BY BRYTNIE JONES
A proposal to design six crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side is sparking debate in a neighborhood where, as in much of the city, the number of bicyclists has spiked in just a few years.
While many support the city Department of Transportation’s plan for the lanes — citing increased safety for bicyclists and pedestrians alike — others say the flouting of traffic laws by bicyclists and the consequent dangers to pedestrians call for a more measured approach.
“My wife just started riding the bike with me and she doesn’t feel as safe as I do in the streets,” said Paul Krikler, who lives on the Upper East Side. Krikler rides his bike about 10 months out of the year to get exercise and stay healthy. He says that he believes his wife, as well as others would enjoy biking if there were more bike lanes.
DOT is proposing laying down painted bike lanes along 67th, 68th, 77th, 78th, 84th and 85th Streets, stretching from those thoroughfares’ near easternmost points to Fifth Avenue. In all, they would add about five miles to the city’s bike network.
The agency’s plan will get a public airing during Community Board 8’s transportation committee hearing Feb. 3.
Betty Cooper Wallerstein, the president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, said instituting the bike lanes would add to what is already barely controlled chaos of two-wheeled traffic in the neighborhood.
“When everyone is obeying the laws of the road, then we can have a discussion about implementing more bike lanes,” she said. “It makes sense in a city like New York for when you want to change something, to give people an advance notice, educate and enforce it. It’s not just bikes, it’s cars, it’s people J-walking. We need to make sure everyone is working to ensure safety.”
With three cross-town bike lanes on the Upper East Side — along 90th, 91st and 106th Streets — others welcome the additions.
“No matter what happens we should continue to show and have conversations with the community and DOT that protected bike lanes are best for everyone”, says Sharon Pope, a CB8 member who sits on the transportation committee and is also the community outreach manager at Bike New York, an advocacy organization. “We need to work collaboratively and it is possible to put the safety of all street users first.”
Ollie Oliver, an organizing coordinator at Transportation Alternative, said painted bike lanes have been shown to reduce crashes, organize traffic and slow motorists by narrowing the amount of travel space.
“The Upper East Side doesn’t have as many crosstown lanes as the Upper West Side right now. Getting crosstown is one of the biggest challenges of getting around Manhattan rather that on the bus or walking. Hopping on a bike would make getting crosstown much faster and more convenient,” Oliver said.
The transportation committee meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3 at Rockefeller University’s Caspary Auditorium.