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Upper West Siders Demand Bike Lane Ahead of Planned Rollout of Citi Bike

By Emily Frost | June 10, 2015 5:53pm
 With many more bikers expected on the streets of the Upper West Side, another protected bike lane is crucial, CB7 members said. 
Locals Renew Call for Bike Lane with Imminent Arrival of Citi Bike
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Local leaders are demanding that the Department of Transportation install a new bike lane before the onslaught of cyclists expected with the arrival of Citi Bike at the end of the summer. 

Community Board 7 asked the DOT to study the feasibility of a northbound protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue in early December 2013. But now, with no response from the agency more than a year-and-a-half later, the board wants immediate action.

"We need something that makes it safe [to cycle] as soon as possible, because these [Citi] bikes are coming and people’s lives are at stake," board member Howard Yaruss said.

"We need to light a fire under [DOT]."

Currently, the neighborhood has only a southbound protected lane — where cyclists are separated and protected from traffic by a line of parked cars — on Columbus Avenue. 

Thirty-nine new Citi Bike docking stations, holding hundreds of Citi Bikes, are set to arrive in the neighborhood, starting at the end of August, DOT officials have said.  

Riders, many of whom will be first-timers, need as much help as possible from bike lanes, board members said.

"I'm seeing a lot of tourists [riding Citi Bikes]; they’re totally clueless," said CB7 member Roberta Semer. "They’re riding slowly because they’re riding on heavy bikes."

Amsterdam Avenue is considered the most dangerous avenue in the neighborhood, second only to Broadway, according to NYPD data.

The wide northbound avenue acts as a route for trucks and tourist buses, in addition to the cars, ambulances and city buses that also use it.

"It’s a potential death zone," said board member Ken Coughlin of Amsterdam Avenue. 

In April, City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal wrote to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg calling for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, saying it would make it a safer for everyone. 

While some transportation committee members worry that pushing the DOT wouldn't necessarily bring faster results, others insist the agency can move quickly with community demand. 

This past summer, "we saw that DOT could redo West End Avenue in a period of months," said board member Rich Robbins. "Let’s get them to do something proactively, not reactively." 

Ultimately, the committee passed a resolution Tuesday night demanding the DOT provide "an immediate answer" about the feasibility of an Amsterdam Avenue protected bike lane, and also that it agree to the "immediate implementation" of a northbound lane, whether on Amsterdam or on another neighborhood avenue. 

The resolution still needs approval by the full board in early July before it is sent to the DOT. 

The Department of Transportation said it is reviewing safety enhancements for Amsterdam Avenue and that it undertook a number of safety improvements elsewhere last year, including along West End Avenue and Riverside Drive and at West 96th Street and Broadway, a spokeswoman said.