New York City Tests Local Sentiment by Reconsidering Scrapped Bike Lane Plan

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A stalled idea of putting a protected bike lane on a stretch of a Manhattan avenue is coming up for air, offering a test of public sentiment about New York City’s often-contentious bike lane boom.

On the docket Thursday for Community Board 7′s Transportation Committee meeting: whether to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to look at lengthening the existing two-year-old Columbus Avenue bike lane — and redesigning Amsterdam Avenue to accommodate one.

Again.

When the Upper West Side’s CB7 first began mulling over bike lanes in 2009, the group requested a study looking at protected lanes on both avenues, stretching from 59th to 110th streets. The DOT came back with a proposal for a single Columbus Avenue lane, running southbound from 96th Street to 77th Street. Amsterdam Avenue, the DOT decided, was too narrow to accommodate three travel lanes and a protected bike lane. The Columbus Avenue proposal was passed by the full board — after failing at the committee level — in 2010.

So why is an Amsterdam Avenue lane back on the table?

“This is an effort to see whether our priorities as a community might have changed,” said Mark Diller, the chair of CB7, “not whether the width of a lane or the width of an avenue has changed.”

He said that a member of the CB7 board wants the city to take another look at an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane — as had other community groups. ” It’s a matter that’s of interest to members of the community,” said Diller, “so the community board will respond by taking a careful look at it.”

And lessons learned during the first few months of the Columbus Avenue bike lane could help smooth the way for future lanes in the neighborhood.

Amsterdam Avenue and 84th Street (image from Google street view)

But Andrew Albert, the co-chair of CB7′s transportation committee, said he couldn’t ballpark what was going to happen at Thursday’s meeting. “Because this hasn’t come up yet, we don’t know how the discussion is going to go.”

Albert — who in 2010 didn’t support the installation of the Columbus Avenue lane –  said the committee wasn’t won over by the idea of putting in another protected lane a block west. “There’s a good number of people that don’t believe the Columbus one is working as intended,” he said, “so we’re going to reserve judgment on Amsterdam for sure.”

In one respect, said CB7 chair Mark Diller, the neighborhood had gotten off easy with the Columbus Avenue lane. Installing something similar on Amsterdam could require a politically sensitive decision that could spark some…lively debate. “Are we willing to trade a travel lane for a bike lane?” he asked.

Another view of Columbus Avenue, with protected bike lane on the right (image from Google street view)

By Kate Hinds. Kate is a contributor to Transportation Nation - a This Big City partner site where this post was first published.