Despite Biased Meeting, CB 6 Committee Endorses DOT Bike Lane Plan

Last year, Manhattan Community Board 6 voted to support buffered bike lanes on a Midtown stretch of First Avenue. Last night, however, the board's transportation committee chair declared it had never made such an endorsement and eliminated the option of buffered lanes from discussion. Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT’s proposed design for bike lanes from 34th Street to 57th Street along First and Second Avenues, which call for a protected lane on First Avenue from 34th to 49th Streets and shared lanes everywhere else, earned the endorsement of Community Board 6′s transportation committee last night. The 7-5 vote in favor of DOT’s plan — the nays thought it included too much space for cyclists, not too little — came after a misleading discussion in which the committee members seemed not to understand what they were voting on.

This marks the second time that this CB 6 committee has endorsed DOT’s plans for the corridor, though those plans have changed in the intervening year. Last May, the full community board endorsed a DOT plan similar to this year’s but with a buffered bike lane on First Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets. The community board also urged DOT to consider the buffered lanes, then called Design D, for Second Avenue. DOT, however, decided that endorsement was not enough and that it needed an additional community board vote to build bike lanes from 49th to 57th.

Over the course of the evening, it became clear that the committee was confused about just what Design D was and where they had called for it. “There are two kinds of bike lane,” committee chair Fred Arcaro declared at one point, “protected and shared” — leaving out any variety of striped bike lane, buffered or otherwise. That false dichotomy went unchallenged throughout the debate, eliminating the buffered option that both DOT and the community board had previously endorsed. The committee continued to refer to “Design D,” but under the assumption that they were talking about fully protected bike lanes.

That wasn’t the only Arcaro statement of fact that shaped the course of the evening. Arcaro also claimed that the board had never endorsed Design D — “it was to consider, not necessarily that we support, to consider Design D, to do a study.” In fact the board had endorsed buffered lanes on First and called for them to be studied on Second. Arcaro simply laughed off claims that building a bike lane wouldn’t necessarily worsen traffic, which deserved to be taken seriously given the fact that a protected lane further south on First and Second didn’t slow drivers and that a buffered lane would take away parking rather than a moving lane.

At at one point well before any vote had been taken, Arcaro unilaterally announced that “you have a community that is not exactly keen on Design D.” When community members in the audience protested, committee vice-chair Molly Hollister turned around to explain that “he’s just speaking for himself.”

This isn’t the first time that Arcaro has misused the power of his position as committee chair. Last May, some committee members accused Arcaro of defeating a resolution in support of bike lanes by miscounting the committee’s votes. At the same meeting, Arcaro declared that non-committee members had no right to see the text of community board resolutions until they have already passed the full board.

With the committee’s past support for a buffered bike lane erased from memory and the very option of a buffered lane removed from the menu of designs, the committee then discussed whether to build protected bike lanes or shared lanes. The DOT proposal was presented as a compromise and barely passed over anti-bike lane sentiment by a vote of seven to five.

The committee did amend their resolution to say it supports further study of how to eventually build protected bike lanes on both First and Second. With the deck stacked against bike lanes at CB 6, that’s about all you could expect.