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Amsterdam Ave. Bike Lane Approved by Community Board at Raucous Meeting

By Emily Frost | February 3, 2016 11:27am
 After a lengthy debate, Community Board 7 voted to approve a protected bike lane along the avenue. 
Amsterdam Avenue Bike Lane Approved by CB 7
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A protected bike lane that will run along Amsterdam Avenue between West 72nd and 110th streets has won approval from Community Board 7.

The Department of Transportation is planning to install it this year. 

A small faction of board members tried to push through a last-minute motion asking that the DOT install a series of infrastructure changes to the avenue without adding the bike lane, but the motion ultimately failed at Tuesday's meeting.

The deciding vote in the debate over the northbound bike lane, which has been ongoing for at least two years, brought out residents in droves. 

Local Fire Department officials forced at least 100 people who couldn't fit in the main conference room at the Goddard Riverside Community Center and were waiting in the hallway to vacate the building before the meeting could continue. 

Some in the overflow crowd waited outside for a chance to get back in to testify, while others looked in through the windows surrounding the room. 

At the start of the public testimony, more than a dozen members of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets stood together with Kathleen and Steve McAnulty, the children of professor and longtime resident Thomas McAnulty, 73, who was killed by a motorcyclist on Amsterdam Avenue at West 96th Street earlier this month. 

"We’ve always known that Amsterdam has been crazy... If something isn’t done, more people are going to die," said Kathleen McAnulty, 39. 

"I really cannot imagine what the arguments are against [the bike lane]."

Dozens of residents testified in favor of the bike lane, citing an increase in safety they believe the lane will deliver by shortening crossing distances, slowing traffic and separating cyclists from vehicles.

However, many also spoke against the lane, arguing it would increase congestion as well as make parking impossible for locals and deliveries difficult for businesses. 

Though some board members argued that infrastructure changes like curb extensions, increasing time for pedestrians to cross and altering traffic signals to slow vehicles would make the avenue safer without a bike lane, DOT officials countered that these revisions would not make it as safe as a complete overhaul that included a bike lane.

"We have about eight years of parking-protected bike lanes under our belts. We have seen tremendous safety improvements for all users," said DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione.

"We need to be leaders on the Upper West Side," CB7 member Brian Jenks told his fellow board members, encouraging them to vote for the lane. 

Board member Klari Neuwelt had confidence in the DOT.

"If they get it wrong," she said, "they can fix it."

In the first couple weeks after a bike lane goes in, the DOT works with the NYPD to increase enforcement of the new parking rules and make the transition from four lanes of traffic to three as smooth as possible, Forgione explained. 

Board members urged the DOT to check in with them on an ongoing basis about how the bike lane is working and what adjustments needed to be made. 

The board passed the resolution in favor of the bike lane with 28 members in favor, 13 opposed and two abstentions. 

Supporters of the plan, many of whom held aloft signs urging the board to "Fix Amsterdam," were jubilant, shouting and applauding the decision.

"Tonight’s vote by Manhattan Community Board 7 will bring a safer, more livable Amsterdam Avenue with a long-awaited protected bike lane," Forgione said in a statement Tuesday night.

"Thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan and Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine’s initiative on this extraordinary project, DOT is delivering much needed safety enhancements to the heart of the Upper West Side.” 

For more on the specifics of the plan, go here and here. 

You can catch up on all the live tweets from the evening via the @efrost1 twitter feed and by checking the hashtag #amsterdambikelane. 

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