By a count of 28 in favor and 13 opposed, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted last night to endorse DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane along Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. The vote affirmed a safety project that Upper West Siders have worked toward for several years, but the meeting itself devolved into farce, with some board members making a last-minute attempt to stop the redesign despite the long public process, endorsements from major elected officials, and the large crowd who turned out to support it.
More than 200 people packed the meeting room at Goddard Riverside Community Center, the vast majority in favor of the project. With a larger meeting room, the crowd would have been a lot larger — at least 100 people were denied entry after the room reached capacity.
DOT’s plan would calm traffic on Amsterdam Avenue by replacing a general traffic lane with a parking-protected bike lane and concrete pedestrian islands [PDF]. With four northbound moving lanes, Amsterdam’s current design leads to dangerous speeding and higher-than-average injury rates. The bike lane would provide a safe northbound complement to the southbound protected lane on Columbus Avenue. The project is on track to be implemented in the spring.
Local City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine spoke in favor of the project last night. But some board members appointed by Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer did their best to stop it.
In a ploy to prevent any change, former CB 7 Chair Sheldon Fine proposed a substitute resolution that called on DOT to address safety on Amsterdam Avenue without the protected bike lane. The resolution requested that DOT instead make the Columbus Avenue bike lane two-way, a design that doesn’t exist on any wide NYC avenue with frequent intersections and would introduce new conflict points between turning drivers and northbound cyclists. Fine argued that this wouldn’t amount to tossing several previous CB 7 votes out the window, but most people on the board weren’t buying it.
“This conversation has been going on for five years,” board member Mel Wymore told Fine. “What you’re proposing is first of all sandbagging a two-year process and secondly, the DOT had already told us that what you’re proposing would not be the safety improvements that we’re asking for here. We need a good bike lane not for the bikes, but to calm the traffic and save lives.”