By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Cyclists defended Columbus Avenue's new bike lanes Tuesday night, touting the lanes as part of a street redesign that will create safer streets for everyone, not just bike riders.
The comments, made at Community Board 7's full board meeting, were meant to answer the stream of complaints that have flowed from business owners since the Department of Transportation added a bike lane on Columbus between West 96th Street and West 77th Street.
"I'm convinced that once we've had a chance for the dust to settle ... we'll be happy with this lane," said Tila Duhaime of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, the advocacy group that led the effort to install the new lane.
Duhaime emphasized that the new lane is only one part of a larger street redesign that's also added pedestrian islands, turn lanes and landscaping to Columbus Avenue.
She said the new streetscape will be safer and prettier, and have calmer traffic, which will improve the quality of life for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike.
Lisa Sladkus of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance said the reconfigured Columbus Avenue is the same design that's been successful in Chelsea, where there's been a 56 percent reduction in traffic-related injuries since bike lanes went in on Ninth Avenue, she said.
But merchants say the new lane is making it difficult to trucks to make deliveries.
Ricardo Zingone, owner of Zingone Brothers Grocery on Columbus Avenue and West 83rd Street, said the new lane has created headaches for him and hurt his bottom line.
Zingone said the reconfigured street means his delivery van has to park a block away, forcing workers to haul 50-pound cases of produce. He said that's cost him money.
"Are the bikers maybe going to chip in and pay for the money that we're losing?," Zingone said. "We'll pass a hat around."
Community Board 7 didn't take any action on the bike lane issue Tuesday, but chair Mel Wymore said it's likely the community board will form a task force and meet with business owners to come up with solutions to bike lane-related problems.