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Chelsea East-West Bike Lane Plan Moves Forward

By Mathew Katz | August 25, 2011 1:57pm
A bike lane on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. The Department of Transportation is proposing smaller bike lanes on West 29th and 30th Streets.
A bike lane on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea. The Department of Transportation is proposing smaller bike lanes on West 29th and 30th Streets.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

HELL'S KITCHEN — A proposal to install bike lanes in an area of Chelsea where the sister-in-law of famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz was killed in July passed its first hurdle Wednesday night.

The Department of Transportation's plan to lay bike lanes on 29th and 30th Streets between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River Greenway moved past Community Board 4's Transportation Planning Committee — but not without some concerns expressed from committee members who say those streets may not be right for cyclists.

Using Marilyn Dershowitz’s death as a prime example, many at the meeting questioned the department’s choice of those two streets, which are known for heavy truck traffic from a nearby postal facility, as well as an abundance of cars coming into the city from the Lincoln Tunnel.

“To encourage bicyclists on these streets is a little like leading sheep to a herd of wolves,” said committee member Bret Firfer.

Dershowitz was killed after being struck by a postal truck at West 29th Street and Ninth Avenue. The Department of Transportation ranks West 30th Street as one of the most dangerous in the city.

The proposal would put an unprotected bike lane on the south side of both streets. It would be the first step in a plan to give mid Manhattan a dedicated east-west, river-to-river bike lane. Currently, there’s nothing like that between 21st and 77th Streets.

DOT's Josh Benson told the committee that West 29th and 30th streets are the only ones in the area that stretch across Manhattan without changing directions or being interrupted by park space.

“We are also very concerned about this block, but the fact of the matter is that there are cyclists that exist on this road,” he said. “We’re very limited in what routes work at all for cyclists. I don’t know if there are better choices out there.”

The DOT is also working with the United States Postal Service to ensure that its drivers use more caution when entering and leaving the massive 29th Street postal facility between Ninth and 10th avenues.

“When the trucks back in, they literally take up the whole block,” said committee co-chair Jay Marcus. “It’s hard to know what they’re doing sometimes.”

The committee asked the department to study the possibility of putting up flashing signs that alert cyclists to truck traffic, and also ensure that the 10th Precinct more strictly enforces laws regulating the area's truck drivers.

Officials from the DOT said it hopes to begin installation of the bike lanes in the fall.