Coming to Columbus Avenue: Protected Bike Lane

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By Dan Rivoli

Installation of a protected bicycle lane for Columbus Avenue is likely to start this summer and be completed in a matter of weeks. All together, the project may take as little as two months to finish.

Bicycling advocates have been pushing for Upper West Side bike lanes that are completely protected from automobile traffic, which is safer than lanes painted on the street. These lanes are said to be especially beneficial for seniors because the design cuts down on sidewalk bike riding.

Currently, bicyclists riding southbound through the Upper West Side must travel along the Hudson River Greenway for a protected route. The neighborhood only has one northbound , painted on Central Park West.

The Department of Transportation unveiled the first design for such a proposal at the May 11 meeting of Community Board 7’s transportation committee, nearly six months after the board backed the idea.

The department’s design would add a protected lane to Columbus Avenue, between West 77th and 96th streets. The bike lane would connect to four crosstown lanes, at West 91st and 90th streets, and West 78th and 77th streets.

“We wanted something to add that connection for southbound commuters,” said Hayes Lord, the department’s acting bicycle program coordinator.

Once installed, the lane would have bicyclists travel on the east side of the street, protected from automobile traffic by a 5-foot buffer and an 8-foot “floating” parking lane. There would still be three lanes of moving traffic, but each lane would be 2 feet smaller than the current arrangement, shrinking from 12 feet to 10 feet. Pedestrian refuges would be installed at wide, two-way cross streets, giving seniors a safe spot to rest while traversing the roadway.

“There was a groundswell of support for this issue, not only from cyclists, but from seniors, children and pedestrians,” said Lisa Sladkus, an organizer for Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign, following an October 2009 Board 7 meeting. “It gives cyclists a very safe place to be and little incentive to be on the sidewalk.”

This would be the city’s sixth protected bicycle lane. In Manhattan, the department installed these lanes on Eighth and Ninth avenues in Chelsea, and on Grand Street in Soho. Police data show that the protected lanes cut down on pedestrian and cyclist injuries, the department says.

“It’s really a win-win situation for everybody,” Lord said. “And the community recognized that. And they are very much for supporting these kinds of facilities.”

The Columbus Avenue lane represents the first phase of a bike plan for the neighborhood. Board 7 has also asked for a northbound lane on Amsterdam Avenue. 

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