After a three-and-a-half-hour meeting that itself followed a nearly three-hour deliberation last month, the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee voted 7-0, with three abstentions, for a resolution asking DOT to study safety improvements for Amsterdam Avenue. The resolution asks DOT to consider a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, removing one of the avenue’s four car lanes, and retiming signals. It now moves to the full board for a vote on November 6.
There are many more injuries and fatalities on Amsterdam Avenue than on other northbound avenues on the Upper West Side, according to CrashStat.org. Last December, Transportation Alternatives clocked 81 percent of Amsterdam Avenue drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, with one in five drivers on a weekday afternoon traveling 40 mph or faster.
“I’ve got a major concern about speeding,” said Peter Arndtsen, district manager of the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District. “Something has to be done.” Arndtsen said that while the BID does not oppose or support a bike lane on Amsterdam, it would like a bus lane considered. During public testimony last night, TA showed a video of business owners on both avenues who support the protected bike lanes. Over 200 area businesses and community groups have signed on to TA’s campaign. The Columbus Avenue BID also urged the board to support a protected bike lane on Amsterdam.
This is the latest chapter in a long campaign for protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side. Community Board 7 has hosted many hours-long meetings on the issue over the years — first for Columbus Avenue, which was considered as two separate phases, and now for Amsterdam.
Last night’s three abstentions came from committee member Lillian Moore and longtime co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, who all spoke against a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue before the vote. All three insisted they don’t oppose bike lanes, they would just prefer studies for bike lanes on other avenues.
During committee discussion of the resolution, Zweig said he didn’t trust the data showing the reduction in traffic injuries following the installation of protected bike lanes. “We had statistics from DOT that had a great deal of problems,” he said, referring to his insistence earlier this year that DOT eliminate one year of data because it showed there were a high number of crashes on Columbus Avenue before the bike lane was installed. DOT refused to cherrypick the data according to Zweig’s wishes.
Zweig then began ranting about personal experiences with cyclists riding on the sidewalk, the wrong way, and against red lights. He also said the City Council needs to pass a law requiring cyclists to use protected bike lanes where they have been installed. “Let’s get the enforcement,” Zweig said. “Let’s pass that and get that moving before we even think of asking DOT to study anything else.”
“I acquired the reputation of being anti-bike lane. You may have seen it in all the bike lobby press,” said Zweig, who opposed lanes on both Amsterdam and Columbus. He then repeated his statement from last month that protected bike lanes are “the only ones worth doing.” Just not on streets where community members are asking for them, apparently.