With many community leaders on board for the new protected bicycle lanes planned for Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, State Sen. Tom Duane wants the Department of Transportation to release the plan for full public review sooner than usual.
Duane sent a Feb. 9 letter to the department, signed by other West Side elected officials, asking for the plans to be sent to Community Board 7.
“The Department of Transportation’s outreach efforts and consultation has been excellent to date,” Duane said. “And there’s no reason to think releasing the proposal and subjecting it to final review would derail their proposal.”
These new bicycle lanes will drastically change the character of Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, between West 59th and 110th streets. Unlike the painted bicycle lanes that run through Central Park West and on West 77th and 78th streets, the new lanes will be physically separated from automobile traffic, possibly by a row of parked cars or a concrete barrier.
Businesses that need street access for deliveries and cab drivers who need to pick up and drop off passengers usually complain when street space is taken away. But if the final plans are released early, Duane argued, stakeholders will be able to make suggestions and have these concerns addressed before the lanes are installed.
Duane is speaking from experience on this issue. When the city’s first protected bicycle lane was installed in the Chelsea part of Duane’s district, modifications were required.
“Some of the discussion and debate continues [in Chelsea],” Duane said. “Though I don’t expect zero controversy, I do think there will be a minimal amount of controversy if the Department of Transportation follows what we’ve asked for on the West Side.”
Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for Department of Transportation, said the department will consider the request as the plans for the protected bicycle lanes are developed.
Peter Arndtsen, district manager for the Columbus/Amsterdam Business Improvement District, said that the department has been responsive to community needs and has been inclusive of the stakeholders affected by a protected bicycle lane.
“There are some businesses that are excited about it. There are some that are very concerned with it and would be opposed to it if they couldn’t talk through some of their concerns,” Arndstsen said.
Wiley Norvell, spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, said that the department has reached out to a broader group of community stakeholders in the Upper West Side since the Chelsea bicycle lane was installed. Norvell said he expects the department to release the plans to the community board.
“Generally speaking, there’s almost always a community board presentation and comment period that takes place on bike lane projects,” Norvell said. “The difference is at what stage they are presented.”
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