CPW Bike Lane Turmoil Rolls On

As tensions remain high on the Upper West Side, new bike lanes are planned for Amsterdam Avenue and two crosstown streets in the 50s

Aug 30 2019 | 03:12 PM

Two hundred parking spaces have vanished from a nearly mile-long stretch along Central Park West in the name of bike safety – and two hundred more are slated to follow.

The catalyst for construction of the protected bike lane that is replacing the spots was the death of a 23-year-old Australian tourist last year. Madison Jane Lyden was cycling north near 67th Street when a livery cab pulled into the bike lane, causing her to swerve into traffic where she was struck and killed.

But despite Lyden’s death, and the 18 cyclists killed in the city so far this year, the addition of the protected bike lane, and removal of parking spaces, has become a fraught issue for residents living along the street -- particularly for those who live in the Century Condo building at 25 Central Park West.

The condominium’s board filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing the bike lane installation would cause “a wide-spread and comprehensive change to the traffic patterns on Central Park West.” The board also claimed the bike lane could not go through, as the city did not perform a sufficient environmental review.

The protected bike lane has been a source of great tension among neighbors along Central Park West, which manifested during a raucous meeting in July when Community Board 7 gave its approval for the project. Plus, one resident of the Century has gone against the building’s board by filing a motion with the court arguing that the condo’s by laws prevent the board from taking on such a lawsuit, Streetsblog reported last week.

Pedestrians vs Cyclists

Residents outside of the Century have concerns too; not only about the loss of parking spaces, but also the dangers cyclists present to pedestrians.

“The number one problem with implementing the bike lane is that, at least right now, when pedestrians walk into the park they have a hard time with bikers going through the lights. They don’t stop,” said Gloria Baker, a resident who lives at 101st Street and Central Park West. “Are police going to be more pro-active in terms of giving tickets? There’s a cop who sits at 100th Street and catches people speeding and occasionally you’ll see him pull over a biker, but rarely.”

Baker said cyclists in the city are not held to any kind of legal standard and aren’t regulated the same way drivers are. She said with the amount of cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles can become a dangerous situation, particularly when the cyclists are visiting from out of state or other countries and are not familiar with the roads.

“If I have people come to visit me from out of town, the first thing I tell them is ‘Look out for the bikers,’” Baker said.

Additionally, Baker said the loss of the parking spaces is going to be a hardship for the people on the West side.

“There’s an assumption that cars are a luxury item and not necessary, but that’s not true,” Baker said. “A lot of people who live on the Upper West Side use their cars to commute to work to places like Connecticut, New Jersey and Upstate New York. I’m not sure how they justify that. If they do that, maybe they should give people some kind of tax credit for parking, because a lot of people are going to have to put their cars in garages and they probably can’t afford it.”

The plans that have gone into effect have also been shortsighted, Baker said.

“I think (the city does) things on the fly,” she said. “I don’t think they think it through at all.”

More Bike Lanes On the Way

But, in response to the spike in cyclist death this year, the de Blasio administration plans to build even more protected lanes throughout the city as part of its Green Wave policy, an expansion of Vision Zero. It’s an open question as to whether these lanes will spark the same kind of controversy as the Central Park West project.

Already this year the Department of Transportation has closed a gap in the Second Avenue protected bike lane near the Queensboro Bridge on the Upper East Side. It now runs uninterrupted from 125th Street to 43rd Street.

By the year’s end, DOT aims to install protected bike lanes crosstown along 52nd and 55th streets, as well as along Amsterdam Avenue from 51st to 72nd streets.

While the Amsterdam lane will not take away parking spaces, it will take away one travel lane for vehicles. The DOT also plans to modify parking regulations to create a full-time parking and loading lane. The parking and loading lane will also serve as the barrier of protection between cyclists and moving vehicles. The change has prompted concerns about additional traffic congestion.

That stretch of Amsterdam Avenue has been the scene of cyclist and pedestrian-involved accidents over the last seven years. Two cyclists were killed there between 2012 and 2018. Eight pedestrians and four more cyclists have been severely injured.

The crosstown lanes, one moving east and one west, are not taking away a parking lane or a travel lane. According to the DOT, the street is wide enough, at 34-feet, to add a bike lane without altering the flow of traffic dramatically. As designed, both the 52nd and 55th Street lanes will travel from Twelfth Avenue to First Avenue. And as on Amsterdam Avenue, newly created parking lanes will also serve as protective barriers for cyclists.