UPPER EAST SIDE — Plans to extend bike lanes up First and Second avenues got the green light from the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8 Wednesday, despite heated debate about traffic congestion and what many perceive as bicyclists' flouting of traffic laws.
Department of Transportation officials plan to swap a travel lane for parking from East 60th to 72nd streets to create a protected bike lane this fall.
Then from East 72nd to 96th streets, the agency would swap the existing bike lane — buffered by painted lines — with the parking lane, so bicyclists would be pedaling between parked cars and the sidewalk instead of alongside moving traffic.
Along Second Avenue, where subway construction has torn up roads from East 68th to 100th streets, the DOT plans to implement bike paths as part of its restoration of the roadway during 2014 to 2015.
Twenty board members voted to approve the bike lanes, 12 voted against it and one abstained.
The DOT has already created bike lanes on these avenues from Houston to East 59th streets and expects to extend them through 125th Street. East Harlem’s Community Board 11’s also approved the lanes.
DOT data shows that after bike lanes along First and Second avenues to East 34th Street were installed, injuries from crashes were reduced by nearly 37 percent.
Upper East Siders on the board and in the community, who spoke in favor of the lanes, said they weren’t just to improve cyclists’ safety. With added pedestrian islands and less distance to cross traffic on the avenues, pedestrians were getting safer streets, too, they said.
“This is about safety by design,” CB 8 member A. Scott Falk said. “It’s not just about bike lanes. It’s to make the street safer for everybody.”
An estimated 47 parking spaces — or roughly 20 percent — would be removed for turning lanes and pedestrian islands for the initial phase on First Avenue up to East 72nd Street.
Some board members worried the new bike lanes would hurt business, create havoc for trucks making deliveries and lead to more double-parking problems. Others criticized cyclist behavior.
“I think it’s an excellent plan for the future when bicyclists start obeying the laws and police start enforcing the rules,” board member Elizabeth Ashby said of the lanes. She complained about cyclists in Central Park, for instance, riding on pedestrian paths and ignoring red lights.
CB 8’s Transportation Committee Co-Chair Jonathan Horn pointed out that the 19th Precinct leads the city in ticketing for cyclist offenses.