The protected bike lanes on Columbus Avenue from 96th to 77th Streets start and end nowhere. They don’t link up with other north-south bike paths, so people riding on them need to rejoin car traffic at either end.
Bicycling activists are pissed off about this — they think the local community board, which has been divided on the lanes, should have already asked the city to add new lanes. And they said so at a heated Community Board 7 committee meeting last week.
Initial data has shown some safety improvements on Columbus, but the lanes aren’t universally loved and appreciated. It also wasn’t clear if they were being used very much, at least initially. Some pedestrians think bicyclists put them in danger, particularly when they don’t follow the traffic laws. Also, when the city Transportation Department first put the Columbus Avenue lanes in, business owners said they didn’t respond to their concerns about the lanes. A committee of local leaders spent months going business to business smoothing things over. The DOT also took away more parking spaces than they had said they would at a public hearing. It’s no wonder then that locals are wary about adding more lanes.
That said, maybe we’ve learned our lessons? Maybe we’re ready to embrace the future?
“I think the board is realizing that they need to be more proactive in their decision making when it comes to the streets. So, yes, I think they are going to have to be more receptive to the lanes,” biking advocate Lisa Sladkus wrote to us.
The lanes have definitely made many bicyclists more comfortable riding on the street. And a bike-friendly city is safer, more eco-friendly, healthier, maybe even happier, right?
“I am in rough water, with sharks” when biking in the street with cars, said Detta Ahl, a resident who spoke at a preliminary meeting about the lanes last week. “When I’m in the protected bike lane, I am in a pool, with a lane line, and a lifeguard.”
There are some big obstacles to moving ahead with lanes stretching all the way from 59th to 110th Streets on Amsterdam and Columbus. The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District has been hesitant to add lanes in the Lincoln Square area, which could be a significant obstacle — the lanes will have to run through the 60′s to meet up with midtown bike lanes. And the DOT initially shied away from putting lanes on Amsterdam Avenue, where the streets are narrower than Columbus, meaning the city would have to eliminate a full driving lane to put in a parking lane (the Columbus bike lanes didn’t eliminate any driving lanes, they just made the existing lanes narrower).
Bike lanes will be on the agenda at November’s full community board meeting. The DOT is unlikely to move ahead without the community board’s approval.
And let us know your feelings in the comments. We’ve also reposted our previous poll about Amsterdam Avenue bike lanes below:
Photo by Avi.