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It's Time To Bring Crosstown Bike Lanes to the UES, Residents Say

By Shaye Weaver | November 20, 2015 3:22pm | Updated on November 23, 2015 8:48am
 Community Board 8 supports adding more protected bike lanes and crosstown bike lanes to the neighborhood.
Community Board 8 supports adding more protected bike lanes and crosstown bike lanes to the neighborhood.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — Residents concerned about unruly cyclists and motorists are calling on the Department of Transportation to install crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood for the sake of safety.

On Wednesday, Community Board 8 voted to support the implementation of painted lanes in the short term and a network of safe bike routes in the long term, with the help of the DOT.

Currently, the Upper East Side only has crosstown routes on 90th and 91st streets and one protected bike lane going north on First Avenue, according to the DOT.

Some members expressed hesitation before the vote, saying they're concerned that the board's transportation committee was swayed by a larger contingent of bicyclists that showed up during its discussion of the issue on Nov. 4.

But other board members said the lack of critics at the meeting shows that opposition to bike lanes is waning.

"We have a moral imperative to provide a safe space for New Yorkers on our streets," said transportation committee co-chair Scott Falk.

Supporters of the designated bike lanes turned up for the meeting in large numbers, including Hindy Schachter, who lost her husband Irving in August 2014 when a cyclist mowed him down in Central Park.

Schachter, who has lived on the Upper East Side since 1967, said she still supports a system of protected bike lanes despite her major loss.

"You might think I'm here to speak against protected bike lanes, but you would be wrong," she said. "Safety demands protected bike lanes. Safety for cyclists and for pedestrians demands a reallocation of space in Manhattan."

Resident Devin Gould agreed.

"When cyclists have their own space, it keeps them off of sidewalks and from going the wrong way. I think I deserve to be alive and have my life protected in the city where I was born and raised."

Gould added that there has been a surge in Citi Bike riders — there were 75,000 trips taken from Oct. 10 to Oct. 31 on the Upper East Side, according to data from the bike share — which is another reason to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, he said.

"In 2016, when there are over a 1 million trips, will people be able to argue that bicyclists make up a tiny minority? I don’t think so," he said.

But CB8 member Ed Hartzog said he wouldn't support any protected crosstown bike lanes until cyclists obey the rules of the road — a sentiment that many residents have been expressing for months to the 19th Precinct.

"There is complete lawlessness out there," Hartzog said. "I am vehemently opposed to any bike lane that is proposed … until and when this community board or this city or this mayor stands up and says 'Where are the cops?' There is no enforcement. It is a complete and total Armageddon out there."

He added that he worries his son will one day get clipped by a bike on his way to and from school.

Sharon Pope, a community board member who is also the outreach manager for Bike New York, said she understands the fear, but putting in dedicated bike lanes is about keeping all bicyclists safe and not about giving law-breaking cyclists more ground.

"I've seen [this issue] germinate and I've witnessed it over the years percolate to the top," she said. "I am extremely sympathetic to everyone’s negative experiences to cyclists who are not obeying the rules of the road. We have to look at how to protect cyclists, pedestrians as well as motorists. Studies and statistics show clearly that bike lanes and protected bike lanes add a calming factor to the streetscape. We can’t delay this any longer — [the Upper East Side] lags behind everyone else."

The DOT on Thursday told DNAinfo New York that it is interested in creating additional bike lanes on the Upper East Side and will work with the community on the proposal in the coming months.