Community Board Committee Supports Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Circle Redesign, While Raising Concerns

By Hannah Reale

Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee met on Tuesday night to offer feedback on new bike lanes proposed by the city Department of Transportation for Columbus Circle and the stretch of 10th Avenue/Amsterdam Avenue from 52nd Street to 72nd Street. The city expects to install the lanes before the end of this year.

The changes themselves are detailed in a West Side Rag piece from last month when the DOT presented this same plan to CB4.

Existing layout at Columbus Circle. Slide courtesy of the Department of Transportation.

Proposed changes to Columbus Circle. Slide courtesy of the Department of Transportation.

The transportation committee first reviewed proposed changes to Columbus Circle. Committee members and community members in attendance were generally enthusiastic about the plan, seeing it as a dramatic improvement to the current traffic flow. Several safety concerns were raised, however, especially in connection to the lack of a physical or vertical barrier that would protect cyclists from cars traveling in the innermost lane of traffic—instead, there would be a five-foot painted lane. DOT representatives said that vertical and physical barriers were incompatible with the space because of complications with maintenance vehicles, like plows and street sweepers, that drove around the circle. 

Additional concerns were raised about bicyclists safely merging onto the northbound side of Central Park West, as there is no single direct route that allows bicyclists to reach the east side of the avenue. As many pointed out, there are no bike lanes on Central Park West between 60th and 62nd Streets, pointing out that leading bicyclists to an unprotected avenue may be irresponsible as their safety is less certain on blocks without protected bike lanes.

Community members also pointed out potential flaws in the plan for cyclists who are coming from the east on Central Park South or from the north on Broadway, as even though no bike lane exists, bikes frequently travel on them. No implementable solutions were immediately apparent, due to complications with bus stops within Columbus Circle.

Existing and proposed designs at 70th to 72nd Streets on Amsterdam. Slide courtesy of the Department of Transportation.

The DOT representatives then moved on to cover the proposal for 52nd to 72nd Streets on 10th Avenue and Amsterdam. In the new design, one lane of traffic will be removed but total resulting traffic delays while traveling through the mile-long section are expected to be less than two minutes. While the committee and community members in attendance expressed approval and excitement over this portion of the plan, many were more worried when examining the proposed changes at 71st and 72nd Streets.

On 71st Street and Amsterdam, bikes would share the lane with left-turning motor vehicles, which could pose a risk for the cyclists. The DOT representatives responded that, although it was not ideal, they had decided it was the preferable method for redesigning the avenue. There is an unusual complication on these particular blocks, as the sidewalk concrete extends to varying points into street traffic after precautions were put in place to protect pedestrians. Now, cyclists must move over two lanes of traffic from 70th Street to 72nd, which the DOT believes is best done by having bicyclists move over by one lane per block.

There were further safety concerns at the 72nd Street intersection, as the bike lane is positioned to the left of a left-turn-only, bus-only lane, which could lead to collisions. The DOT representatives, however, said that they see such scenarios as unlikely, and the committee members asked them to double-check the signal light patterns at the intersection.

The overall consensus, however, was positive, and the committee approved of both plans, with suggestions attached to its resolutions about sections of the designs that the DOT might reexamine. In addition to the concerns included above, there was disagreement over whether it might be best to eliminate the ability to turn left at 71st Street altogether. Some believe it would greatly improve safety for cyclists and others argued that the frustration caused by bottlenecking at 73rd Street would create a more frustrated—and therefore more dangerous—environment.

The DOT representatives expressed hope that they would be able to implement both plans by the end of the year.

Images via Dept. of Transportation.

NEWS | 42 comments | permalink
    1. Carlos says:

      I enjoy recreational bike riding and I am all for encouraging riding. I am not a big fan of the bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam but I can somewhat see their merit. But there are certain places that are not meant for bike riders. Columbus Circle is one of them.

      Rerouting what is already a difficult to navigate intersection for the benefit of bicyclists makes no sense. If I am riding in that general area, I steer clear of Columbus Circle. Others should do the same.

      I am all for getting cars off the road, but a certain amount of them are going to be there no matter what. If you make it harder for cars and trucks to navigate the city, the cost of products is only going to go up. And then we will have another thread about how expensive everything is here. You can’t have it both ways…

      • UWS resident says:

        Have you ever been to grand army plaza in Brooklyn? You should take a look before forming an opinion.

        Btw, you’re against designing Columbus circle to accommodate bikes based on the fact that it’s currently terrible for bikes (“I steer clear of Columbus Circle”). Is the irony completely lost on you?

      • David says:

        Didn’t anyone realize that the 70-72 Street diagram is flipped on its side? Since maps usually show north at the top, this drawing shows the side streets running North-South, and the avenues running East-West. Shame on the DOT, and the Community Boards for not correcting this obvious mistake.

        • dannyboy says:

          I expect that is because so many have very low expectations for the DOT and the Community Board.

      • Rob Foran says:

        “Not meant for bike riding”?

        All the city’s streets are meant for bicycle transportation. If they’re not safe for bicycle transportation, they need to be made safe. If they’re not safe for driving, they need to be made safe. If they’re not safe for pedestrians to cross, they need to be made safe.

        Avoiding an area because it’s not safe is not an option Others should not follow that lead. Others should advocate for safety.

        I don’t know about getting cars off the road, the roads frankly seem full of cars.

    2. GrumpyOldMan says:

      Enough with the bike lanes!! Is there a politician in NYC with the backbone to deal with real issues of congestion and air quality? NOT! Is there a politician in Gotham with a set big enough to tackle the issues pedestrians must deal with? NOT! Let bikers ride the wrong way in bike lanes, encroach in pedestrian crosswalks and run red lights. Forget the hazards pedestrians face crossing the street while vehicles fail to give the right of way. Failure to deal with congestion, already worsened by bike lanes, is the biggest challenge facing NYC’s sustainability. When will we have political leadership capable and willing to REALLY confront that issue?

      • Jeff says:

        Hey Grump: You care about air quality. Here is an idea. Get rid of cars from the streets, get rid of curb side parking and encourage more bikes. Problem solved. Also, bikes mean healthier people, so less health care costs, less sick days at work and much happier people.

      • Pjay says:

        Thank you! I am forever dodging murderpus bikers!

      • Che says:

        After getting their bike lanes, users turn around and abuse the privilege by riding in the opposing direction! This is typical. What’s worse is a man on a high-speed bike speeding through a red light in his opposing direction! It happened to me at 97th & Amsterdam. Most unexpected. Fortunately, I’m in the habit of waiting on the curb securely for the green light PLUS safe conditions.

      • Denaliboy says:

        I have a bike- I ride my bike. However, I think the bike lanes north of 72nd are a royal pain, as are the cyclists who ride in either direction in the lanes, power thru red lights as well as ride among the cars. My wife and I, when we walk in the neighborhood have had numerous close encounters as a result of bike violations. We are more concerned about being taken out by a bike than a car.

        When I see groups of tourists riding in midtown I’m amazed that more cyclists aren’t killed annually. Always seemed that out of towners, sans helmets, are just waiting to me knocked over by nyc traffic.

        Would be nice if politicians had the balls to confront bicycle lobby- we live in a city with significant homelessness, public schools that are often mediocre at best, unaffordable housing etc and we spend time and money on bike lanes. I guess I’m the crazy one

        • Bob says:

          Never let facts get in the way of your fears and amazement! Never mind that roughly 99.9% of pedestrian deaths in the city are caused by drivers of cars and trucks and only about 0.1% by cyclists. Or that deaths of tourists on bicycles are basically unheard of, helmet or no helmet (the overall number of cyclist deaths is already low enough at about one a month that each case almost always gets reported in the local media, and you could bet that if one were a tourist, it would be reported even more).

      • Rob Foran says:

        In my recent memory, anti bike politicians who made pledges like “rip out the bike lanes” didn’t get the nomination (Catsimatidis}, didn’t make it through the primaries (Weiner), or got a pathetic 1% of the vote (Dietl). Should tell you something about how NYC voters feel about transportation improvements.

        Forget the hazards pedestrians face? Somebody is ignoring the fact that pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and babies in carriages on sidewalks are regularly run down and killed by car drivers about once a week, while forgetting the fact that cyclists injure a fraction of people drivers so and haven’t recklessly killed a soul in about 8 years.

    3. Driver says:

      but total resulting traffic delays while traveling through the mile-long section are expected to be less than two minutes…Which can be a “life time” when ambulances are trying to get uptown from Mount Sinai West into the Upper West Side…there is too little education in traffic etiquette for cyclists and pedestrians…its not ALWAYS the drivers who are at fault

    4. John says:

      AS for W60-W62 no bike lanes- The Trump Building and the 1% folks in 15CPW use about 2 lanes of the west side of CPW for parking and waiting limos for their clients and residents (and no tickets are ever issued)so that is the reason for no bike lane there

    5. Smithe says:

      Spending time, resources, and effort to accommodate such a small % of the population makes absolutely no sense. Take the money earmarked for this and help the ever growing homeless population for God’s sake! Talk about screwed up priorities…

      • Jan says:

        The fact of the matter is cars and bikes will
        Never coexist happily in NYC. It was a poor
        Decision all the way and money that could
        Have been spent on schools
        It further erodes the quality of life in the city
        That will make the city more difficult to live in
        and probably affect real estate values as well
        If this continues
        Who wants to pay this kind of money to live
        in a poorly managed city?

    6. Matt H says:

      There’s no bike lane on CPW from 60th to 62nd because NYPD Transit headquarters is in Columbus Circle station, and the NYPD parking that goes with it is angle-parking. Increases the number of spaces they can squeeze into the block.

      Honestly I prefer riding those two blocks to riding in the door-zone bike lane on the rest of CPW. One can ride quite close to angle-parking cars with little worry about dooring.

    7. Chris says:

      Great news! 72nd Street and Columbus Circle are currently very dangerous for cyclists. I look forward to the day when NYC is fully bikeable throughout.

      • Paul G says:

        I agree. I turn at 57th from 8th to avoid the circle and then face no bike lanes until 72. The pinch point in the 70-72 stretch is horrible so I am glad they are addressing it. I doubt I will attempt Columbus Circle even with the changes but time will tell. To the naysayers, I agree about people going the wrong way in the bike lanes, but honestly it is the pedestrians who wander in and out of the bike lanes, purposely not looking, that make me the most crazy. They are even worse than left turning cars.

    8. Richard says:

      Excellent. Can’t wait for these new, long overdue bike lanes to be implemented. (And for the record, I’m not just a cyclist, but also a motorist and a pedestrian. Mostly a pedestrian.L

    9. A.C. says:

      Bike Lanes are a great idea, but bus lanes would make a difference as well. Actually speeding up the buses as no one else is able to drive in their lanes. If done right, bike exclusive, and bus exclusive lanes could really make a difference. Hey, maybe you can get more people on bikes and buses if they do it correctly.

      This would obviously be easiest on Columbus and Amsterdam, just have the bus lanes be the far right, and the bike lanes the far left side of the street. As for Central Park West, Broadway, and West End Avenue (Below 72nd street.) Have the bus lanes all the way by the curb, and then the bike lanes right next to them. Simple. Don’t fret about the loss of parking spots, just take a bus or a bike. If you live and work in Manhattan or Brooklyn (Not so much the other three boroughs.) You don’t need a car. Maybe snarling up traffic while improving and separating the bikes and buses from regular traffic might get people to actually ride the buses or use their bikes, giving the MTA more money, allowing for better buses, more buses, which means more riders, and more money, you get the idea

    10. Eliot says:

      I can’t believe some of what I’m reading here. Maybe the trolls have gotten the best of me here. Maybe today’s society has gone insane.

      No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to ride a bike or to bike thru Columbus Circle. However your fellow New Yorkers (many of whom are overweight and thin-budgeted) have chosen to take over a hundred thousand bike rides a day to get around. This frees up spots for everyone else on the already overcrowded subway.

      So let’s just ignore these people and not take steps to improve and protect the legal and healthy choices they make and will continue to make in increasing numbers. Let’s let outdated and inconsider designs continue to cause them threats of physical harm on a daily basis.

      As a daily bike commuter, I encourage local police to enforce and ticket bikers doing most of the frustrating things mentioned below: riding on the sidewalk and going the wrong direction. This is the only way to change things. Running Red lights after properly yielding can be a victimless crime, but without proper yield could also be policed, so long as it’s equally so for pedestrians jaywalking. You didn’t hear me clamoring to ban all pedestrians after a few jaywalking ones minding their own business caused me to flip over my bike breaking, breaking my own rib a few months back.

      Progress means trying new things. If they don’t work well, we should continue evolving and trying different things. Let’s move forward and take better care of ourselves and our peers, and not complain about how other people’s choices don’t matter because they make a different choice than you. We’re living in a society here.

    11. Jimbo says:

      CB7 never asks for any kind of cost/benefit analysis of anything they approve. What is the cost to drivers and delivery trucks and traffic ro benefit how many individal riders? CB 7 just rubberstamps everything Rosenthal or anyone else wants. And it has no real power. The citizens are not represented. Taxation without representation.

    12. JS says:

      The loss of a lane – slowing traffic further – will just about kill M7 and M11 bus service which has already been impacted by lane loss traffic on Columbus and upper Amsterdam. The buses will not be able to move.

      Do not understand how as public policy it is ok to expand bicycle infrastructure – yet since 2010, there have been significant bus route and bus service cuts plus fare increases? Yes cycling infrastructure controlled by DOT and bus primarily by MTA but DOT absolutely is involved in bus transportation discussions. It is clear that cycling gets policy preference.

      Cyclists – BTW if you are getting Amazon, Fresh Direct etc ecommerce deliveries, you are absolutely contributing to NYC traffic….

    13. Wendy says:

      Columbus Circle is a deathtrap. When I ride my bike up 8th Ave. I cross directly into the circle, walk my bike thru and then ride north on Broadway. I never ride around – it’s too dangerous! They need to do something there, and quickly. A bike lane north on Amsterdam from Lincoln Center onwards would also be appreciated. Now if they could only put a bike lane on Broadway, that would solve a lot of problems. and if the city would only enforce the bike lanes…..

    14. UWS40 says:

      When Polly Trottenberg, the current DOT commissioner, went to Amsterdam for vacation a few years ago she was so impressed by the fact that everyone rode bikes. Of course they do it’s Amsterdam. Limited cars, very narrow streets, canals and very civilized people who obey the law.

      So she decided to implement bike lanes in the City. The City which have bus, car, taxi and truck drivers, who do not obey the law and are more than happy to run lights and try to intimidate pedestrians when they have right of way.

      The bikers don’t use the lanes. They rather steer in between cars, etc. making it dangerous for everyone.

    15. roger Wolfe says:

      As a senior citizen with decreasing abilities to hear and to see the politicians should be concerned for the safety of children and people who are vulnerable. Both drivers and cyclists MUST obey all traffic regulations/

    16. SpeakupNYC says:

      Can you just face facts? Manhattan is not a bike city. We are not Amsterdam. Bikes can work in Brooklyn, Queens etc. but not here. Who makes these mindless decisions and who is making buckets of cash on the deal? Honestly,fix the city buses, stop jamming the streets with bike lanes that no one uses. stupid city planners either don’t live here or on some lobbyists gift list. Enough.

      • Rita says:

        Totally agree!!!

      • Eagle Eye says:

        SpeakupNYC, Can YOU “just face these facts” (and all you other bike haters who claim the bike lanes are not used.)

        The actual data from DOT bike counts at the above link shows biking is up many-fold over the past 10 years, especially where bike lanes are installed.

        Additionally, these lanes are wide enough to speed emergency vehicles (who can and do use them) around traffic so they may REDUCE response times.

    17. Name not given because of angry pro cycling movement says:

      Why, why is NYC spending money on this — to please the rich cadre of voters who cycle. Spend the money on the subways Mr Mayor! I am exhausted by this effort to make nyc a cycling city. We should have been spending on public transportation!

      • Margaret says:

        Maybe the city is spending money on bike lanes because 1) taxpayers live here who bike and 2) it’s an important way to make it possible for individuals to reduce their climate footprint, ensuring that the kids will still actually have a city.

        That’s just a thought. I’m sure they could blow it on many other things but I’m extremely glad it’s not all or nothing. Of course we need bike lanes and schools and many other things.

    18. Stef Lev says:

      More bike lanes, more sidewalk cafes and less room for the increased number of pedestrians in the neighborhood. Only special interests are served, not the needs of the majority of residents!

      • Tyson White says:

        Actually, the bike lane design increases walking space for pedestrians by thousands of square feet. Such as pedestrians Islands.

    19. Margaret says:

      Reading these comments, maybe I’m missing something but I can’t tell if people have specific considerations around the proposals – configuring a bike lane on Amsterdam below 72nd Street and dropping sharrows on Columbus Circle – or if people are just outraged that upper west side bicyclists exist.

      At any rate, Amsterdam Avenue is literally a 6-lane death trap for cyclists today, so it will have to get fixed sooner or later, but obviously much better to do this before another catastrophe occurs. And the article goes into concern for the potential delay for drivers, but not the delays that cyclists already experience each time an unsafe Amsterdam Ave leaves us to detour out of their way to get where we’re going. Really? Those who need Amsterdam will still ride there – as evidenced by two cyclists who died south of the bike lane in 2017 – while everyone else will sacrifice their time detouring, since that’s what a 6-lane highway between 55th and 72nd will force us to do. And beyond the deadly danger to cyclists, don’t even get me started on the pedestrian risk from crossing streets like that.

    20. Carrie says:

      Cyclists speed through the red lights and travel the wrong way on the bike lanes. Where is some law-enforcement? So many do not follow the laws and crossing a street is extremely dangerous for pedestrians because of bike riders who think that traffic laws do not apply to them. Now we have motorized bikes which make crossing the street even that much more dangerous!

      • Woody says:

        How difficult is it to look both ways when crossing? All the hyper-complaining about cyclists going the wrong way in a BIKE LANE is pathetic. Pedestrians still jaywalk no matter which direction a cyclist is riding in. Go to Europe and see all the two-directional bike lanes that are at sidewalk level. And notice how pedestrians respect those lanes and don’t interfere with cyclists. Most of you sound like blathering idiots when it comes to criticizing bike lanes with your complaints and suggestions for how the money could better be spent.

        • Evan Janovic says:

          Maybe its time to publish pedestrian accident figures from the “wonderful” new bike lanes in the UWS. Millions spent on nonsense. Traffic impossible! Millions spent on these atrocities like art in our newly to be remodeled subway stations that do NOT provide ADA mandated access. WHO IS INCHARGE?
          Certainly not our feeble Community Planing Board.

          • Woody says:

            Why don’t you publish those pedestrian accident figures to support your claims? Or are you just throwing unsubstantiated comments against the wall hoping that others mindlessly follow your arguments because they hate people doing an activity that they’re not doing?

    21. Jack Linder says:

      This proposal is a disaster. It will remove a auto lane and cause more traffic congestion. Take a look at Amsterdam Ave. on 72nd street. The bike lane removed an auto lane, which is causing congestion. Has any one on Board 7 watch this catastrophe?

    22. Dana G. Reimer says:

      The images of the proposed changes for Amsterdam Avenues new bike lanes stop at 72nd Street. Where is the bike lane north of 72nd Street on Amsterdam? On the right (east) along with the bus stop or on the left (west) where the M57 busses stand between runs? I would love to feel safe enough in the city to ride my bike, but I don’t, and adding a bike lane on Amsterdam will create more traffic that there already is. I live at the intersection of B’way and Amsterdam and the traffic is heavy from 6 AM to after midnight in the evening six days a week. The noise is deafening and no one, including cyclists, drivers, or pedestrians, follows the rules. bike riders are worse than automobile drives. They zip in and out of traffic, ride the wrong way, run lights, and scare the crap out of me, even when I watch where I’m walking. And don’t get me started on bike delivery men/women. What happens when trucks pull up to offload at businesses on the west side of Amsterdam? Yet ANOTHER lane is lost. But we need food and pharmaceuticals delivered. Fresh Direct has staked its claim to the block between 71st and 70th in the south bound lane of B’way. Their trucks idle all day, pumping out CO and CO2. And the construction on Amsterdam between 69th and 70th Street has created even more congestion (and the loss of TWO traffic lanes) and will do so for months and months to come. Oye! But I love my city and don’t want to live anywhere else. Not even Amsterdam.