City Proposes Expanding Columbus Avenue Bike Lane by 26 Blocks

By Emily Frost on December 13, 2012 8:12pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Transportation is calling the Columbus Avenue bike lane a success and a life-saving improvement and is now asking for the community's approval to expand it by 26 blocks next year.

The bike lane was installed in March 2011 from 77th to 96th streets and could soon extend north to 110th Street and south to 65th Street, the DOT said at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Since the bike lane was installed, there has been a 41 percent decrease in the number of pedestrians getting injured by traffic along the avenue, said Hayes Lord, the DOT's bicycle program coordinator.

The current protected bike lane runs along Columbus Avenue next to the sidewalk, with a line of parked cars and pedestrian islands shielding bikers from regular traffic and shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians. 

"Cycling along the corridor has increased by 48 percent," Lord said, adding that "over 65 percent of the cyclists are using the bike path." 

DOT Bicycle Program Director Josh Benson said 80 percent of the cost of the proposed extension would be covered by the federal government, with the city picking up the remaining 20 percent.

"It’s not a heavy construction project. It’s a low-cost, lightweight project," said Benson, who declined to estimate the total cost. "We do think that cycling is going to continue to grow and we do think this is going to be a valuable down payment."

More than 100 people gathered at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on West 83rd Street Tuesday night to hear about the DOT's plans to extend the lane to encompass the entire Upper West Side. 

Neighborhood resident Randy Cohen, known for his longtime advice column "The Ethicist" in The New York Times, said he was thrilled by the safety improvements. 

"It seems a moral obligation; it seems like an ethical obligation [to extend the Columbus Avenue bike lane]. I’m no theologian, but the concept of hell does come in," he told the transportation committee of Community Board 7, which is weighing the DOT's proposal.