As if there wasn’t enough progressive transportation development going down on the East Side to keep us busy, the Upper West Side is now getting in on the act. Last night NYC DOT (making good on an October 09 request by Community Board 7) came to the CB7 transportation committee meeting to present plans (pdf) for protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements on the UWS.
New protected bike lane for 77th-96th on Columbus Ave
The plans include a protected cycle track on Columbus Avenue from 96th to 77th Street that would provide significant safety improvements for the hundreds of cyclists who use the neighborhood’s contested streets. The new cycle track would provide links to the the 77th Street bike lane, Central Park and the West Side Greenway. The new cycle track would be similar in operation to the recently installed ones on 8th and 9th Avenue in Chelsea, where they are protected from moving traffic via a floating parking lane. Pedestrian refuge islands would also be installed at high-priority intersections such as 77th, 86th and 96th to help shorten crossing times and provide a safe haven from speeding traffic.
The packed house
Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, a terrific grass-roots organization that we’ve had the great fortune of working with over years, did some amazing community outreach to pack the meeting with residents, school children, business owners and commuters all in support of DOT’s plan. A truly inspiring sight. After listening to dozens of comments in support of the DOT plan, CB7 committee members began an executive session to discuss the presentation. Say what you want about the outcome of tonight’s meeting (below) but I really must commend the committee for running such an efficient and inclusive meeting where everyone who wanted to comment had the opportunity to do so (something our friends in CB6 may want to learn from).
The discussion during the executive session swayed from the need to protect cyclists and encourage sustainable transportation options to concerns over the impact on businesses and lost parking. Though the project would eventually eliminate 55 metered parking spaces, DOT was confident that such a change would not adversely affect the neighborhood. A DOT representative even went so far as to say that, “We’ve taken away parking for other projects and people have adjusted, the world has moved on.” Other comments included a board member stating that he actually supported the concept of protected bike lanes but that Columbus was just not the right avenue – he would have preferred to see a southbound protected lane on West End Avenue and a northbound protected lane on Central Park West.
A resolution was ultimately put forth by a board member in support of DOT’s presentation and voted on. 5 committee members for and 5 against. In a little bit of a confusing move, board members of CB7 who were also present but not official members of the transportation committee were also asked to vote: 3-2 in favor, bringing the total vote to 8-7. However the committee only counted the official vote as 5-5. As it appears, (and I’m not sure of CB7′s bylaws or tradition) votes from board members in attendance but not officially on the committee do not get counted towards the final committee vote. Thus the resolution failed. A disappointment for livable streets advocates for sure. BUT, both the minutes and the resolution vote will be taken up by the full board for consideration at its next meeting on June 1st. Save the date.
UPDATE: Please see the comment below from L. Cholden clarifying the CB committee member voting procedure.