After two years of discussions and tension-filled meetings, it appears that the plan to establish a northbound protected bike lane on Central Park West is almost done.
A Department of Transportation (DOT) official told the West Side Spirit that the implementation of the next phase of the Central Park West protected bike lane from 77th Street to Frederick Douglass Circle will be finished in the coming weeks. The DOT completed the first stretch of the work last year, but stopped due to the cold weather and then had delays because of COVID-19.
The new configuration for Central Park West was approved by Community Board 7 in September 2019.
The work being done by the DOT will create a northbound protected bike lane to pair with the southbound Columbus Ave. and West Dr. (Park Loop). The lane provides dedicated space for cyclists and creates shorter, safer pedestrian crossings. The intersection design offers safer crossing for cyclists and pedestrians, maintains traffic capacity during peak hours, provides dedicated turn lanes and reduces back pressure and weaving.
CB 7 Chair Mark Diller feels the new protected bike lane will help cyclists and pedestrians.
“I look forward to the improved safety features, although I very much understand and empathize with those for whom the loss of parking and the change to established routines and practices will be a significant burden,” Diller said.
Diller told the West Side Spirit he wonders how this has been affected by COVID-19. According to Diller, both pedestrian and cycling activity is on the rise, and these new lanes will benefit people using those means to get around.
However, he said the city must look at a long term solution for revamping mass transit, as there is no way that the volume of riders on subways and buses can be accommodated with surface transportation options, whether taxis, for-hire vehicles or private vehicles.
Safety for Cyclists
One major supporter of the new protected bike lane is bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
“We’re glad to see this is finally happening - and especially now,” said Joe Cutrufo, Transportation Alternatives spokesman. “We’re in the midst of a bike boom in New York City, and the best way to keep new cyclists safe is dedicated, protected bike infrastructure on our streets. We’re optimistic that the completion of the Central Park West bike lane will be the catalyst for crosstown protected bike lanes connecting the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side.”
The discussions to improve safety for cyclists on Central Park West began in 2018 when an Australian tourist, Madison Lyden, was killed while riding her bike.
As Lyden rode north on Aug. 10, a livery vehicle blocked the painted bike lane on Central Park West, forcing her to pull 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 city’s Department of Transportation to replace the painted bike lane on Central Park West 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 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.
Issues that have plagued cyclists near the park include bicycle fatalities, cyclists traveling alongside vehicles, double parking in bike lane, curb access, bus routes and traffic patterns and volumes.
“We’re in the midst of a bike boom in New York City, and the best way to keep new cyclists safe is dedicated, protected bike infrastructure on our streets.” Joe Cutrufo, Transportation Alternatives