2 Miles of Bikes Lanes Headed to Upper Manhattan, DOT Says

By Nigel Chiwaya on April 8, 2014 10:34am 

 If approved by CB12, the DOT will install new bike lanes in Washington Heights and Fort George this summer.
If approved by CB12, the DOT will install new bike lanes in Washington Heights and Fort George this summer.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Northern Manhattan residents pushing for additional bike lanes are in for some smooth riding, as the Department of Transportation revealed a two-mile stretch of proposed bike lanes connecting the west side of the island from 162nd Street all the way to Fort George Avenue.

Pending approval by Manhattan Community Board 12, the DOT will install more than two miles of bike lanes along Amsterdam Avenue, Fort George Avenue and Fort George Hill, representatives said Tuesday at CB12's traffic and transportation committee meeting.

Those two miles include a section of designated two-way bike lanes — where the bike lane is exclusively intended for bikes, not cars — on three stretches of Amsterdam Avenue. These would run from West 162nd Street to West 173rd Street and from West 186th to West 190th Street. Where Amsterdam Avenue becomes Fort George Avenue, the lane continues to West 193rd Street, where the road becomes a cul-de-sac. 

The plan also includes a portion of shared lanes in which bikes and vehicles use the same lane, in segments of the stretch from West 173rd Street to West 186th Street, and from West 190th Street to West 193rd Street, DOT officials said.

Fort George Hill would get a two-way protected bike path with bike lanes separated from traffic by a parking lane.

Two through-street bike lanes would be installed at West 177th Street — which runs from Haven Avenue on the west side and Amsterdam Avenue to the east, and at West 180th Street — from Cabrini Boulevard to Amsterdam Avenue. The through streets will also offer access to an existing bike lane at Fort Washington Avenue.

Each Amsterdam Avenue on-street bike path would call for the elimination of one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction, though the DOT would add turn lanes at intersections, officials said. Officials said the Fort George Hill lanes would result in the loss of 12 parking spaces, six each at Fairview Avenue and Dyckman Street.

Uptown cyclists have been clamoring for bike lanes for years, and three years ago, CB12 asked the DOT to assess the feasibility of adding new lanes.

The DOT proposed in May a series of lanes along Amsterdam Avenue, St. Nicholas Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard. Officials said the presentation Monday represents just the first phase of implementation, with plans for more lanes to be revealed in the fall. If approved, the lanes would be installed in July, approximately, officials said.

Bicycle advocates in attendance at the CB12 committee meeting on Monday called the proposal a modest step in the right direction.

"We got a half-mile of protected lanes. It's a start." said Brad Conover of Bike Upper Manhattan. "We're happy."

"These are substantial transitional improvements," added Kimberly Kinchen, who runs the NYC Bike Train, a social bike communing organization. "These are a step in the right direction, but I do hope we can see more protected lanes uptown."

CB12's committee unanimously approved the proposal, paving the way for it to go before the full board at the end of the month.

But there were some critics in the audience who voiced their disapproval.

Raphael Mera, who owns Ralph's Auto Center on Amsterdam Avenue near West 167th Street, said the lanes would hurt his business.

"The nature of the beast is double-parking," Mera said. "People stop in to pick up a quick item. All of those quick sales are going to drop."

Mera, who has owned businesses in Washington Heights for 18 years, predicted reducing the number of vehicle lanes would increase accidents.

"A lot of taxis, they see someone and they're pulling over. The bike lanes are going to suffer," he said.

CB12 will vote on the bike lanes at its full board meeting Tuesday, April 22.

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