BY JACKSON CHEN | Community Board 8 has requested the relocation of a Citi Bike docking station on a portion of East 91st Street that is vehicle-free and frequented by many elderly and disabled residents.
Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee had earlier approved the docking station’s location as part of a bundle of new sites for the bike-sharing program as it expanded north toward East 110th Street. Now, CB8 is raising concerns that the city Department of Transportation is not following up sufficiently to gauge how the expansion is working out.
After roughly a month of operation for the new docking sites, CB8, on September 7, submitted a request to the Department of Transportation that the Citi Bike station on the south side of East 91st Street just west of Second Avenue be relocated. In its request, the board suggested the docking station be moved onto the sidewalk on Second Avenue running from East 91st to East 90th Street adjacent to a fence that surrounds a small park.
“It’s a sloping street that’s closed to vehicular traffic,” Jim Clynes, chair of CB8, said of the block of East 91st Street that runs from Third to Second Avenue. “It’s used by the public to enjoy, cars have never gone up and down, and they put the bike rack there without coming to us.”
A year ago, City Councilmember Ben Kallos warned that a Citi Bike station located at the end of a downhill block would encourage cyclists to zip down the slope to drop off their bikes and requested that it be strategically moved to avoid that. That request was rejected, and Kallos is now supporting CB8’s efforts.
“The problem I have seen is people going the wrong way on 91st Street, both coming down [the slope] which they’re only supposed to be coming up, or going down from the station to Second Avenue,” the councilmember said. “By moving it over about 10 to 15 feet, it will change the psychology of how folks approach it.”
But according to a DOT spokesperson, the station’s installation followed an “extensive community outreach process that has included meetings and public workshops in each community board.” Several local residents suggested the docking station’s location, the spokesperson asserted, adding that East 91st Street between Second and Third Avenues has been marked a bike route since 2007 and the station is in a spot that doesn’t impact parking or access to the small park.
For Rita Popper, a CB8 Transportation Committee member, there’s great potential for accidents involving elderly and disabled residents from the nearby Ruppert Towers and Knickerbocker Plaza. Also the president of the Knickerbocker Plaza Tenants Association, she said the docking station is in front of two benches often used by local residents.
CB8 members also said the station impedes cyclists using East 91st Street as a bike lane, forcing them to divert from their route and potentially having close calls with senior citizens.
The committee’s request for relocating the station became possible after sidewalk renovations related to the Second Avenue Subway construction were completed.
“When all of this came out, Second Avenue was under construction and the sidewalk was cut into,” Popper said. “But now it’s been restored in the last month, and it is a 20-foot wide sidewalk.”
Popper noted that there had been suggestions to place the docking station adjacent to the new protected bike lane on Second Avenue, but in an effort to avoid impact on parking space, CB8 was instead suggesting relocation onto the sidewalk, next to the park fence.
CB8 has also been working to get the East 91st Street block between Second and Third Avenue formally turned into a pedestrian plaza. Popper said the application was submitted to the DOT’s plaza program on August 31, but she isn’t holding her breath.
“The application was skewed more if you’re going to build a plaza,” Popper said of the process. “We don’t have to build a plaza, it already exists.”
For now, CB8 is most focused on its effort to relocate the East 91st Street Citi Bike station. Despite his lack of success in preventing the docking station from going there in the first place, Kallos said the DOT has been “incredibly responsive” to requests for relocating stations after community concerns have been raised.
The DOT said it would be reviewing the station in question when the overall expansion results are assessed over the next several months.