People waiting in line to speak at Tuesday’s meeting.
By Meredith Kurz
A plan to redesign Amsterdam Avenue got a mostly positive review Tuesday night at a Community Board 7 meeting, as about 175 people packed the room, with dozens speaking out about the plan. The city-designed plan would add a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on the West side of the block, while narrowing Amsterdam to three driving lanes from four.
The parking lane on the East side of the block would become a commercial loading zone for much of the day, decreasing the number of parking spots for personal vehicles. New left turn lanes would be added, too. We’ve posted the entire presentation at the bottom of this post.
Several people said the redesign was a long-awaited improvement, and afterwards congratulated both Community Board 7 and the DOT. “I am so grateful for this plan & I know it’s going to save lives,” said Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter Ariel was hit and killed by a driver at 97th and Amsterdam in 2013.
The Community Board had reached out to the DOT with their concerns about a lack of a northbound bicycle lane to match up with the southbound Columbus lane. In the presentation, the DOT offered two alternatives for the bike lanes — on Broadway and Columbus — but Amsterdam seemed to be the primary focus.
If approved there will be a two part project implementation, with the first starting at 72nd and going north, and the 2nd, with the community board’s approval from the affected area starting after the completion of Phase I.
The DOT reps said Amsterdam Avenue has proven to be a deadly road, with a KSI (Killed or Severely Injured) of 8.9 per mile for pedestrians (19.7 including drivers and cyclists too). Protected bike lanes tend to make everyone on the road safer, DOT reps said. Total injuries on New York roads where they’ve been installed have dropped 20%, with pedestrian injuries down 22%.
The lanes are also necessary to handle a surge in bike ridership, city officials said. Since 2007, bicycle traffic was tripled on Amsterdam, according to a count the DOT did at Amsterdam between 85th and 86th street (see page 7 of the slideshow below). The expansion of CitiBike will only add to that.
According to the DOT study, the current designs encourages bad driver behavior (59% of vehicles are speeding at off-peak times), and there are high peak vehicle volumes.
After the presentation, slips of paper were handed out for any comments the public had. Also, the community formed a long line to ask “Questions of Fact” (vs. just voicing their opinion) to the DOT representatives. While a significant majority of the attendees appeared to strongly support the project, there were specific questions raised and suggestions proposed:
- A suggestion was made that some loading zones could be on side streets, reducing the double parking and other large delivery issues on Amsterdam.
- A suggestion to use bollards on certain corners to protect pedestrians, as several have been killed this past month from cars jumping the curb.
- One of the cyclists said that weighing the loss of parking vs. the loss of life, it was well worth the small number of parking spots.
- The Beacon Theater was mentioned as “The Mother of all Loading Zones”, and there was a question how to modify, or limit their monopolizing of space.
- A business owner who has a funeral home on 91stand Amsterdam was concerned about how families attending the services would be able to access their limos, walking across the bike lanes
- Several people expressed concern about what happens north of 110th(the northbound project ends there).
- Other specific corners and spots considered dangerous or difficult to maneuver were mentioned.
- A suggestion that West End Avenue become open to trucks was offered with the caveat that “A Green Awning Avenue” wouldn’t appreciate it.
- When a small business owner asked about deliveries and logistics, it was explained that the DOT has a team of ten Multilanguage outreach ambassadors who are reaching out to small businesses in the area to address their concerns and work with them on resolving them.
- Several of the questions relating to safety needed to be in the Police Department area vs. DOT, such as the ticketing of bicycles that are violating the traffic laws or food delivery bike laws.
- A question was raised if there were going to be any East – West bike lanes in the future.
- At least one person expressed that the modification of Amsterdam makes no sense and was misleading.
At the end of the presentation, the Community Board asked that any further comments or questions could be sent to the following email address: email@example.com.
Photos by Meredith Kurz.