East Harlem CB Approves Protected Bike Lanes for First and Second Avenues

East Harlem’s Community Board 11 last night approved, again, plans to build protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuge islands on First and Second Avenues. The vote comes after a lengthy public debate in which the community fought for the lanes and the board approved them, only to take back its support after local businesses protested.

First Avenue at 117th St. in 2010. Photo: James Garcia

The final vote was 21-14 in favor, with two abstentions, according to board member Brodie Enoch. That total makes opposition to the bike lanes appear slightly larger than it was in practice, he said.

“Some of the people who voted against the bike lanes aren’t against bike lanes per se,” Enoch explained. “Some people voiced their displeasure that there isn’t preferential treatment in the community for the jobs that will be given to people who work on the bike lanes.”

The Department of Transportation does not hire those workers on a project-by-project basis, making local hiring unfeasible.

The board’s support for cycling in general was evidenced by a resolution amendment that passed unanimously. It requests that East Harlem, and especially the neighborhood’s transit stops, be the first areas for any expansion of the city’s bike-share system. “We don’t want to get left out of that,” said Enoch.

Construction on the protected bike lanes was supposed to start on Second Avenue this spring, but the fight over the lanes has likely pushed back the installation date.