Unknotting the bowtie News

| 13 Feb 2015 | 02:41

Upper West Side The applause was long and hearty, with members of the community board and Dept. of Transportation officials alike standing to congratulate each other on finalizing plans to improve pedestrian safety at the bowtie, a treacherous nexus of streets around Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side.

The meeting last week capped months of planning and collaboration between the department and community that began last April. In June, the DOT held a workshop and invited residents to pour over giant printouts of the bowtie – where Broadway crosses Columbus Avenue from 63rd Street to 66th Street – in order to make recommendations on what safety changes could be made.

The department came back to the community with a presentation in December, and last week received approval for their plan in the form of a resolution from Community Board 7’s transportation committee. The resolution will go to a vote before the full board on March 3.

Three turn bans are among the biggest changes proposed by DOT and approved by the community board: southbound left turns from Columbus Avenue onto Broadway, northbound right turns from Broadway onto West 65th Street, and southbound left turns from Broadway onto West 64th Street.

Rich Carmona, an engineer with the DOT overseeing the project, said the area is rife with “pedestrian generators” like parks, subways, bus stops and attractions like Lincoln Center.

According to the DOT’s own safety data, 46 pedestrians were injured at the bowtie from 2008 to 2012. One pedestrian was also killed during that time period.

Thirty-nine percent of collisions between pedestrians and cars occurred when the pedestrian was crossing with the signal. The knot in the bowtie, where Broadway crosses Columbus Avenue at 65th Street, ranks in the top five percent of intersections in Manhattan for the number of people killed or seriously injured in traffic.

“What we heard at the workshop and at our meeting is December...is that the few locations that there are opportunities for vehicles and pedestrians to conflict with each other, we’re seeing a lot of vehicle and pedestrian crashes...and we’re seeing that a lot in the knot of the bowtie,” said Carmona of the knot.

That intersection will receive several safety enhancements in addition to the turn bans, including three new concrete elements, a painted sidewalk extension, five new crosswalks, the shortening of four existing crosswalks, and the widening of openings on the north side of the Broadway mall tip.

Bike lanes were another big issue raised at the workshop in June. To that end, DOT has proposed extending the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane three blocks from 59th Street to 62nd Street and two blocks from 67th Street to 69th Street.

“This was really identified as a gap in the bike lane network,” said Carmona. “That’s really the genesis of this whole conversation.”

CB 7 transportation committee member Ken Coughlin noted that the area is set to receive an influx of bicyclists in 2015 and beyond with the introduction of Citi Bike on the Upper West Side.

“The area is going to be really heavily traveled by Citi Bike,” said Coughlin, a bicyclist himself who attended the June workshop. “I really applaud the extension.”

The protected bike lane will now run continuously from 59th Street to 110th Street with a three-block gap between 64th Street and 67th Street, along which bicyclists will not have the protection of a row of parked cars.

In passing the resolution, however, transportation committee members made several strong recommendations.

For transportation committee member Monica Blum, the biggest issue facing the bowtie is ponding – when water and slush collects and forms big pools – at the corners, which causes pedestrians to bunch up at intersections to avoid them and use other-than-designated routes to navigate the area.

“If you do not address the ponding now, you’re not addressing pedestrian safety,” said Blum. “Our view is that you must do that before anything else.”

Members also have concerns about the block-long mixing zone between 66th Street and 67th Street on Columbus Avenue, with cars and bicyclists sharing the road. In approving the proposal, transportation committee members said they’d like to see alleviation of the ponding and more robust delineation of bike lanes between 66th Street and 67th Street.

DOT Deputy Commissioner for Manhattan Nina Haiman said the department would fix ponding issues in the project area, and Carmona said the department is looking to begin construction in June or July.

A full copy of the DOT’s bowtie presentation is available on their website.