NEW YORK—As part of continuing efforts to link unconnected bicycle lanes together into a larger network, officials with the city’s Department of Transportation have been seeking to extend a lane on Columbus Avenue both north and south.
A protected lane on the avenue between 77th and 96th streets exists, but lacks continuity into the bigger network of lanes, according to the department’s presentation to Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee.
The proposal would extend lanes north to 110th Street and south to 59th Street, with mostly protected lanes (lanes that are separated from vehicle lanes by a buffer zone and a parking lane).
But the committee did not pass on Tuesday evening a nonbinding resolution approving the project, instead voting 5–4 in favor with one abstention, which basically counts as a tie.
“I felt like the will of the people was definitely ignored, and people were really frustrated and quite angry that their testimony seemed to not matter at all to this community board and this committee,” said Lisa Sladkus, director of the Upper West Side Renaissance, a safe streets advocacy group.
About 150 people packed into the meeting, said Sladkus, and about 85 percent of them spoke in favor of the extensions.
But the committee was concerned with some of the information presented by the DOT, including how 42 parking spaces in the areas where the lanes would go would be eliminated. Among the committee, co-chair Dan Zweig said he wanted more information about the proposed lanes before he would vote yes.
“He has done that for every project that’s brought before him,” said Sladkus. “He will ask for more and more information, and no matter what you do, no matter how much outreach you do, no matter how many people you convince, he will say he needs more information.”
Committee Ran Out of Time
The committee ran out of time because the venue they were in needed to prepare for business the next day, according to Mark Diller, chair of Community Board 7. Yet the way the three-hour meeting went turned out to be a good thing in the end, he added.
“Having an interruption in the meeting gives the DOT a chance to answer some of the questions that were posed in the evening that needed follow up,” said Diller, adding that the DOT wouldn’t begin work until the spring, anyhow. The committee plans on continuing discussion in January.
Many members of the public shared their thoughts, leaving little time for committee discussion, which usually happens in reaching a consensus, according to Diller.
Diller himself, who doesn’t vote in committees as the chair of the board, said that he saw “a lot to like in the proposal,” but also “saw some really serious areas of concern, so I absolutely understand why we need to do additional work.”
White Says ‘Move Forward’
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling, walking, and public transit advocacy group, said that CB7 ignored the wishes of the community by not approving the proposal, and so the DOT should move forward anyway.“It’s time the city circumvented this backward thinking board and installed this lane and pedestrian improvements,” White said in a statement. “The people have spoken and their community board continues to ignore them.”
DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said in an email that the agency “will continue to work with the board as they provide feedback to us and develop a recommendation.”
Steve Vaccaro, a cyclist and lawyer, agrees that the DOT should consider moving forward.
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