Momentum Builds for Two-Way Protected Bike Lane on Central Park West

A local resident addresses a packed Community Board 7 meeting about the need for protected bike lanes.

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.”

NEWS | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Michael Corbett says:

      Central Park West will become a parking lot if we have protected bike lanes. The street simply isn’t wide enough. The only way the plan would make sense is if it is implemented in conjunction with congestion pricing, which would theoretically lower car traffic volume.

      • Kevin says:

        People used the same arguments against the Amsterdam bike lane, and that definitely made the neighborhood better. Traffic moves no better or worse than before, but riding a bike is now a whole lot safer.

        There’s a reason why bike ridership has been up 10% a year for several years in a row.

      • StevenCinNYC says:

        I agree completely. The street is too narrow for a bike lane. There just shouldn’t be one there, just like WEA, RSD, and Bway. Plus, there’s no need for it.

        • Alta says:

          I think the woman killed on her bike on CPW would disagree.

          • StevenCinNYC says:

            Just the opposite. The unsafe bike lane killed her. She was a tourist from Australia. If there hadn’t been a bike lane there, she wouldn’t have been biking there and wouldn’t have been killed. It’s a perfect illustration of why a bike lane on CPW is a mistake. The street is too narrow to support one, just like Bway, RSD, and WEA. Plus, there are protected lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam, and protected bike paths in Central and Riverside Parks.

      • B.B. says:

        Beg to differ; just walked down CPW to 72nd and actually visualized how a protected bike lane would look/impact area.

        So the parking lane on west side of CPW would be moved over, not a huge deal. Also some parking spaces may be lost to create entry/exit points and or perhaps truck loading zones. Some parking may be lost at or near 66th, 72nd, 86th, and 96th in order to create turning lanes for northbound traffic using the Central Park transverses.

        Even in the pouring rain there was a steady stream of bikers making their way north on CPW during my walk. Proof that cycling is not just a fad or whatever else some seem to believe.

        Probably biggest “losers” (if any) will be those who live along CPW and or side streets that may find a reduction in those free parking spaces.

    2. Sandy says:

      Two lanes could be a good thing.
      More lanes all over the city hopefully too.
      To omit addressing bike safety/ rules is perpetuating part the problem.
      Biking laws are as important as driving laws.
      Let’s get started protecting the bikers in our city.
      By helping them protect themselves .
      a program that includes safty guidelines and cycling laws that are enforced.
      Safty tips and cycling laws.

    3. Adina Zion says:

      Since the closing of the park to vehicles, traffic on Central Park West is horrendous,especially in the mornings and school pick up times. Central Park itself is now car free. All bikes should now be in the park and there should be two way bike lanes inside the park safely away from cars. There is no room on CPW for a bike lane and no reason for one any longer.

      • B.B. says:

        You do realize that West Drive is south bound only, and East Drive same for north bound. While some joggers, bikers and others on the loop *do* go against traffic it is also against the law. You’ve only to glance at markings on road which indicate direction of traffic flow.

        Don’t understand why persons are advocating cyclists going say north on CPW should be forced into CP. There to get from Columbus Circle to say West 96th they would have to take south loop to East Drive, ED to 102nd cutoff/or up to where it becomes West Drive, then proceed south and exit at or near 96th street.

        Don’t see anyone advocating motor vehicles travel across CPS to Madison Avenue, then north to the transverse that will get them near whatever street on CPW.

      • George on CPW says:

        I agree completely. Those who want a two-way protected bike lane have not observed the current congestion with a single-lane bikeway. The theoretical two-way lane ignores the daily reality of FedEx, UPS, movers, taxis and other delivery vehicles that double park, leaving only one car lane in each direction. The only way this narrow avenue could support a protected bike lane is by eliminating parking on at least one side and/or making CPW one way, neither of which is desirable.

    4. Genius boy UWS says:

      “Protected bike lane on Central Park West” another waste of taxpayers money…when will this stop !!!!!!!
      I vote to abandon all bicycle lanes for major roadway in New York City. Let it stay in the village!!!!

    5. StevenCinNYC says:

      Ugh. There’s no need for any bike lane on CPW. It’s a narrow two-way street like WEA and RSD. Not every street needs a bike lane. There are already protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam and protected bike paths in Central Park and Riverside Park so the UWS already has four excellent safer alternatives. It’s not as if those options are overflowing with bicycles–there’s plenty of capacity whenever I see them. Is anyone claiming that the other lanes are too crowded? It’s just politically favorable now to put a bike lane on every street without thinking or questioning the need, value, or safety. That’s how CPW got its unsafe lane in the first place. Just remove the paint; job done, lives saved, and good sense restored.

    6. Dorian says:

      Okay, I know they made a good argument but just watching out for the errant cyclist going the wrong way in the bike lane and running lights, I am not eager to have to do a super quick look every time.

    7. Drew says:

      If the bikes used the lanes that would be a good thing.
      Now you want to give them more lanes?

    8. Ted says:

      While the untimely death of any individual is very sad public policy should not be made based on individual events but on the basis of trends, sound research and data.

      Cyclists are a tiny fraction of the transit ecosystem in NYC. Cycling is a mode of transportation that is inherently biased against the aged and differently abled. The inordinate amount of resources that have been dedicated to bike lanes that are often unused or misused while the backbone of public transportation, the MTA, spirals into disrepair is tragic.

      The theory of “friction” to alleviate traffic congestion has proven specious at best. The city needs to stop investing in feel good projects and focus funds where they will do the most good for the most people.

      • Arjan says:

        Ted, perhaps you take a look in the Netherlands; then you’ll see that cycling isn’t at all biased against the aged.

        You mention the traffic ecosystem of New York where cyclists are only a tiny fraction. I took a look at the transportation modes commuters use (Manhattan specific, Census Bureau 2017):

        Bicycle: 2.3%
        Car: 8.6%
        Public Transport: 58.7%
        Taxi: 3.3%

        Looking at these numbers I’m a bit surprised I would want to disagree with you that cyclists are only a tiny fraction, especially when you compare it with the cars they need to share the roads with.

        I also made an attempt to check the costs made on bike lanes, but it proved to be difficult to find numbers on that. In an article of researchers from Columbia University, they state that the 45 miles of bike lane built in 2015 costed 8 million USD. The NYC Department of Transportation has an annual operating budget of 900 million USD (plus 2 billion USD per year for capital projects). So I wouldn’t dare to say that there has been an “inordinate amount of resources” spent on bike lanes.

        I’m not a traffic engineer and of course there are some simplifications in these numbers (only considering commuters, not taking the MTA into account), but I think it does already show that bicyclists are not an insignificant fraction of New York traffic and it isn’t the case that excess amounts of money are spend on them; I would even dare to say that it’s the opposite, more money could be justified.

        • Ted says:

          Looking at The Netherlands is a fairly frequent refrain but it is an oranges to Big Apples comparison. The entire Netherlands has barely twice the population of NYC. It lacks any metro area that in anyway resembles Manhattan.

          The history of high petrol prices in Europe has contributed to a small car/small truck culture. In other words the whole scale of the challenge is different. Your argument also fails to account for the enormous cultural differences between The Netherlands and NYC. I don’t disagree that The Netherlands has a strong cycling culture but that is not the situation in New York. So yes, I stand by my statement that cyclist are a minuscule fraction of commuters in NYC.

          Comparing the USA’s largest city to a country that’s largest city, Rotterdam has a population density that is one tenth that of NYC is specious at best. Where Rotterdam has about 1200 people per sq/km, NYC has over 10,000.

          So no more bike lanes based on poor analysis.

          • Jane says:

            Ted, Do you drive a car? Do you have a car? Do you use a car to get around the city?
            Different statistics show different things. Arjan mentioned the Netherlands only to show that the aged are perfectly capable of getting around on bikes en masse if there is safe infrastructure.
            But most of his message was about commuting percentages. If his citation is correct,then if you look beyond the fact that a huge majority of New Yorkers rely on a really crowded and poorly maintained public transit system, bicycles are used almost as much as taxis for commuting (most can’t New Yorkers couldn’t afford those for commuting) and 1/4th as often as cars.

            That’s a significant number of bicyclists.

            Given that public transportation is going to take a long time to fix even if tons of money is thrown at it, and given that taxis and even Uber are not a viable alternative for the majority of commuting New Yorkers, creating safe commuting infrastructure for bicyclists can and will have huge benefits for a significant portion of the population, including those who don’t bicycle, if pressure is taken off of the ailing public transportation system.

            That’s here in New York City, not Amsterdam.

            Forget them, we are talking about us.

          • Arjan says:

            Ted, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear enough in my answer. That reference to the Netherlands was only meant for your comment that aged people cannot ride bikes, which is not true. So your whole reply why you cannot compare the traffic situation in the Netherlands to the traffic situation in New York is irrelevant to my response.

            I gave New York numbers, which clearly show that cyclists are a significant fraction of commuters in Manhattan (2.3% vs 8.6% cars). If you keep dismissing cycling as irrelevant, then I would love to see your reaction when all those irrelevant cyclists would get in cars and drive into Manhattan.

    9. Honest Abe says:

      What was the Stranger’s Gate proposal?

      • Edwin says:

        To swap the placements of 4 parking spots in front of the gate (106th st) with the bus stop directly in front of it.

    10. B flat says:

      Forcing buses, which elderly, mobility impaired,and others rely on, to dodge bikers is flat out crazy. It’s incredibly stressful on the bus drivers as well. Why not ban parking on central park West and use the freed up space to create dedicated biker lanes in the center of the avenue?

    11. Alta says:

      Saying bigger roads fix traffic is like saying bigger pants fix obesity.

      More bike lanes will help reduce the number of cars.

    12. Richard says:

      There no room for protected bike lanes on cpw. Bycilists are not careful and do not obey the rules of the road. Bikes lanes would impede traffic to much. No need. Why are byciclists so important. I almost get hit by one everyday. Columbus and Amsterdam traffic is a disaster because trucks now triple park in the middle of the road. Sometimes on both sides leaving one lane for traffic. Also delivery bikes are all illegally speeded up bikes that use the bike lanes and almost kill me. Police do not enforce laws.

    13. bobby says:

      Isn’t there already an unprotected northbound bike lane along CPW? Why not just flip where the bike lane and parking spots are right now to make it protected? It would make it so much better for bikers and drivers.

      A southbound lane on the other hand is probably not necessary with columbus right next to it.

    14. patrick says:

      Wow. Shocked at all the commenters arguing that a bike lane that could save lives is not a worthy investment. Shame on you! Bikers are here to stay and our infrastructure should do all that can be done to keep them safe and alive!

    15. stu says:

      I am a daily cyclist commuter, and even I think a two way bike lane on CPW is a bad idea. There simply isnt enough room on the two-way street. It works along Prospect Park West, because that street is a one-way street. CPW just doesn’t have the room. The only way for it to work is to make CPW a northbound one-way street and move all southbound traffic to Columbus, one block over. And that will never happen if the CPW Nimbys have their way.

    16. Martin says:

      Too bad everyone feels the need to drive their oversized SUVs on city streets. That’s the real problem. Don’t like it? Move out to the suburbs.

    17. James says:

      I commute home up CPW every day by bike unless I have the time and good sense to take the longer route through the Park. It would cost drivers ALMOST NO SPACE to swap the parked cars and the northbound route to make it safer for everyone. Resisting my maximalist impulses for bicycles, I agree that we don’t need a southbound one; there are two good no-brainer options, Central Park and Columbus.

    18. RK says:

      Yay bikes! Yay bike lanes!

      Virtually every attempt to stop the expansion of the bicycle infrastructure by all the NIMBY wannabe traffic engineers, has failed. Citibike, Columbus bike lane, Amsterdam bike lane.. all done and dusted despite the naysayers. Why? Maybe because the professional city planners understand the importance of bicycle infrastructure to the future of NYC.

      So bring on the CPW lanes!

    19. B.B. says:

      Another thing; wish people would stop going on about how “narrow” CPW is or whatever.

      All avenues in Manhattan with few exceptions are one (100) feet wide. This includes Eighth Avenue/Central Park West. If protected bike lanes work on First, Second, Columbus, Seventh and other avenues, it will do so on Central Park West.

      Interestingly Central Park West escaped the wave of “one way” traffic realignments implemented by the city for major avenues.

      Nearly all major north-south Manhattan avenues converted to one-way traffic after World War II, over the period 1951-1966.

      Fifth Avenue below 135th became one way(south bound) in January 1966, with Madison Avenue (north bound) at same time.

      Ninth Avenue and Columbus Avenue were converted to carry one-way traffic southbound in two stages. South of its intersection with Broadway, the avenue was converted on November 6, 1948. Remaining roadway was converted in 1951.

      Eighth Avenue between Abingdon Square and Columbus Circle was made one way (north bound) in 1954, while at same time Seventh was made one way south bound.

      Am going to guess that because of Columbus Circle, two way traffic remained on CPW (aka Eighth avenue)due to traffic nightmare it would be forcing all north bound traffic over to Broadway.