Debating the Amsterdam Avenue Bike Lane

| 16 Feb 2015 | 11:03

The community board got raucous as opponents and supporters hashed through the proposal

Some residents of the Upper West Side were disappointed last Wednesday, after Community Board 7 voted to postpone the decision over whether or not the Department of Transportation should conduct a study of Amsterdam Avenue.

Community members spent four hours speaking out against or in favor of the study, which could ultimately result in the construction of a new bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. Eventually, the board had to end the meeting, as the venue had only been booked til 11 p.m.

"What? We don't have a say in this?" one man yelled.

Supporters of the reconstruction of Amsterdam Avenue wore orange stickers and argued that the street is far too busy and poses a threat to pedestrians and cyclists.

"Amsterdam Avenue is by far the most dangerous northbound route in the Upper West Side by double," said Thomas DeVito, the Manhattan organizer of the pro-bike group Transportation Alternatives.

According to figures presented at the meeting, there have been 1,005 reported pedestrian injuries between 1995 and 2009. The average is 72 injuries a year. The board was also presented with a petition of 1,500 signatures demanding a redesign of Amsterdam Avenue. Proponents say that the 31 percent decrease in injuries after a recent redesign of Columbus Avenue is an indicator that this plan would make the street safer. Still, some argue that the addition of the bike lane would make it difficult for local businesses to deliver merchandise.

Richard Barr said that while this is a good idea in theory, it may not be practical.

"The notion of making Amsterdam a friendlier street, to me, sounds ridiculous, he said. "I think that making the city more navigable for bikes is a good idea but this is the wrong place to do it."

Regardless, a few local businesses, including Goddard Riverside, The International Hostel, and Sasha's Coffee Shop are in support of the changes.

Margareta Becker, who lives on West 81st Street, said that this is a difficult situation, as both proponents and opponents make valid arguments. "I can see both sides so well," she said. "I've seen the traffic on Amsterdam, but I've also seen how upset business owners got when the path was put on Columbus." She believes that there would be no harm in simply conducting the study. Still, Paul Lindberg, 76, says that Amsterdam Avenue is impossible and dangerous for older residents.

"I know what vulnerability on the street feels like," he said. "It is perfectly reasonable and rational to be frightened. I believe that not being concerned about crossing Amsterdam Avenue at our age would be irrational."