BY JACKSON CHEN | After the city’s Department of Transportation added six proposed Upper East Side crosstown bike lanes to an ongoing public discussion of options, Community Board 8 voted on May 18 to reject a proposal strongly recommended by its own Transportation Committee to designate east/ west pairs on East 70th and 71st, 77th and 78th, and 84th and 85th Streets for reconfiguration.
After a long-winded discussion within the full board, CB8 ultimately decided, with 25 against to 19 in favor, to nix the options the Transportation Committee put forward on May 4 after working with the DOT for three months on numerous permutations for new bike routes in the neighborhood.
The DOT first approached CB8’s Transportation Committee in February with six streets — paired together as East 67th and 68th, East 77th and 78th, and East 84th and 85th — to be outfitted with painted crosstown bike lanes designed so they would not reduce parking or travel lanes.
But resistance from the public resulted in the committee requesting that DOT come up with at least six more alternatives for them to choose from.
At the May 4 Transportation Committee meeting, the DOT returned with six more streets — East 70th and 71st, East 75th and 76th, and East 81st and 82nd — to consider alongside its original six suggestions.
CB8 had also asked the agency to clarify what criteria they used in considering which streets can accommodate bike lanes. DOT officials explained they looked for connections to subway stations and parks or green space, proximity to commercial corridors, and the distance between paired sets of crosstown routes.
The downsides of the three new alternatives presented, according to the DOT, included their distance from Lexington Avenue subway stations and from entrances into Central Park and the East River Esplanade.
Faced with a pool of 12 streets to choose from, the committee majority supported one pair from the new alternatives — East 70th and 71st Streets — and two of the original three pairs proposed on East 77th and 78th, and 84th and 85th Streets.
Scott Falk, the Transportation Committee co-chair, said that in reviewing the three new pairs of options the DOT presented he was concerned with their close proximity to each other. At the same time, the northernmost pair of the three new alternatives was a full nine blocks below the one existing pair of Upper East Side routes at East 90th and 91st Streets.
“My personal concern is when we looked at the three alternatives as a unified plan, they were clustered too close together,” Falk said. “That doesn’t disperse it into anything resembling a network and, to me, that seemed like an unfair way to treat the community.”
As a result, he explained, the majority of the committee, 9 to 2, selected three pairs of routes its members believe balance all the pros and cons of the options the DOT has laid out.
But despite the committee’s voting heavily in favor of its recommendation, the majority of CB8 is still unwilling to approve of crosstown lanes.
As the full board completed its vote, Thomas DeVito, the director of organizing at Transportation Alternatives, tweeted, “.@CB8M has discussed xtown lanes for months, was given a dozen options. Can’t agree to simple paint to protect thousands of residents.#shame.”