By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — An Upper West Side community board wants to stamp out illegal sidewalk cycling with "No Biking" decals.
The idea is sticking in the craw of some cyclists, who say the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Community Board 7 added the "No Biking" decals to its annual budget wish list recently at the suggestion of transportation committee chair Andrew Albert. The board is hoping an elected official or city department with cash to spare will pony up for the stickers.
The decals, a bike with a slash through it, were added to Upper East Side sidewalks several years ago, Albert said. Ever since then he's wanted to bring them to Community Board 7's territory on the Upper West Side.
Albert says bikers on sidewalks, mostly delivery people, are a constant menace, creating a dangerous situation for walkers. He says the decals are a good reminder that it's illegal to bike on the sidewalk.
But Community Board 7 member Ken Coughlin, who's also on the board of cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, says spending money on the decals is "misguided." He spoke out against putting the decals on the community board's list of budget priorities at a recent meeting.
Coughlin says it makes more sense to spend money on providing safe places for cyclists to ride and on traffic-calming measures to slow down speeding cars.
Coughlin says Department of Transportation crash data show that cyclists aren't involved in most crashes.
From 2006 to 2008 in Community District 7, there were 170 bicyclist injuries and 499 pedestrian injuries, Coughlin said. There were nine pedestrian fatalities and one cyclist fatality during the same period.
"We'd all agree that bikes on sidewalks are an annoyance and sometimes very frightening, but almost always, that's the extent of it," Coughlin said. "Calling on the city to reduce sidewalk cycling in the face of these injury and fatality statistics is a little like suggesting that the National Institutes of Health prioritize research to fight the common cold rather than cancer or heart disease."
The request for the "No Biking" decals comes during a citywide debate about cycling, as bike lanes added to city streets have forced drivers to share more road space with two-wheeled street users.
On the Upper West Side, new bike lanes on Columbus Avenue have been a source of near constant discussion — with both foes and supporters weighing in — since they were installed in late summer.
Albert disagrees with the idea that the decals are "misguided."
"Anyone who's almost been run down by a bicycle on a sidewalk knows it's not misguided," Albert says. "The sidewalks are for walkers, and bicycles belong in the streets obeying the traffic laws, which means riding in the correct direction and stopping at signals, and I think most law abiding bikers would agree."