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Push for Amsterdam Avenue Bike Lane Gains Traction

By Emily Frost | October 16, 2013 3:43pm
 The transportation committee agreed to ask DOT for a bike lane study of Amsterdam Avenue. 
CB7 Committee Agrees to Ask DOT for Bike Lane Study
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to study the installation of bike lanes along busy Amsterdam Avenue moved a step closer Tuesday when a local community board committee voted to move forward with the project.

Cycling advocates, bike riders, local businesses, drivers, car commuters and seniors all fought for time before Community Board 7 to have their say on the future of pedestrian safety, traffic and the possibility of a bike lane along the five-lane thoroughfare.

After hours of testimony from both sides on whether a northbound protected bike lane was appropriate for the avenue, CB7's transportation committee members voted to formally ask the Department of Transportation for a bike lane study.

A study by the DOT on the lane's feasibility was a request they had to make given ongoing advocacy from residents, said board members who support the lane.

"There is a significant number of people in this community that have an interest in [the bike lane,]" said board member Howard Yaruss.  

Upper West Side resident Dee Rieber, who also supports the proposed bike lane, said locals were not going to give up on the idea easily.

"This issue is challenging," she acknowledged, "and it’s not going to go away."

Others saw no downside in asking for a study, which they noted would not lock the community into approving a bike lane. 

"To me this proposal reads, 'Dear DOT, please do something about the safety on the street," said board member Suzanne Robotti.  

Ken Coughlin, another member who supports the bike lane, said the board would still have a large amount of control over any DOT plans stemming from the study. 

"This is a request for a plan, and then we get to vote on it. We get at least three more cracks at this," he said of the ensuing meetings and debates that would be held before any plan was approved. 

But both transportation committee co-chairmen Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig said they were against even asking DOT for a study. 

Zweig described his disappointment after asking the agency for a comprehensive bike lane study of the entire neighborhood, and they returned only with a plan for a short Columbus Avenue bike lane. 

"We would be foolish to ask DOT to do a study here because we don’t know what we’d get back for them," he said, asking for a lot more research and work to be done before any request was put forward. 

The DOT responded that "while an overall study was discussed at the time, the board in 2009 requested that we focus specifically on Columbus and Amsterdam avenues," according to spokesman Nicholas Mosquera.  

Albert, who also voted against requesting the study, asked that the request be more general.

"I would like to see us ask DOT about the northbound or two-way avenues...which ones they think are the most appropriate," he said. 

There were previously long deliberations over the Columbus Avenue bike lane, which ultimately resulted in a protected bike lane being installed between West 59th and 110th streets.

The study request will go before the full board on Nov. 6.