On a recent Saturday afternoon, a delivery person pedaled north along Columbus Avenue’s bike lane, casually crossing West 87th Street.
But because Columbus Avenue traffic travels southbound, and so, ostensibly, does bike traffic, he was riding illegally.
“Been doing this for years,” he said of riding against traffic. “If I start respecting (traffic laws) I won’t make no money.”
During a 30-minute period that Saturday, 10 of the 25 cyclists riding in the bike lane rode north along Columbus. One gray-haired wrong-way riding gentleman, tennis racquets protruding from his backpack, replied with a couldn’t-be-more-casual “I know” when informed he was biking the wrong way.
Jodi Verse, a longtime Upper West Side resident who walks miles a day, also rides a bike regularly, but she isn’t enamored of some of her cycling brethren.
“I take great pains to be considerate in both realms and it disgusts me when cyclists don’t abide by the same rules as motorists,” she said.
On this day, she had plenty of company.
While watching a cyclist run a red light, Raul Galoppe, 58, said, “Pedestrians are the most vulnerable and it shouldn’t be dangerous or stressful to cross a street when I have a green light. With little enforcement, most bicyclists feel they can do whatever they want.”
Sam Swope, though, has sympathy for bicyclists and an appreciation for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. Having to look both ways crossing a one-way street, Swope, 61, calls a “minor inconvenience” and says that walking along Columbus Avenue is a more pleasant experience without the “wall of parked cars.”
The same could be in line an avenue over. Upper West Side City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, a bicycling advocate, recently wrote the city’s Department of Transportation asking for a dedicated bike lane to be built on Amsterdam Avenue.
The letter, in part, reads: “Currently the Columbus Avenue bike lane is being used by both uptown and downtown riders creating hazardous conditions for pedestrians. This can be mitigated once an uptown bike lane is added to this portion of the West Side corridor creating an alternative pathway.”
Opposition is already building.
Eva-Lynn Podietz, 63, used to bike in the city before a serious accident, is opposed to the bike lane.
“Overall, it would be wonderful if we had more bicycles and fewer cars in the city,” Podietz said. “But there has to be strict enforcement of traffic rules first. If not, it’s more dangerous for pedestrians and the law abiding cyclists.”
Last fall, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (no relation to the councilwoman), who represents most of the Upper West Side, held a forum for senior citizens to discuss their concerns regarding cyclists.
Rosenthal sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio asking for changes to be implemented, such as “enhanced enforcement activities by the NYPD and NYC Parks Enforcement” and increased “outreach and education.”
While acknowledging a reported decrease in fatalities and serious injuries, the letter also states: “... statistics alone do not paint a complete picture.”
The letter continues: “the perception among seniors in my district remains one of pervasive fear.” In addition, “more needs to be done to ensure the safety of seniors and other pedestrians living in my district and citywide…”
Kim Demat, 50, another lifelong resident of the Upper West Side, thinks the addition of dedicated bike lanes “mess up traffic” and although she considers bicyclists dangerous since “most don’t adhere to the traffic rules,” seems sadly “resigned to the fact that due to more pressing issues, they are not policed well.”