By Alex Israel
Community Board 7 is calling for the NYC Department of Transportation to put forward a plan to create a protected bike lane on Central Park West, in the wake of the death of Madison Lyden, an Australian woman who was hit and killed by a truck while biking on the avenue.
Following Lyden’s death in August, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal proposed a two-way protected bike lane to avoid a similar accident in the future. “Madison Jane Lyden’s death is a profound tragedy, even more so because it was preventable. In many areas of our city, painted bike lanes are simply not enough to protect cyclists,” she said in a Tweet.
But only DOT has the ability to implement changes to the bike lanes.
During a Community Board 7 Transportation Committee meeting, Co-Chair Howard Yaruss criticized DOT for not acting sooner, referencing a committee meeting in early 2017 where a proposal was discussed, but never acted upon.
That proposal involved swapping the current locations of the painted bike lane and the parked car lane, effectively creating a protected bike lane. “It would have saved [Lyden’s] life.” Yaruss said. “The DOT told me they can’t do it, or won’t do it.”
DOT’s Manhattan Community Coordinator, Colleen Chattergoon, was present for the meeting. Chattergoon denied the allegation that DOT refused to address the issue in the past, and instead looked toward the future.
“Given the nature of the incident and what occurred, I’m sure we’re going to reevaluate it again,” she said, to some skepticism from the committee.
DOT wouldn’t need to look far for a reference point—they removed one of three travel lanes and added a two-way protected bicycle path to address a similar issue on Prospect Park West in 2010. According to DOT’s own website, crashes resulting in injuries decreased by 63% in the area after the bike lane updates were implemented.
Transportation Committee member Richard Robbins shared a presentation compiled using open-source NYPD crash logs from July 2012 through September 2018 to drive home the need for immediate action on Central Park West.
The data showed that while fewer overall injuries occurred on Central Park West compared to Broadway, Amsterdam, or Columbus, Central Park West is the avenue with the most cyclist-specific injuries. These injuries have remained consistent in frequency since 2013, at an average of 19 annually.
Local cyclists supported this data anecdotally, describing their own “terrifying” and “harrowing” experiences in the current bike lane during testimony at the meeting and in more than seventy emails to CB7 Chair Roberta Semer.
“I urge the adoption of this plan,” said one local resident. “It’s a quality of life issue, but the most important issue is the safety issue.”
A cyclist and volunteer for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group with a petition demanding a two-way protected bike lane also spoke out, hoping for “safer, human-friendlier streets for our families and our communities.”
“We’ve just had the triumph of making Central Park friendly to local walkers and bikers,“ said another cyclist, referencing the recent push to make Central Park car-free for the first time in over a century.
“I hope that it won’t take another hundred years before the road right outside the Park makes it safe to get there … I hope we don’t have to have more people killed along the Park before this changes.”