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City Tries to Resubmit Same Bike Lane Plan Month After Locals Reject It

By Shaye Weaver | March 21, 2016 5:21pm
 The DOT is proposing to paint new crosstown bike lanes six one-way streets on the Upper East Side.
The DOT is proposing to paint new crosstown bike lanes six one-way streets on the Upper East Side.
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Department of Transportation

UPPER EAST SIDE — Residents were baffled by the city's failure to alter a plan to install crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood after they rejected the proposal last month.

Community Board 8 last month largely opposed the Department of Transportation's plans to put painted bike lanes on six one-way streets on the Upper East side, instead calling on the city to put them on broader, two-way streets instead. 

So locals were surprised when the agency returned to Community Board 8 on March 2 with the exact same plan that CB8 had already rejected.

"I'm disappointed that everything we heard tonight, we heard a month ago," said resident Betty Cooper Wallerstein at a Community Board meeting on March 2. "It isn't right to have a meeting and then come back the next month with the exact same things."

On Feb. 4, when the DOT presented plans to install the lanes on East 67th, 68th, 77th, 78th, 84th and 85th streets, residents slammed the idea citing heavy crowding along those stretches.

Residents initially said the new bike lanes would add to the congestion of the streets, which already draw a lot of traffic because of the schools, hospitals, bus lanes and subways in the area.

During the March 2 CB 8 transportation committee, the DOT defended its unaltered plan saying the lanes would organize the roads, calm traffic and increase drivers' awareness of cyclists. The new bike lanes would also work to connect Central Park to the East River Esplanade without taking away parking spaces or traffic lanes, DOT officials said.

New DOT data also shows that there are a number of hospitals, schools, fire houses and police departments that already exist where there are bike routes, officials said during the meeting.

"If we were limited to streets without institutions, we'd have an abysmal bike lane network," a DOT spokesman said.

Margaret Forgione, the Manhattan Borough Commissioner for the DOT, added that they have not had a problem with safety issues on the streets where bike routes and institutions overlap.

"There is a way to work with schools and crossing guards to address any safety issues," she said. "We've been installing bike lanes for many years and we haven’t had incidents of collisions between bicyclists and students. There's been a lot of discussion and review and I think this is being made into a bigger issue than what it will be when it goes out on the street."

Still residents once again shot down the plan, and asked that the DOT come back with a new proposal with alternative bike lane sites in addition to what's already being proposed.

Civitas, a community group that fights to improve quality of life on the Upper East Side, specially suggested the city consider 81st, 80th, 70th, 71st, 75th and 76th streets as possible sites.

Others called on the city to scrap their plan and to put the bike routes on two-way crosstown streets, instead of congested one-way streets.

The full community board on March 16 passed a resolution asking the DOT to give residents alternatives to consider along with its original proposal so that the board can provide input on which streets are the most ideal, according to Scott Falk, the co-chairman of CB 8's transportation committee.

The DOT said it will review the board's comments and determine its next steps. Falk says he expects the agency will return to the community board in May.