72 Street “will reduce chaos and increase safety, access and mobility” for all users.

“My only regret is that the city government makes communities fight for these changes street by street, resulting in great disparities across the city,”  Yaruss added. “Equity demands that the city develop a connected bike-lane network so that all New Yorkers can benefit from these life-saving improvements.”

A spokesman for DOT said 72nd Street is not on the agency’s list for 2020.

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