Why Does DOT Keep Taking Away Inwood Bike Infrastructure?

Bike lanes on W. 218th Street in Inwood have been replaced by sharrows. An image of the former street layout appears below. Photo: Brad Aaron

A short stretch of bike lanes in Inwood has gone the way of the disappearing bike shelter, further reducing the neighborhood’s scarce cycling infrastructure.

West 218th Street, Manhattan’s northernmost cross street to extend west of Broadway, connects Broadway and Inwood Hill Park, and delineates the southern border of the Columbia University Baker Field complex. It is part of a marked and mapped bike route for cyclists headed to and from Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. Not long ago, the four blocks of W. 218th west of Broadway had bike lanes. When the street was repaved recently, the lanes were replaced by sharrows.

Said a DOT spokesperson, in an email to Streetsblog: “Following a resurfacing project on that street, DOT updated the markings to reflect current design standards, which don’t allow for a five-foot bike lane on a street that width.”

The efficacy of sharrows is a topic of debate. But if a street is deemed too narrow for bike lanes, yet wide enough for two lanes of parked cars, the issue isn’t a shortage of asphalt – it’s the decision to prioritize free curbside parking over safe space for cycling. This in a neighborhood that has few bike lanes as it is, and where DOT has responded to residents’ desire for more bike infrastructure by nipping away at what little exists.

Much is made of securing the blessing of community boards before bike infrastructure can be added, but this is not the case when bike infrastructure is removed or downgraded. We know DOT did not ask Community Board 12 before repossessing Inwood’s lone bike shelter. We asked DOT, twice, if CB 12 was consulted on the decision to remove the bike lanes from West 218th Street. We’re still waiting for an answer.

Same block as above, looking east toward Broadway. Image: Google Maps