News | Upper West Side

Locals criticize CB7 for not expanding Columbus bike lane

Cycling advocates assailed the leadership of the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee, calling them out of touch in a Thursday night meeting.

Board members discussed extending the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane from its current boundaries between 77th and 97th streets to between 59th and 110th streets, as well as adding a northbound pair along the same 51-block stretch on Amsterdam Avenue.

The committee will vote on whether to ask the New York City Department of Transportation for the new bike lanes at its meeting next month, after a new report on the safety of the current Columbus Avenue lane is released. A request from the community board, which represents the Upper West Side, is required for the DOT to implement the lanes.

But the vast majority of the 30 attendees at the meeting attacked the committee for moving too slowly and for generally prioritizing cars and parking over pedestrians and cyclists.

“The rest of the city has whizzed past us, asking DOT for more and more bike lanes,” Lisa Sladkus, an organizer with the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, said. “This committee is very invested in the status quo … They never talk about big, real issues—what do we want our streets to represent, what age should children be comfortable walking to school alone, whether there should be any public parking at all.”

Emotional speakers said that installing more protected bike lanes—in which cyclists are shielded from moving traffic between the sidewalk and a floating parking lane—should be a safety priority.

“We are a neighborhood that is behind the curve,” Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed while riding a bicycle, said. “The rest of the city is getting things that we are not getting to make truly livable neighborhoods,” such as protected bike lanes.

The dissatisfaction with the committee itself became personal when many speakers personally addressed co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig.

“You listen to the horrible carnage on streets, and you won’t take bold moves,” Kelly said. “You sit and you just want to waste our time and have another family live what I’ve lived with, what my kids have lived with, what our community has lived with since his death,” she said of her husband’s death.

Cyclists said that instead of the current isolated, mile-long bike lane on Columbus, a network of lanes on both Columbus and Amsterdam is needed.

“I go on Columbus before that bike lane, and I’m in an ocean with sharks,” cyclist Detta Ahl said. “In the lane, it’s like I have a lifeguard … That’s the difference.”

The proposal to add a protected bike lane to Amsterdam would, unlike with the Columbus lane, require downsizing the existing four traffic lanes to three.

“We’re having a debate about safety when there is nothing to debate. It’s a false debate, and it’s a debate that’s endangering people,” Upper West Side resident Mark Gorton said.

Although the public expressed vocal support for the bike lanes, not all committee members were in favor.

Marc Glazer, another committee member, said that the protected bike lanes were not suited to the Upper West Side. “We’re not in principle opposed to bike lanes, but we have to serve the entire community, not just bicycle enthusiasts,” he said.

The meeting became rowdy at times, with CB7 chair Mark Diller attempting to control a shouting match early on by repeating, “We’re going to have a good meeting tonight. We’re going to have a good meeting tonight.”

City Council candidate Mel Wymore, a CB7 member and former chair, advocated for the creation of a subcommittee dedicated to long-term planning. “This committee has not been proactive to talk about bike lanes,” Wymore said after the meeting. “It’s been loud in its non-requests” for new bike lanes compared to other community boards around the city, he said.

Albert and Zweig did not respond to their critics, a move Diller said was the right one.

“My chairs took it on the chin tonight,” he said afterward. “If the chairs had pushed back, it would have been a different meeting, a less productive meeting.” He said he was sure that Thursday’s meeting would be far from the last conversation the community board holds on the bike lanes.

casey.tolan@columbiaspetator.com

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the current Columbus Avenue bike lane ends at 76th Street, when in fact it ends at 77th Street. Spectator regrets the error.

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Anonymous posted on

More bike lanes!!! The Upper West Sode needs to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists over the convenience of a few parking spaces. We are way behind the rest of the city on this. I hope the community board is paying attention.

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Anonymous posted on

Agreed... frustrating to see how nice things are above 77th st on Columbus. Extend the protected lanes south!

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Anonymous posted on

The community board is really out of touch. Most people in my neighborhood don't drive and need safe streets, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes. The Columbus Avenue bike lane has made crossing the street so much easier for me.

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Anonymous posted on

More bike lanes!!! The Upper West Sode needs to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists over the convenience of a few parking spaces. We are way behind the rest of the city on this. I hope the community board is paying attention.

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Anonymous posted on

Agreed... frustrating to see how nice things are above 77th st on Columbus. Extend the protected lanes south!

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Anonymous posted on

The community board is really out of touch. Most people in my neighborhood don't drive and need safe streets, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes. The Columbus Avenue bike lane has made crossing the street so much easier for me.

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Anonymous posted on

The Community Board is not opposed to the Bike Lanes. As a member of the Transportation Committee, Vice Chair of CB7, bike rider, and a business owner on Columbus Ave, I am generally in support of the bike lanes. However, we have a large community of non bike riders who are entitled to have their say on this. The Proponents of the bike lanes are intelligent and well organized. It is unfortunate that the residents are not well represented at our meetings. The loss of so many parking spaces would be detrimental to the retail community. We need to hear from them. Additionally, the Police department statistics tell us that there are more vehicular accidents on Columbus Ave because of the bike lanes. Delivery trucks have to double park, which also slows down traffic and cause more pollution. We urge our neighbors to attend the next meeting at Community Board 7 on Tuesday, November 13th and make their voices heard, so we can make an informed vote based on their comments as well.

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J posted on

We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious (parking). They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses (cyclists). Wicked, tricksy, false!

We swears to serve the master of the precious (parking). We will swear on... on... the precious (parking)!

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Anonymous posted on

Marc - those of us who live on the Upper West Side trust you, Dan Zweig and the rest of the committee to represent our interests. You've been chosen by our Council Member and Borough President because of your judgment and dedication to the community. Mark Gorton has the ability to finance an extraordinary astroturf campaign, and create shell advocacy groups like Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, and the public just doesn't have those resources.
We are confident that you'll be able to continue to intelligently and cautiously weigh the issues that are presented to the group, and see through a well-financed cyclist lobbying campaign that represents a very few. Our community is well represented by the membership of CB7, and I hope that you all will ignore the hysterics brought (and bought) by outside influencers. CB7 has been engineered to represent the community, and this committee shouldn't run scared from of a handful of bullies.
It's too bad, but If CB7 really wants to get the sense of the community, it needs to reach out to us. It's not hard on the internet, and will provide far more context than 30 cyclists shipped in by Transportation Alternatives. There's no rush on this - let's do it the right way.

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Maani posted on

Thank you, Alex. Your even-handedness is a breath of fresh air. Sadly, many (and I specifically say "many," not "most") bike advocates toe the line between advocacy and zealotry (with some going way over that line). They do not realize how much this hurts their cause. Because as Marc Glazer notes - 100% correctly - the Board and its members are there to serve the ENTIRE community, not one specific interest group. And there are a number of stakeholders involved in the issue of bike lanes and, in this case, their expansion. That said, I agree that the Board needs to do more to reach out to other stakeholders. As you suggest, many (if not most, or even all) of the bike advocates who attended the Transportation Committee meeting knew about it through websites, email blasts and direct phone calls. That is how a lobbying or special interest group works. And I have no problem with that. Unfortunately, again as you note, the Board is not in the same financial or technological position to always reach all of the other stakeholders to make sure they are represented. I, and other members of the Board who the bike lobby erroneously see as "obstructionist," will continue to take an even-handed approach to this issue (and others) because that is our mandate: to represent ALL stakeholders in an issue, not just one group, no matter how well-intentioned. Peace.

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Andrew posted on

@d87987829054beff169417e374c44026:disqus :

As I am sure you are aware, an overwhelming majority of CB7 residents do not own cars. Almost all customers arrive at Amsterdam Avenue businesses on foot, not by car; the benefits of making Amsterdam Avenue safer and more pleasant for pedestrians would far outweigh the loss of a few parking spaces.

As a neighborhood resident who does not ride a bike, I strongly support a reconfiguration of Amsterdam Avenue similar to the 2010 reconfiguration of Columbus. Amsterdam Avenue is a high-speed traffic sewer, and neighborhood residents and businesses deserve better.

And I would be very curious to see your police department statistics, since they directly contradict DOT's study that showed a 34% reduction in crashes along Columbus Avenue along the bike lane and a reduction of about 50% in truck double-parking.

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Maani posted on

Andrew:
I would remind you that the statistics you cite come from DOT's PRELIMINARY study of the bike lane, issued over a year ago. The new study may or may not reflect the same stats. In any case, however, I thought we were in ageement (as some at the meeting suggested) that decisions on bike lanes should not be based solely (or even largely) on stats, since every position on this issue could be supported by stats, and stats are all too easily "spun," and this if decisions are based on stats, then they will never get made.
Peace.

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Anonymous posted on

This is NOT about bike lanes, as the headline suggests!! It is about improving safety on out-moded urban avenues that are dangerous to walkers, cyclists, and people, especially kids, seniors, and people in wheelchairs.

We all hurt when we have a friend or loved one who dies or suffers. When that happens on streets because of bad design it is a PREVENTABLE DEATH, and those people who blithely bring up the "rights" of people who may loses a parking space as a reason not to make streets safer bear the moral burden of a position that says, "I don't care about your safety, I care about my parking space."

What kind of a message is that for our community? What kind of leadership puts parking above a personal safety? Less than 25% of the residents in this neighborhood own cars and less than 5% use cars to get around. Yet it's o.k. by the leaders of the the transportation committee that we have unsafe designs that result in preventable death and injury? Those interested in turning the tide should join with the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance (www.uwssr.org) and help our "leaders" on the Community Board understand that we want safe streets for walkers and cyclists. Period..

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Opus the Poet posted on

"The Community Board is not opposed to bike lanes" is not the same thing as saying the CB is in favor of bike lanes. The equivalent statement would be that the CB is not in favor of people getting shot at random in the street, but not taking any action that would prevent people from being shot at random in the streets. And that is what is literally happening without them requesting bike lanes as more people are killed with motor vehicles than with guns in NYC, and with much fewer consequences for the perp, just claim temporary blindness (I didn't see him) and go on your way without so much as a ticket to blemish your driving record.

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