Despite CB8 Deadlock, DOT Moves on Four East 70s Bike Lanes

New painted bike lanes are beginning to be installed on the Upper East Side, as here on East 77th Street, between Third and Lexington Avenues. | JACKSON CHEN
New painted bike lanes are beginning to be installed on the Upper East Side, as seen here on East 77th Street, between Third and Lexington Avenues. | JACKSON CHEN

BY JACKSON CHEN | The Department of Transportation has begun installation of painted crosstown bike lanes on East 70th, 71st, 77th, and 78th Streets despite having no formal resolution in support from Community Board 8.

CB8 first requested in November 2015 that the DOT look into developing crosstown bike routes for the Upper East Side. But even after three lengthy community meetings that considered options of six different pairs of east- and westbound bike lanes, the board, on May 18 in a 25 to 19 vote, rejected a resolution recommending which streets should be fitted with bike lanes.

With unproductive results from the community, the agency informed CB8 on June 22 that it had decided to push forward with the two pairs of crosstown routes in the East 70s.

According to the DOT, the East 77th and 78th bike lanes were due to be completed by July 8, while the East 70th and 71st pair was expected to be installed by the end of the following week. The agency hopes that, once in place, the painted bike lanes will calm traffic by providing clear road markings for both vehicles and bicycles, while not reducing any parking space.

“We have engaged with board members, residents, elected officials, business owners, and other stakeholders over the past several months to present and fine-tune this proposal,” Luis Sanchez, the DOT’s acting Manhattan borough commissioner, wrote to CB8. “Adding a five-foot bicycle lane to the streets… will make cyclist movement more predictable and improve safety for all roadway users.”

With the discussions always having focused on three pairs of crosstown routes, the agency said that the East 84th and 85th bike lanes are still potential routes. But with so many community concerns having been raised about those two specific streets, the DOT indicated there were no other solid plans for bike lane infrastructure on the Upper East Side right now.

Scott Falk, co-chair of CB8’s Transportation Committee, said it wasn’t often that the community board couldn’t come to a decision about bike lane questions (the neighborhood already has a pair of routes on East 90th and 91st Street). With no formal direction from the board, however, Falk accepted DOT’s decision to move forward on its own with crosstown options.

“DOT were within their rights to move forward if the board didn’t weigh in,” Falk said, adding he had voted in favor of three pairs during the May full board meeting. “The board is only advisory anyways, but the board didn’t advise ultimately.”

Falk said he has heard concerns about the spacing of the routes DOT selected, with two new pairs in the East 70s, but none in the 60s or the 80s.

“There are some people who just feel it’s not fair that only one area is getting them,” he told Manhattan Express. “I do think it’s fair to say there’s questions to whether things are spread too far.”

But, according to DOT, the work on the bicycle lanes has already begun and would be up and running shortly. The agency added that it would continue working with CB8 and the community for future bike lane options.

“I’m so glad that the Department of Transportation decided to give us at least four crosstown bike lanes,” Hindy Schachter, a 49-year resident of the Upper East Side, said. “We have First Avenue, a great protected bike lane, but we have no way of accessing Central Park or the West Side.”

Schachter, a cyclist since the late ’60s whose husband Irving was killed in 2014 when a bicyclist hit him as he was jogging in Central Park, said while she had favored the three pairs discussed but ultimately rejected by CB8, the bike lanes being installed by DOT were a “wonderful step forward.”