UPPER WEST SIDE — After years of residents clamoring for a safer Amsterdam Avenue, the Department of Transportation proposed adding a protected northbound bike lane at a Community Board 7 meeting Tuesday night, a plan met initially with mostly favorable reactions.
"There has not been a street in New York City that I’ve heard more about," admitted DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who attended the presentation.
The DOT took so much time to formulate a plan because the avenue presents challenges — it's a bus route, a truck route, there's speeding and a high volume of traffic, explained Sean Quinn, co-director of Pedestrian Projects at the DOT.
"The current design encourages bad driving behavior...Amsterdam hasn’t been put through the rigorous DOT tool kit," in terms of redesigning the street infrastructure, said Quinn.
The Nuts and Bolts of the Plan
The plan would add a northbound bike lane next to the sidewalk on the western side of the avenue, which would be protected from moving traffic by a line of parked vehicles. The lane would run from West 72nd Street to West 110th Street, with a southern section added in later phases.
On the eastern side of the street, the parking regulation would switch from one-hour metered parking to paid commercial parking zones to cut down on double-parking on the avenue. Currently, trucks do not have designated delivery zones.
Overall, parking spaces would be reduced by 25 percent.
Under the plan, which Trottenberg called "brilliant," four moving lanes would be trimmed to three moving lanes.
To accommodate left-hand turning vehicles, the parking lane will be shortened at the approach to the intersection. Vehicles making left-hand turns can then pull out of the moving lanes as they near the intersection. The change would help the flow of traffic on the avenue, DOT officials said.
Factors in Support of the Bike Lane
Adding a northbound bike lane will cut down on cyclists who are riding the wrong way on the southbound Columbus Avenue bike lane, said Quinn.
The bike lane also shortens crossing times for pedestrians, he said.
The DOT analysis shows that adding the lane will not dramatically alter the flow of vehicular traffic, said Quinn.
And cycling has increased on the avenue, he added. A study of bike volumes on the avenue from West 85th Street to West 86th Street in a 12-hour period showed an increase from 217 in October 2007 to 609 in October 2015, he said.
The addition of Citi Bike in the neighborhood has borough an added incentive to build the bike lane, said Quinn. CB7 members had urged the DOT to build the northbound lane before the rollout of Citi Bike.
If only 2 percent of taxi riders switch to Citi Bike, that's "enough to make plan work," said Quinn.
Plus, protected bike lanes improve safety, according to a DOT analysis that looked at the conditions before and after lanes were added along six different Manhattan routes:
► Crashes with injuries were reduced by 17 percent.
► Pedestrian injuries were down by 22 percent.
► Total injuries dropped by 20 percent.
CB7 asked the DOT to present alternatives to a northbound bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue as well as study the feasibility of a lane there.
Central Park West was ruled out because it's too narrow, said Quinn.
And though several residents suggested a northbound bike lane along West End Avenue, DOT officials didn't offer much explanation of why they aren't considering it except to say that Amsterdam Avenue is more centrally located.
They did propose alterative lanes on the northbound section of Broadway and adding a two-way lane on the existing Columbus Avenue lane.
Reactions to the Amsterdam Avenue Plan
Of the roughly 28 people who testified before the DOT and CB7 about the plan Tuesday night, only about eight had a negative reaction.
The majority of speakers told DOT officials they welcomed the plan, that it was too long coming and they should hurry up and make it a reality.
Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter Ariel was killed by a reckless driver on Amsterdam Avenue at West 97th Street more than two years ago, said she'd always had a bad feeling about the avenue even before Ariel's death.
"As a mother who lost her child on Amsterdam Avenue, I am so grateful for this plan and I know it’s going to save lives," said Russo, who is a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets.
Others spoke in favor of having a way to safely commute home from work, to ride with their kids to school and the importance of shifting away from a car-centric way of thinking.
The DOT said it has sent out a team of ten ambassadors to talk to businesses along the avenue about the plan and to hear their concerns.
Gary Greengrass, who owns the famous bagels and smoked fish store Barney Greengrass, said he does not support the plan.
To him, the Columbus Avenue bike lane seems already very dangerous.
And taking away parking spaces would hurt him. "As a small business, we have people who drive to our place," he said.
The DOT will take into account the feedback from Tuesday's meeting and take the next two months to "refine" its plan, said Margaret Forgione, DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner.
It will also take the time to talk to more businesses along the avenue, she said.
In January, it will present the revised plan to CB7.
The DOT hopes to start work on the bike lane this spring.
To read through our live tweets from the meeting using the hashtag #AmsterdamAve, go here or follow @Efrost1 on Twitter.