Some residents at the meeting waved yelllow signs reading "Board 7 do the right thing." Photo: Jason Cohen
Residents and Community Board 7 members yelled and interrupted each other for more than two hours in a tension-filled meeting last week before the board passed a resolution approving a northbound protected bike lane on Central Park West.
The contentious session, on July 2nd, came after three cyclists were killed in the city in the space of just eight days. A total of 15 cyclists have been killed on city streets so far this year, compared to 10 in all of 2018.
During the meeting, people chanted “Someone died!” and held up signs that read “Board 7 do the right thing.” The anger on display was in sharp contrast to a CB7 transportation committee meeting in June, where the bike lane was discussed and approved with calm civility.
The Department of Transportation proposal for the CPW bike lane includes dedicated space for cyclists, safer pedestrian and cyclist crossings, dedicated turn lanes and the removal of 400 parking spaces.
Sara Lind, co-secretary of CB7, expressed her frustration with the constant rude behavior throughout the evening. She told the audience the protected bike lane had been under discussion for about a year. “I think the bike lane should be implemented as quickly as possible,” said Lind. “If people had concerns, there’s been plenty of time for input. If someone else dies, that can’t be taken back.”
Board member Jay Adolf introduced a substitute resolution, which would have required the DOT to take six months to conduct traffic and environmental studies. It was voted down. “I feel like the board was asked to make a decision with a lack of information,” Adolf said.A Death on CPW
It was the death of tourist Madison Lyden on CPW last summer that triggered efforts to add a protected bike lane on the busy avenue. As Lyden was riding north on Aug. 10, 2018, a livery vehicle blocked the painted bike lane, forcing her into the adjacent traffic lane, where she was struck and killed by a private sanitation truck.
Lyden’s death prompted renewed calls from bike activists and local politicians for the DOT to replace the painted bike lane on with a protected lane, a step supporters say would almost certainly have prevented the collision.
In addition to Lyden’s death, the DOT found that 22 people have been severely injured on Central Park West from 2013 to 2017. On streets where protected bike lanes were installed, such as Columbus Avenue from West 59th St. to West 110th St., there has been a 15 percent decrease in all crashes with injuries and a 21 percent drop in pedestrian injuries from 2007 to 2017.Bike Lane Proponents
Resident Nevona Friedman held back tears as she spoke. She could not fathom how people could care more about losing 400 parking spaces than someone’s life. “People here really value parking over neighbors’ and friends’ lives?” she said. “Oh my God it’s unbelievable. We need bike lanes.”
Bethany Davis Miller, a frequent cyclist on CPW, said cars often whip by her scaring her half-to-death. “I feel it’s extremely dangerous,” she said. “I just want to be safe.”
Board members Richard Robbins and Kenneth Coughlin said delaying the vote or not implementing the bike lane will hurt the community, not help it. Coughlin noted that having parking spots is important, but safety comes first. “We’re risking lives if we delay this,” Robbins said.Bike Lane Opponents
Resident named Sean Donovan was angry that the DOT would attempt to install a protected bike lane without conducting an environmental study. He stressed that the bike lane would create more havoc, not less. “Where is the environmental study?” he asked. “None of this should be done until that has taken place. It’s bullshit. As an engineer, I’m appalled at what you’ve done.”
Many speakers said the real issue is that bikers don’t obey the laws or know them. “This is a new and terrifying movement brought about by the increasing popularization in bike lanes,” said Gregory Nixon. “Bikers often ignore whatever lanes have been set up.”
An emotional Laura Jenkins told the audience it would be a disaster if 400 parking spots were removed. She emphasized that not everyone on the UWS is rich and can pay the $500 or $600 fees for parking garages. “I’m a middle class person,” said Jenkins. “I’m not rich. I have a garbage Pontiac. A lot of Upper West Side parents are struggling to survive. It’s very hard, and I can’t afford to not have my car. We need our parking spots.”
Board member Sheldon Fine opposed the bike lane and supported Jay Adolf’s substitute resolution. Fine said he wanted a traffic study done, and needed to know what would happen with parking if the spots were removed. “We’re seeing tonight that there are many issues that have not been addressed,” Fine remarked. “Delaying is not going to hurt anybody.”
The protected bike lane was approved by a vote of 27-7, with three abstentions.