Community Board Committee Supports 72nd Street Protected Bike Lane, Wants City to Make It Easier to Open Restaurants Outside

A bike lane would start at Riverside Drive and 72nd.

By Jacob Rose

Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee voted on Tuesday night to ask the city to build a new bike lane on 72nd Street, and to give restaurants greater leeway in outdoor seating arrangements.

The new lane would stretch from Riverside Drive to Central Park West. It would be the neighborhood’s first protected crosstown lane, meaning it would be separated from traffic by physical barriers. The committee voted 11-0-1 in favor of asking the Department of Transportation (DOT) to approve the protected bike lane. One benefit to choosing 72nd for the crosstown lane is that it’s wider than most other crosstown lanes in the neighborhood. It has six lanes. Committee co-Chair Howard Yaruss noted that cars often double-park on 72nd too. Eight bicyclists and 17 pedestrians have been injured on this stretch since June 2018, Streetsblog points out.

The committee also discussed outdoor restaurant seating. The discussion comes after CB7’s Business and Consumer Issues Committee meeting last week, in which the group debated but ultimately decided against writing a letter to the DOT asking for more comprehensive guidelines and assistance in equipping restaurants to serve patrons outside.

The Transportation Committee decided this time to write the letter, asking on behalf of restaurants for an expanded ability to set up outdoor seating, so long as the seats do not interfere with other storefronts or present a safety hazard. Yaruss said this measure might help “cut businesses some slack” during a time when many are struggling to survive.

“The space that restaurants are given is very restrictive, it’s basically just their frontage on the street,” Yaruss said. “This is an existential moment for restaurants. There are estimates about 50% of restaurants closing. And I’m just raising the issue of how restrictive the city should be with regard to this.”

Several committee members pushed back, saying that the outdoor seating at some local restaurants has already interfered with neighboring businesses. Other committee members took issue with current arrangements that have waiters crossing busy bike lanes to get to tables on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue.

Committee member Barbara Adler urged a safety-first approach in expanding restaurant seating. “There are a number of restaurants that have crossed over the bike lane,” she said. “In certain instances, it just makes for a very dangerous situation. It’s an absolute disaster waiting to occur and something should be done about it.”

The committee discussed temporarily repurposing the Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue bike lanes as restaurant seating, but CB7 Chair Mark Diller warned that the DOT would likely reject this temporary program. However, Diller believed the DOT would be receptive to the proposal for more liberal enforcement of outdoor seating arrangements. The committee moved forward with that proposal.

The committee also voted 11-0-0 to urge the Offices of the Mayor and Governor to promote increased subway use with signs detailing subway cleaning practices. Committee member Rich Robbins cautioned that gridlock could surge in the fall, as more and more workers opt to commute by car. Any move to promote ridership would come as the MTA considers considers raising fares and massive service cuts in order to reduce a shortfall that could reach as high as $12.6 billion by the end of 2021.

NEWS | 40 comments | permalink
    1. your_neighbor says:

      Not sure where they are going to put both an eastbound and westbound protected bike lane.

      I commute on my bike and even though it got better with the pandemic one lane of 72nd st between Columbus and CPW in each direction is without fail taken up by double parked service and delivery trucks leaving only one lane in each direction open. Hopefully the DOT has a plan for where these necessary vehicles can park.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        And ALSO a good post!

      • Chase says:

        If your biggest concern is deliveries on 72nd street and double parking, then perhaps we remove all the on-street parking from 72nd to allow for loading zone. So your lane layout would go: Protected Bike Lane, Loading Zone, Eastbound Traffic Lane, Westbound Lane, Loading Zone, Protected Bike Lane.

        • your_neighbor says:

          As I don’t live on 72nd Street that works fine for me but you might get some (totally reasonable) pushback from those that do live there.
          Other than the one block from the Columbus Ave bike lane to CPW in the eastbound direction I don’t really ride my bike on 72nd as the side streets are normally just fine other than the electric bike riding delivery guys who seem to almost always be speeding in the wrong direction.

      • Abdul Sayeed says:

        So we’ll wait for the injuries and deaths to act: the typical way of society!
        And the anxiety comes from frequent very near misses from bicycles — not from a personal phobia, as thousands of city dwellers could attest!
        Try standing at the plate with a professional
        pitcher throwing fastballs under your chin at 95 mph.
        “Your anxiety is irrational! He hasn’t hit anyone — so far!“
        So it is with being a pedestrian in Manhattan in a raceway of bikes.

    2. Paul says:

      Biking on nearby side streets is so much safer than riding on 72nd it’s amazing that this isn’t being explored.

      No formal lanes are needed, just make the CPW bike lane two way between 72 and 74, and let riders use 74 eastbound and 73 westbound. These streets have very little traffic and are easily ridden.

      The businesses on 72 include food stores and many restaurants that get daily deliveries. And, there’s a prevalence of large, heavily populated buildings on the street with residents getting in cabs and getting dropped off. Any bike lanes on 72 will be continuously disrupted and incautious riders will have crashes.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        Good post.

      • Leon says:

        Great suggestion – I agree. Using one of the streets with less traffic makes sense. Between deliveries and buses, despite being a wider street, 72nd St. is not ideal, particularly not for bike lanes in both directions. Worst case, only do east on 72nd and do west on 73rd.

        On Amsterdam and Columbus, the bike lanes were intelligently put on the opposite side from the bus stops. I don’t know how they will handle this on 72nd.

      • Ellen says:

        Yes, you have a good point. West 106th Street is a good example. Most people use 107th and 108th because so many double-parked cars are blocking the bike lanes on 106th.

    3. Chris says:

      This is a great idea! It will safely connect the existing avenue lanes as well as both parks. Kudos to the committee!

    4. Ish Kabibble says:

      A “absolute disaster waiting to occur” sure, because battery powered bikes, and bikers going north on Columbus Ave are allowed to do this without repercussions. Harvest Kitchen is a prime example. Intuitively, one would look out in the direction traffic is “required” to go, only to be dodging bikers going North. This is but one example. What is so difficult about putting a cop on some of the corners where this is prevalent? If the NYPD wants to build community relationships, do the most basic things. Things that are actually potential revenue generators to boot. Why is common sense so lacking these days?

      • Sid says:

        Bikers follow zero rules. We pay taxes for bike lanes and they don’t even ride in them. Instead they ride wherever they want, run red lights, and only sometimes it is in a tax lid bike lane. Now Paul is suggestion to ruin low traffic streets to be for bike lanes. Leave those blocks alone. My goodness. Stop it already with these reckless bikers taking over the whole city. It’s out of control. Now we have these Revel scooters zipping in and out of bike lanes bc they are considered bikes? Too much leeway is given to bikers. Stop it. Punish them instead of pandering to them. Tax money shouldn’t be going to the lawless entitled few and their bikes.

        • Paul says:

          I thought I was pretty clear, “no formal lanes are needed.” Side streets are quiet and easily ridden.

        • Alta says:

          Cars injure about 100 times more pedestrians than bikes do. Just putting your “feelings” in perspective

          • Abdul Sayeed says:

            This may very well be true.
            However, it is not the injuries, but the ANXIETY.
            Over the past two years, as a pedestrian in Manhattan, I have been threatened or nearly struck by a car zero times — whereas, in parks, on sidewalks, in streets, or in crosswalks in “protected electric bike lanes,” I have been threatened or nearly struck by a bicycle or electric bike about twice a week.
            Cars kill or injure at once. For pedestrians, bikes are death by a thousand cuts.
            Until this problem is addressed by the authorities— or, impossibly, by “the community of bike riders” — the city will continue its decline.

            • Paul says:

              The flaw in the “bikes are less dangerous” claim is,
              while it’s true you’d rather be mugged by a guy with a box cutter than a guy with a Glock,

              almost all of us would rather not be mugged at all. And we’ll fight for that goal.

          • Indian Biker, also has a car says:

            Perspective, and math are useful things. Cars injure more, but there are surely more than 100x cars on streets. So ratio of pedestrian / bike injury vs. car injury is higher. and Almost all cars follow traffic rules, and almost no bikes do.

            • JL says:

              @Abdul -“I have been threatened or nearly struck by a car zero times”

              And @ Indian biker- “almost all (drivers) follow rules”
              You guys know that the speed limit is 25mph in NYC right?

              Number of pedestrians KILLED in NYC on an average year- vehicles >200, bicycles<1.
              Add the thousands of injuries/threats and micro aggressions by drivers that don't make the news.

              Humans were never good as risk assessments.

            • jay says:

              “Almost all cars follow traffic rules, and almost no bikes do.”

              Citation needed.

    5. susan says:

      What about the rights of pedestrians? When there is outdoor seating on both sides of the street and one cannot just cross the street, one is forced to walk between two sets of tables with people eating and talking and not wearing masks. Where does the six foot rule land on this one?

      • Susan says:

        I’m with you here. I have called 311 and they said the police have to handle that. Meanwhile as a pedestrian I am left with 4 feet of walking space between tables if people talking without masks for hours.

    6. ST says:

      The community board must stop making decisions when the public is unable to comment. Howard Yaruss is going mad with power mongering and won’t stop until there is zero parking on the UWS. How dare CB7 act without the public being heard. This is a dictatorship not a democracy.

    7. Pedro Flakes says:

      People on bikes want to ride on 72nd Street for the same reasons that people want to walk or drive down 72n Street. People on bikes want to visit stores and buy cups of coffee and take the most direct route to where they are going, just like everyone else. Meanwhile, double-parkers are breaking the law.

      • lynn says:

        I agree, but how does this work with crosstown bus lanes on both sides of the street?

      • Paul says:

        Nothing stops us from riding on 72 St. It’s difficult between Broadway and Columbus because of the high level of commercial activity inclusive of perfectly legal double parking of commercial vehicles.

        That’s not going to be solved by a curbside bike lane. What will happen is riders will feel “their” lane is being improperly interfered with by delivery vehicles and thousands of residents getting into and out of cars, cabs, and buses.
        Streetsblog and its related groups will then complain nonstop.

        In a city full of one way streets every operator of any kind of moving vehicle ought to be used to minor detours.

    8. Ben_UWS says:

      This is an EXCELLENT decision by CB7 to connect the twin jewels of the UWS (Riverside Park and Central Park) and a smart investment in the livability of this neighborhood.

      We will find a sensible way of balancing deliveries, etc., with bike mobility — unless the naysayers, Chicken Littles, and others of little imagination get their way and quash the idea outright. To hear these people whine, you’d almost think that the existing bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam are unspeakable crimes which prevent deliveries from taking place on the avenues. (Laughable, I know.)

      Is there any way that local residents can show their support for this proposal as it heads off to NYC DOT?

    9. js says:

      The MTA is hemorrhaging – the bus and subway system is tanking.

      No public funds should be going to expand the bicycling infrastructure.

      NYC DOT funds should be used to support MTA services – bus and subway transportation.
      Also Fair Fares for low-income riders.

      • EagleEye says:

        JS, Your comment can be used to SUPPORT this bike lane. The masses are not going back to subways for at least 6 months and likely much longer. Many people would like to bike, but don’t feel safe in unprotected streets. Biking is also the most economical way for people to get around. Far cheaper than “Fair Fares”. Lastly, are you unwilling to support ONE protected bike lane on the FIFTY ONE crosstown streets on the UWS. Really are you that greedy?

        • js says:

          Bus and subway mass transit (including Access a Ride) that everyone can use and is critical to NYC is in a catastrophic situation, with a multi billion dollar deficit.

          Decline of bus and subway will further wreck NYC.
          Service cuts to mass transit, layoffs etc. Also, bus and subway mass transit is one of the few things that binds New Yorkers together.
          Bicycling serves only a few, chiefly the young and healthy.
          72nd Street is also a fine place to walk.

    10. Nevets K says:

      A real solution is to ban cars entirely from certain streets — bicycles and pedestrians only, and the occasional delivery — as now done on ten blocks of West End Avenue, but leave the parking spots for residents who need their cars daily to get to their out-of-town jobs and/or to get out of Dodge on the weekends. (May God forgive them for this desire!)
      Let’s go the whole nine yards!
      It’s not the parkers, folks. It’s the the surrounding traffic, moving at various speeds and with various purposes. A parked car doesn’t kill or injure. Bicyclists will be safe only when the surrounding vehicular traffic is moving at 5 mph or less.

      “Protected electric bike lanes” represent a failure of will and are a disservice to bike riders, resident car owners, and pedestrians – though they do seem beneficial for the electric bike and scooter crowd.

    11. Win Win Win says:

      72nd should take one or two lanes and put in a green median like Park Avenue. It would give pedestrians a protected “island” to shorten crossing distances and raise real estate values on 72nd while reducing the heat island effect that is getting worse with climate change.

    12. Dan Ahearn says:

      More bikes means more danger to pedestrians. Bikers do not obey ANY traffic regulations. They blow through stop lights. They drive wrong way on the streets. They do not break for dogs, children, and old people like myself.

      • Abdul Sayeed says:

        It’s the Age of Narcissism, Dan.
        Hopefully, it begins to ebb if Biden wins. And, certainly, enforcing of existing laws would help.
        In the meantime, look all five ways before crossing a street (and when you’re crossing) or trying to take a stroll in a park.
        As I said earlier, cars hit you once and good — but with bikes it’s death by a thousand cuts.
        Stay well.

      • JL says:

        “more bikes mean more danger…”
        The facts and data does not show this at all.
        NYC average less than 1/yr fatality caused by cyclist/pedestrian collisions. Last year a cyclist died in CP after collision with pedestrian. These numbers are statistically insignificant when compared with the 200/yr fatalities caused by drivers.

        @Abdul’s anxiety problems with paper cuts- Please be aware of your surroundings when crossing the streets, or quietly enjoying your dinner.

        • Abdul Sayeed says:

          Obviously “being aware of your surroundings” is not sufficient in the current environment.
          “The surroundings” have become toxic. Therefore, regardless of one’s level of awareness, danger to one’s self is real.
          And what does a car plowing into an eatery have to do with the threat of bicyclists to pedestrians?
          Nor is my reference to “paper cuts,” as you put it. That’s just silly!

          • JL says:

            You wrote – “However, it is not the injuries, but the ANXIETY.”
            That’s okay, people rarely view risk through rational lenses. I get that your anxiety IS real. Just like when people clapped/ and thanked their maker after a plane landed pre-pandemic.

            For the man who has a heart attack when he mistook a coiled rope for a snake in the garage. The fright is real.

    13. Larry says:

      Bike lanes and bikers are ruining the Upper West Side.

    14. B says:

      This maybe transportation related

      I noticed on 86 street between WEA
      And Riverside, an antenna with small loud speaker mounted at top. At the bottom was black square box and the antenna was probably 10’ tall and
      Mounted about 20’ from the ground.
      Doorman said it had something to do with read dice monitoring. I went back the next day to take photo and it was gone.

      Anyone have any idea what this was?