At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Community Board 7 transportation committee backed two measures to expand bike parking options on Upper West Side streets.
The two proposals—one to install curbside bike racks on Broadway and Amsterdam and Columbus avenues between 59th and 110th streets and another to install a bike corral in the parking space bordering the restaurant Henry’s on 105th Street and Broadway—passed with only two and one votes in opposition, respectively. Both will be brought to CB7’s full board meeting in December.
Lisa Sladkus, who presented the bike rack proposal on behalf of transportation advocacy group Upper West Side Streets Renaissance along with intern Andrew Balmer, CC ’10, said the proposal “fulfills a grave need” in the community. Sladkus said the proposal will not only improve bike safety, but also encourage a sense of belonging in bikers.
Balmer and other pro-biking volunteers identified 136 potential spaces for bike racks and sent letters to the owners of neighboring properties in mid-October. After receiving 45 negative responses, the number of potential spaces was reduced to 91.
Balmer, who has volunteered with the organization for two years, said that it was “encouraging to make progress.”
CB7 members at the meeting largely supported the plan, given the shortage of bike parking space on the Upper West Side, but some had reservations. A few members feared that neighboring businesses could take over the racks, and others—including transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig, who voted against the proposal—expressed concern that business proprietors or members of the public were not well-informed enough about the proposal.
Zweig said that CB7 members should look at the sites and talk to business proprietors as well as property owners before supporting the proposal.
“I think we ought to investigate more clearly,” Zweig said during the meeting.
Henry Rinehart, owner of Henry’s, partnered with Jennifer Harris-Hernandez, a representative from the city’s Department of Transportation, to present the proposal for a corral outside his restaurant. If the proposal passes at the full board meeting, the corral will be the sixth to be built in Manhattan and the first on the Upper West Side.
Rinehart said the new corral would “put us at the forefront of a citywide, a nationwide, and an international movement.”
He added that, within 24 hours of distributing a petition to neighboring businesses and residents, he had gotten 126 signatures of support.
Meeting attendees were largely supportive of the initiative, but some said the current plan—which includes four 34-inch-wide planter pots as “buffers” to protect the bikes—takes up precious street space that could be used for extra bikes. The committee included this concern in its resolution, and Hernandez said she would look into removing one of the planters.
Another concern raised was that the corral, which takes up one parking space, would infringe upon increasingly tight parking space in the neighborhood, especially with the M106 bus taking up several spots on 106th Street.
Committee member Marc Glazer said that, though he supported both proposals, he feared retail businesses would lose patrons due to the lack of parking spaces.
“My concern is the parking,” Glazer said, adding that traveling on a bike is not an option for some.
The committee’s approval of the measures comes after the UWSSR and other cycling advocates assailed it last month for moving too slowly on biking issues.
Peter Frishauf, Upper West Side Streets Renaissance member and 60-year Upper West Side resident, said he was frustrated that the community was “so far behind the rest of the city in approving accommodations for walkers and bicyclists.”
Frishauf pointed out that, out of 35 miles of protected bike lanes on Manhattan avenues, the Upper West Side has “one measly mile.”
“A big reason for that is that the leadership of the transportation committee consistently opposes proposals to improve life for walkers and bicyclists,” Frishauf said. He added, “It’s like they’re living in a different time.”
Sladkus stressed to the committee that expanding bike parking was a pressing need for the community.
“We would really like to see this move forward,” Sladkus said.