UPPER WEST SIDE — A new two-way bike lane is rolling into Central Park just in time for prime biking season.
Cyclists are cheering the new lane, to be installed along the park's Terrace Drive, a popular route for crossing the park at 72nd Street.
Right now there's a bike lane on Terrace Drive, but it's a one-way path from east to west. The new lane will be installed next to the existing lane and will serve cycling traffic moving from west to east.
Cyclists had pushed for the new route for years, but city and park officials didn't seem too interested in the idea, said Ken Coughlin, a Community Board 7 member who's also on the board of the cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
But recently the Central Park Conservancy unveiled plans for the new lane to Community Board 7. The lane — a joint project of the Conservancy, the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department — should be installed this summer, as early as June, said Conservancy spokeswoman Dena Libner.
"This was a welcome surprise," Coughlin said. "It means that for the first time cyclists will be able to cross the entire park in both directions without having to get off their bikes."
A crosstown two-way bike path opened near 96th Street last summer, but cyclists have to hop off their bikes to reach it, Coughlin said.
The new lane on Terrace Drive will be a safety improvement and keep cyclists on the right side of the law, Coughlin said. He and other cyclists frequently use the east-west lane to go from west to east, which is illegal, he admitted.
"It's been dicey," Coughlin said. "You have to dodge runners and cyclists going the opposite direction."
Adding the extra lane for cyclists will remove one lane of car traffic on the route, which is only open to motorists on week days from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Both the Upper West Side's Community Board 7 and Upper East Side's Community Board 8 have pushed for removing cars from Central Park altogether last spring, but city officials later shot down that idea.