BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | The Upper West Side’s Community Board 7 voted in favor of a protected bike lane along Central Park West at its July 2 full-board meeting.
The decision was met with an eruption of cheers inside the packed meeting room, at the Goddard Riverside Community Center, where many bike-lane supporters held yellow signs reading, “Board 7, do the right thing.”
Before community board members voted on the resolution, Edward Pincar, the Department of Transportation’s Manhattan borough commissioner, and Nick Carey, senior project manager at the D.O.T. Bicycle and Greenway Program, presented the department’s plan for the bike lane, which would run between W. 59th and W. 110th Sts. To create the bike lane, D.O.T. would need to remove 400 parking spaces along the avenue’s eastern side.
Pincar, Carey and Ted Wright, D.O.T. director of Bicycle and Greenway Programs, had first presented the plan at a June 10 C.B. 7 Transportation Committee meeting, at which some residents expressed concern that the bike lane would cause traffic congestion. The trio received pushback from car-owning or car-dependent residents when they revealed that installing the bike lane would mean losing parking spaces. That pushback only intensified at the July 2 full-board meeting, where bike-lane opponents repeatedly interrupted the D.O.T. officials and community board members with hisses, boos and loud demands for an environmental impact study.
“A lot of Upper West Side families are struggling just to survive,” said car owner Laura Jenkins, on the verge of tears. “The subways don’t work properly. I go borough to borough and I have a child, and I can’t afford not to have my car. ”
She added that the cost of parking garages in the neighborhood was also out of her price range.
“We need our parking spots,” she declared. “Do not take away our parking spots.”
But bike-lane boosters and cycling activists from groups like Streetopia and Transportation Alternatives were equally as impassioned. Activists repeatedly called for “Safety now!” Some bike-lane-backing residents even compared the critics to climate-change deniers for failing to recognize the connection between cars, a lack of protected bike lanes and the city’s rising number of cyclist deaths.
During a particularly tense moment, Chelsea Yamada, a Transportation Alternatives member, held a photo of a ghost bike in the air and shouted “Data denier!” when community board member Jay Adolf tried to speak about his proposed amendment to the resolution. Adolf’s proposal called on D.O.T to conduct a study six months prior to any construction on the bike lane, to examine the effects that eliminating 400 traffic spots would have on resident and transient parking. The amendment failed to pass.
The push for a Central Park West bike lane started last year after the death of Madison Lyden, a 23-year-old Australian tourist who was forced to swerve her bike into oncoming traffic and was hit by a garbage truck. Upper West Siders, bicycle safety activists, C.B. 7 and local politicians, including Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, called on D.O.T. to create a two-way protected bike lane.
According to D.O.T.’s Pincar, the department will monitor the bike lane on a quarterly basis for the next year. Construction on the bike lane will start immediately.