Bike advocates predict more lanes to come to city streets
No matter what happens in next month's mayoral election, one thing is clear: You'll be seeing more bike lanes in the Big Apple throughout the years ahead, and New Yorkers have strong opinions on where they should go.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the expansion of the lanes one of his top transportation priorities and experts say they have not only made streets safer for peddle fans, they've created a new bike culture.
In the last six years alone, the city created 300 new miles of bike lanes across the boroughs.
The city's Department of Transportation said it plans to bring those lanes to more areas in the near future, but couldn't give specifics. Both Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota have expressed support for bike lane expansion if elected, but they haven't laid out any particular places they'd like to see the lanes created.
Bike advocates and elected officials, however, have their ideas for lane placement.
"There are a lot of opportunities to invest in neighborhood bike lanes that work that aren't in central business districts," said Caroline Samponaro, the senior director of campaigns and organizing at advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. "It's like if you build it, they will come."
Specifically, Samponaro said Atlantic Avenue and Queens Boulevard would be the most ideal spots for new lanes because they have the highest traffic density among streets without bike lanes. More and more bikers, especially those coming from Prospect Heights and Astoria, are taking to those streets, which are already prone to accidents because they're so packed.
"There is still an opportunity to tackle the biggest, baddest streets in the city," she said.
Samponaro added that there are plenty of streets in Manhattan that need the lanes as well.
Many avid bikers agreed. Adam Nowicki, a construction manager who commutes from Westchester and then bikes to his office in Chelsea via Citi Bike, said Broadway and Sixth Avenue are too congested during rush hour. Nowicki could use the extra space of new lanes, he said.
"It's all about the safety," he said. "Even though I bike everyday and [I] am part of a [bike] club, I still ride with the hands on the brakes in Manhattan."
Marc Jayson Climaco, the creator of the blog #GetOffMyBikeLane, said he'd like to see bike lanes come to more highways in Manhattan, like the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway.
Making the lanes happen in these new spots, however, is easier said than done. City Councilman James Vacca, who chairs the Council's transportation committee, said there must be stronger community input when it comes to when and where the lanes pop up.Although bike lanes have led to a 73% reduction in serious injury among bikers during the last decade, according to the DOT, that safety has come at a cost for certain residents and business owners, Vacca said.
"Some people say bike lanes eliminate parking spots. I think the bike lane near me has slowed down traffic, but I don't think it is widely used," the Bronx councilman said.
De Blasio and Lhota have also pressed for more community involvement in their bike lane plans. The Democratic candidate, specifically, wants to increase bicycling tripts to 6% of all trips by the end of the decade. He has called for direct community input with the DOT when creating lanes.
"By better communicating on the front end, de Blasio will reduce friction and bolster public support for expanding cycling in the city," according to his campaign agenda "One New York Rising."
Samponaro said she isn't too worried about the opposition because of the lanes' benefits in terms of easing traffic congestion.
The more people take to the streets and feel safe, the more they encourage their neighbors to get on board, she said.
"The whole bike culture has been spreading everywhere, not just in New York City. We can show the world how it's done," the director said.