Safer, More Livable Streets for the East Side — The Campaign Heats Up

Advocates and volunteers working for protected bike paths on the East Side, flush from last month's highly encouraging Community Board 8 vote, delivered more than a thousand handwritten letters yesterday to City Hall, supporting protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues. Keep an eye on this story. It's a big one.

letter_signing.jpgEast Side residents sign on for safer, greener streets.
As DOT and the MTA flesh out plans for Bus Rapid Transit along the M15 route, dedicated space for both buses and cyclists on First and Second is within reach. Rarely does the opportunity present itself to make such huge strides toward less congested, more livable streets. New York only has one shot to get it right.

"We're really hoping to put a finger on the scales, and push for fully-protected bike lanes while the DOT and East Side communities work on improving the M15 corridor," said Transportation Alternatives' Wiley Norvell. "To not address the huge demand for biking on First and Second avenues, something the DOT pledged to do as step number one in its 1997 Bicycle Master Plan, would be a huge missed opportunity."

TA counted 3,356 cyclists on the First and Second Avenue corridor during a 12-hour stretch last month, a figure that far exceeds the DOT's 2008 screenline count at 59th Street, Norvell said. All those cyclists are a fearless bunch -- braving rivers of traffic and some of the city's most intimidating cycling conditions. Imagine how many more New Yorkers would bike down the avenues if they didn't feel they were risking life and limb.

Norvell says TA staff and volunteers have been gathering letters from East Harlem down to the Lower East Side in support of protected bike infrastructure. Yesterday's delivery put hundreds of letters in the hands of East Side electeds, including City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Daniel Garodnick.

"The meetings were very positive," said Caroline Samponaro, director of TA's bike program. "Their staff agreed that we shouldn't redesign First and Second avenues without including provisions for cyclists and pedestrians."

Active support from East Side representatives will be critical as plans for the corridor advance. "Every project is about political will," said Samponaro. "What these projects need is political leadership from the electeds. They need to be the spokespeople for their constituents."

The optimal re-design of First and Second avenues would give buses and cyclists "space that allows them to travel safely and efficiently without having to compete with each other," she added. "These corridors can serve the non-driving majority and set a standard for how other major avenues will be treated."