By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Cyclists gathered on Columbus Avenue Thursday night for a celebration ride. The occasion? Welcoming a new bike lane to the Upper West Side.
"Welcome to the new Columbus Avenue," shouted Lisa Sladkus of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, a bike advocacy group, to a hearty round of applause from a group of about 25 cyclists who showed up to celebrate the new lane.
Called a "protected" lane, the new lane runs down Columbus Avenue from West 96th Street to West 77th Street. The bright green lane runs next to the curb, and cyclists are protected from moving traffic by a row of parked cars on their right.
While cyclists were cheering Thursday night, the lanes have generated some complaints. Some businesses say the lanes interfere with truck deliveries, and drivers don't like the fact that Columbus Avenue lost parking spaces to make way for the new lanes.
A recent opinion piece in the New York Post referred to the Columbus Avenue bike lane as the "latest horror" inflicted on the city by an "out-of-control" transportation commissioner. The Post called the lane dangerous, because it narrowed the lanes for vehicle traffic.
Steve Vaccaro, who attended Thursday's celebration ride with his daughter Charlotte, said the new lanes will take some getting used to.
"We're taking real estate from other people," Vaccaro said. "There's only so much public space in New York. The idea that it's reserved for people to park and move their private cars has ruled the day for decades. People are angry when they lose a parking space."
Thursday night's celebration ride was a chance to ease tensions between cyclists and the drivers and pedestrians they share road space with, said Tila Duhaime of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance.
"We need to see more of a rare species in New York, the polite cyclist," Duhaime told the crowd before they set off to ride on the new lane. "Be nice and smile. Every positive interaction you have on the streets of New York City benefits all cyclists."