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City Should Add Bike-Specific Stop Lights in Central Park, Locals Say

By DNAinfo Staff on December 10, 2012 12:38pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — The turf war between pedestrians and cyclists continues in Central Park, as critics of wayward bikers demanded the Department of Transportation install bike-specific stoplights along the cycling path.

At a recent Community Board 8 Transportation Committee meeting, several concerned Upper East Siders said they want the DOT to add bike logos onto traffic lights so that cyclists know the signals apply to them.

They said cyclists regularly flout laws, endangering pedestrians along the Central Park loop where bikes come flying through red lights.

"There were four bicycles that went through the intersection," said Elizabeth Ashby, a  CB8 Landmarks Committee member.

"Until they get people for stopping at red lights, you could go out there on a cold night and you'd freeze to death before a bicycle would stop at a traffic light."

Rita Popper, CB8 Parks Committee member, came up with the idea of installing traffic signals with bike logos on the lenses — similar to the setup on some downtown cycling paths.

Popper said the move would ensure that cyclists undoubtedly knew that the lights applied to them.

A DOT spokesman said the department would be willing to consider the idea.

"We have not received a resolution from the board yet," a DOT spokesman said. "If we do, the agency will evaluate the feasibility of what is requested."

The spokesman could not immediately estimate how much such a project could cost.

The DOT announced in September that it would implement several safety measures in the loop, including doubling the width of pedestrian walkways to 14 feet, expanding bike lane width to 11 feet, and marking lanes better. Streetsblog reported in October that the changes had been implemented.

But critics said bike riders flout traffic laws with impunity, adding that law enforcement "is a joke."

Ashby wanted to know why nearby police weren't doing more to stop alleged scofflaws.

"Central Park is a fairly low crime area — it's not like we're taking them away from a murder a day," she said.

Jordan Wouk said that racing cyclists were the biggest problem.

"They have to be removed from the Park," Jordan Wouk said.

Some of those present even suggested installing a chain or barrier across intersections when lights turned red, in order to force cyclists to stop.

"Sounds like a movie," CB8 Transportation Co-Chair Charles Warren joked.

Transportation Committee Co-Chair Scott Falk, who has positioned himself as one of the few bike advocates on CB8, bristled at the more extreme solutions and called for "transportation justice."

"I [also] want to see enforcement," he said. "Where I get concerned is when you single out the bikes and thousands of bicycles get ticketed and not a single car."

In 2011, police went on a ticketing blitz in Central Park, busting cyclists for speeding and running red lights.