Everyone’s On Board for East Harlem Bike Lanes — Except NYCDOT

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallies for the completion of the First and Second Avenue bike lanes in November, with Sen. José Serrano to her left and Assm. Brian Kavanagh to her right. The lanes will only extend to 57th Street this year, not 125th Street. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Is there any neighborhood in New York City that has asked for more and received less, in terms of safe street improvements, than East Harlem?

In 2010, days after it was announced that the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes were on hold between 34th Street and 125th Street, Community Board 11 members blasted DOT for seeming to put a low priority on their neighborhood.

A few months later, East Harlem residents wrote to Mayor Bloomberg, asking him to ensure that they’d be able to ride safely.

And in November, City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Sen. José Serrano stood on the steps of City Hall demanding that the city make good on its promises and finish the East Side bike lanes in 2011.

It’s no wonder why the neighborhood feels strongly. East Harlem boasts more cyclists than any neighborhood outside Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn, even though it hasn’t received any new bike infrastructure in years. That means its cyclists — like Marcus Ewing, who was fatally doored last October — are in particular danger, while its would-be cyclists don’t ride. With the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in the city, the community is also clamoring for more safe and accessible ways to get exercise.

After it was announced last night that DOT would only be installing bike lanes on First and Second up to 57th Street this year — suggesting that it may be years before improvements come to East Harlem — representatives again called for their neighbors to get a fair share of the safety-enhancing infrastructure being built further downtown.

Said Mark-Viverito:

I am very disappointed to learn that protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues are not being extended to my community in El Barrio/East Harlem. We should be encouraging greener and healthier modes of transit in all parts of our city, particularly in a community like mine that suffers from disproportionate rates of asthma and obesity. I urge DOT to re-consider its decision and to afford the residents of my community the same opportunities for safe bike travel that are being offered to other neighborhoods on the East Side.

And Serrano:

I am extremely disappointed that, once again, the next phase of the Select Bus Service plan will not extend protected bike lanes Uptown to East Harlem and Yorkville. Last night at the SBS Advisory Committee meeting, the project team announced that that transit signals will also be installed starting at the south end of the corridor, moving northbound to Houston. I understand that this is due to the street network in that area. However, Uptown residents always seem to get shortchanged when it comes to these large scale transit projects. It’s time to break this pattern, and ensure that upgrades begin on 125th Street and work their way down, so that the residents of East Harlem and Yorkville are not the last to benefit from transit improvements.