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Controversial Bike Lane to be Extended on Columbus Ave.

By Emily Frost | February 6, 2013 1:12pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to extend Columbus Avenue's bike lane was approved by the neighborhood's community board Tuesday after months of public hearings.

The new lane will add 32 blocks to the existing route, which currently runs from 77th to 96th streets. The addition would take it from 59th to 110th streets.

Construction will start this year, according Margaret Forgione, the Department of Transportation's Manhattan borough commissioner.

The lane will be protected from traffic by a row of parked cars guarding cyclists from traffic until 69th street, where the complicated Lincoln Square intersection — known locally as "the bowtie" — begins.

The DOT will present a plan for this section of the bike lane at a later date, to be approved first by Community Board 7, which approved the rest of the proposal Tuesday.

The extension passed by a 26-11 vote, with one board member abstaining. 

Among board members' chief concerns were the impact the bike lane might have on small businesses that are losing a total of 36 parking spots along the avenue, and the safety of children boarding and disembarking from school buses along the bike-lane route.

Forgione insisted the DOT had done extensive outreach with local businesses.

"We spoke to 180 businesses," she said.

"We even spoke to the threading salons that don’t get deliveries."

The Columbus Avenue BID, led by Barbara Adler, said that while it regretted the loss of parking spaces, it "overwhelmingly" supported the bike-lane extension. The extension was not supported by the Lincoln Square BID, which cited the proximity of the Jewish Guild for the Blind as a concern.

Gabriella Rowe, the head of the Mandell School at 100th and Columbus Avenue, said she is concerned for the safety of her students.

"I am being asked to trust a bureaucratic institution in the DOT and trust things that they say, very few of which can be corroborated," she said.

But Mark Diller, chairman of CB7, said that while not every question or concern could be answered ahead of time, he would be in constant contact with the DOT. 

"We don't just vote for resolutions — we have to be in [the DOT's] face," he said.

Lisa Sladkus, president of the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, which has brought dozens of supporters to previous meetings about the lane extension, said she thought the bike lanes would make it safer for kids to bike and walk to school. 

"These changes inch us towards a safer, richer, more inclusive neighborhood," she said.