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Columbus Avenue Bikes Lane Inspires Praise, Ire on Upper West Side

By Leslie Albrecht | August 30, 2010 10:34am

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — A new bike lane on Columbus Avenue is giving cyclists something to celebrate, but many who live and work in the area are groaning about the change.

Some residents complain the new bike lane being added to the east side of Columbus Avenue between 96th Street and 77th Street makes it harder for seniors to get around, costs the neighborhood precious parking spots and is a hassle for truck deliverymen who need easy access to the curb.

The lane, which is painted green, is "protected," meaning that there's a painted lane and row of parked cars that forms a barrier between cyclists and moving traffic.

News that the city recently started work on the lane was greeted with cheers on cycling advocacy blog Streetsblog.

"I was watching all week with excitement as they marked and then painted the Columbus Avenue bike lane," wrote one commenter. "This should make a huge difference for biking on the UWS."

Community Board 7 approved the lane after much debate earlier this summer. Advocates argued the lane will encourage more cycling, lessen air pollution and traffic, improve safety and make for a healthier city. But people who live near the new lane gave it a thumbs down last week.

"It's the worst thing they could have done," said 73-year-old Sheila Kaplan.

Kaplan, who uses a cane to get around because of a painful arthritic knee, said the new lane makes it impossible for cars to pull up right in front of her mid-block building on Columbus between 94th and 93rd streets.

Now when her son-in-law picks her up, Kaplan has to make her way down the block to the corner, the nearest spot where he can safely pull in.

Ivan Jourdain, the owner of Ivan Pharmacy at Columbus and West 94th Street, said the new lane also affects Access-A-Ride, the transportation service for disabled people. Jourdain worries about disabled people and seniors who have to step into the path of cyclists and venture farther out into the street to climb aboard Access-A-Ride.

"It's terrible," Jourdain said. "They didn't think this out very thoroughly. And wheelchairs? Forget about it."

The new lane also means changes for truck deliveries.

Terrance Phillips, a driver for YRC Trucking, said the new bike lane removed some parking spots on the street, so it's harder for him to park in front of businesses where he makes deliveries.

He parked illegally outside a hardware store on Thursday. Phillips said he could have parked in a legal spot on the next block, but with a 345-pound box to deliver, he was willing to risk a ticket to save time and protect his back.

Advocates say the complaints are the growing pains the city will feel as it struggles to make streets work for a variety of uses, not just cars.

"Social change is not easy and this change is inevitably going to require a period of adjustment," said Ken Coughlin, a member of Community Board 7 and board member of Transportation Alternatives who pushed for the bike lanes.

"This change on the street represents a recognition that a street can be more than for just the movement of motor vehichles; it should accommodate other uses too," Coughlin said. "If you think about it, it's a much more democratic allocation of street space."