In Mistake-Marred Letter, CB 6 Lends Voice to East Side Bike-Share NIMBYs

Community Board 6 is concerned about a bike-share station at 18th and Irving Place that DOT already eliminated from consideration. Image: NYC DOT

Where can bike-share stations be located, according to the East Side’s not-in-my-backyard crowd? Not Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which is both too serene for bikes and too crowded with protestors. Not around the corner from the Israeli consulate, which is too fat a target for terrorists who, as Marcia Kramer could tell you, prefer to deliver explosives via bike. Not in areas that are too residential. Nor in areas with store entrances or medical offices. And if that leaves anywhere — the sidewalk under a 42nd Street overpass was recommended as a model location — no station should have more than ten docks.

Each of those objections was raised in a document sent by Manhattan Community Board 6 to the Department of Transportation last week, cataloguing 14 locations that the board had received complaints about. A letter drafted by transportation committee chair Fred Arcaro and signed by board chair Mark Thompson endorsed some of the residents’ complaints — even one about a non-existent station proposal — and enclosed the rest without comment while requesting a formal DOT response to each one. While the letter notes that the CB received many comments supporting bike-share, none of those are included.

In January, CB 6 voted 39 to 2 in support of the broader bike-share program, and overall the board has tended to take positions in favor of projects like the redesign of First and Second Avenues. But as transportation committee chair, Arcaro has repeatedly stood in the way of livable streets improvements in the district, and his letter adds the community board’s imprimatur to some truly baseless complaints.

The shoddiness of this anti-bike NIMBYism is perhaps best illustrated by one of the three stations singled out in Arcaro and Thompson’s letter. They complain of a station in front of the service entrance of 130 East 18th Street, a residential building on the corner of Irving Place. That location, however, wasn’t selected by the Department of Transportation for a bike-share station.

As DOT reps explained at a CB 6 meeting I attended in May, the station had only ever been included as an option on the maps DOT used to gauge community preferences for station locations, which included five times more options than would ultimately be selected. Once the residents said they didn’t want a station there, it was taken off the list.

CB 6 could have taken this opportunity to help refine the selection of bike-share sites, but in general, the complaints the board is lending its authority to are rooted in opposition to the very concept of bike-share.

Stations located on the sidewalk, for example, are objected to on the grounds that they will “seriously impede pedestrian and vehicular traffic.” The only way such a station could conceivably impede cars is by being used, then ridden as intended in the street. As noted above, both residential and commercial areas are deemed particularly inappropriate for bike-share stations.

The general comment that no station have more than ten docks would, needless to say, hobble the program, especially on the extremely dense East Side.

There have been many hyper-local complaints about bike-share station siting. (With 420 slated to go in this year, how could there not be?) Some have helpfully used neighborhood expertise to improve the system, others were standard NIMBY objections, and none threatened the overall integrity of the bike-share system.

CB 6 could be lending its imprimatur to similar efforts to shape bike-share, a program it supports, to local conditions. Instead, this letter amounts to a sloppy attack on the whole system. Someone on the East Side should form Neighbors for Better Bike-Share Criticism.