Sustainable Safety


Community Board 7 -Extension of the Columbus Ave Protected Bike Lane (Full Board Meeting)

When : Tues,February 5, 2012, 630pm

Where:  Goddard Riverside

593 Columbus Ave  (btwn 88th & 89th Sts)

Why: Safer streets for the Upper West Side. Protected bike lanes improve safety for all street users- no matter which mode of transportation they choose. Protected bike lanes encourage people who might otherwise be afraid to ride a bicycle for transportation to give it a try. Take for instance, the little girl pictured above. And the elderly. Or anyone else who is afraid to ride in motor traffic. They also make it easier to get around for people who use mobility scooters or wheelchairs (curb cuts can make navigating sidewalks difficult for them, as I learned in a CB7 meeting about a year ago).

art metranoArt Merano (actor, Police Academy 2 & more) & his wife love the NYC bike lanes

Protected bike lanes can also reduce the likelihood of this occurring again:

005Columbus Ave & 72nd Street, May 19, 2011

Not only do protected bike lanes help to calm traffic- they also cut down on crossing times and distances. Pedestrian islands included in the design of protected bike lanes makes it easier for the elderly and others who might move at slower pace to cross wide avenues.

Including infrastructure for people on bikes is not just about safety- it’s also about business. Retailers underestimate the number of people arriving by car to their establishments. Neighborhoods in NYC that have already implemented a safer and more robust bicycle infrastructure have seen an increase in retail sales and a drop in commercial vacancies. People who travel by bicycle may make smaller purchases, but over time it’s been found that they spend more money. It’s not jut NYC that’s realizing the importance of   including people on bikes in their transportation fabric- it’s also cities such as Austin, Texas and Detroit, Michigan.

Speaking of business- delivery cyclists deserve safe infrastructure too. If all the delivery cyclists went on strike for a week , I wonder how all the people who are home bound, too busy or too lazy to go out and get their food orders would react. People love to complain about food delivery cyclists and all the ‘mayhem’ they’re causing and use it as an excuse to not build more bike lanes.  I won’t deny that there are delivery cyclists who need to be better at adhering to basic etiquette. But that goes for all people of all transportation modes- be it by car, bicycle, foot or mass transit. The reality is that only one person has been killed by a person on a bicycle in recent years, yet every 35 hours in NYC someone is killed by a motor vehicle. Let’s put things in perspective.

Active transportation is good for our overall well being. People who choose bikes for transportation report enjoying their commute more than those who choose other transport modes. They also tend to be healthier and take fewer sick days.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the UWS was minimal compared to other areas of NYC. But the crippling of our subway system illustrates the imperative need to continue to build complete streets- streets where people who choose bikes (or skateboards, push scooters and rollerblades) are given safe transportation by ways. If you happened to be in midtown the day that NYC was opened up to traffic again after Sandy, then it should have been obvious that we really don’t want to encourage more people to drive in the city. It was complete gridlock- all day long. (Additionally- there’s that little thing called global warming that motor vehicle exhaust contributes to).

In the days following Sandy during the mass transit shutdown – the number of people on bicycles was amazing to see (and they also played a significant role in recovery efforts ). Most likely, many of those people who turned to bikes went back to using mass transit. But I’ll bet that there were many who discovered the joys (and frustrations) of commuting by bicycle that are still doing it. And there are probably a good number of people who don’t know yet that they’d like to choose a bicycle for transportation. Some of them may not have even been born yet.  It’s our responsibility to create a better place for the next generation. Complete streets are a part of that dream.

People on bikes aren’t going away. Our numbers are growing steadily. A friend who regularly does long recreational rides upstate recently began riding again in the city for transportation partly due to the new bike infrastructure. He told me “I love the protected bike lanes. They make it safer. I slow down and they make me want to obey the rules. We should have more of them.”

Protected bike lanes aren’t for racing or training. They’re a part of our transportation network. The Upper West Side, with it’s one mile of protected on-street bike infrastructure  needs to help fill in the gaps. Extending the Columbus Avenue bike lane is a start.

Hope to see you at tomorrow night’s meeting. And hoping that CB7 will say “Yes” to a safer   Upper West Side.

Reminder- tomorrow night’s meeting is a Full Board Meeting. If you want to speak, you need to sign up beforehand and are limited to two minutes of time. It’s encouraged that you have your statement written out and that you arrive early.

Update: If you missed the last two meetings, here’s the  NYC DOT proposal for Columbus Ave safety enhancements


About bikepeacenyc

Just another NYer who is happier when on a bike. Gezellig fietsen. Advocate for Liveable Complete Streets.
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2 Responses to Sustainable Safety

  1. Eric McClure says:

    That should actually read “retailers OVERestimate the number of people arriving by car to their establishments,” and conversely, they UNDERestimate the growing number who arrive by bike. Yet an enormous share of UWS street space is allocated to cars, despite the fact that driving represents just a tiny sliver of shopping trips.

  2. bikepeacenyc says:

    Eric, you are correct. 90% of public space in NYC is dedicated to cars, the other 10% is what’s left for sidewalks, pedestrian plazas, parks and bike lanes. Less than 25% of UWS even own cars and only 6.9% of them report using cars to commute to work (census figures don’t count other trip modes). There are so many people who regularly travel by bicycle that use the West Side Greenway or Central Park as they pass by our neighborhood. Retailers should be in favor of more bike infrastructure to encourage these people to patronize the wonderful shops and restaurants on the UWS. And let’s not forget all those tourists on bicycles in Central Park and on the Greenway too. There’s a lot of tourist dollars that the Upper West Side is missing out on because our streets don’t encourage people on bikes.

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