Residents decry crosstown bike lane plan

| 16 Feb 2016 | 11:36

A proposal to install crosstown bike lanes on several Upper East Side streets has provoked an outcry from some residents who say the Department of Transportation plan neglected to account for already heavy traffic along the proposed routes.

Pronounced opposition to the plan was heard at a meeting of Community Board 8’s transportation committee earlier this month, with several residents calling DOT’s plan misguided and for more accountability from both cyclists and police regarding traffic laws.

Susan Siskind, who lives in the East 60s said the proposal — which would install painted lanes across 67th, 68th, 77th, 78th, 84th and 85th Streets from those thoroughfares’ near easternmost points to Fifth Avenue — “ignores reality.”

Speaking last week, she noted that, among other things on 67th street specifically, the M66 bus, which runs along 67th and 68th Streets, “won” the Pokey award last year for slowest bus, school buses park and drop-off at Julia Richmond between First and Second avenues, and Fox News trucks frequently double park between Second and Third Avenues. In addition, ambulances, and police and fire vehicles travel along several of those streets.

Michele Birnbaum, who sits on the transportation committee, called the DOT plan shortsighted.

“With the selection of these streets, it was evident that the DOT only took into consideration the needs of the cycling community, while completely disregarding the needs and opinions of the residents, institutions and businesses,” Birnbaum said last week.

A DOT spokeswoman said the agency is “reviewing the community’s concerns” before its next presentation to the board.

The spokeswoman, Bonny Tsang, noting that there is currently just one pair of crosstown routes, on 90th & 91st Streets, said DOT wants “to expand the bike network and close an existing gap in the network.”

“Implementing bike lanes calms traffic, makes it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to travel, and better organizes the roadway. The current proposal we presented would not remove any parking or any travel lanes,” she said.

Joe Enoch, who calls himself an avid cyclist, commuting daily from the Upper East Side to the Upper West side, said he is disappointed the proposal doesn’t include protected bike lanes, but he nevertheless called the painted lanes an enhancement.

“Painted bike lanes are an improvement: they legitimize bicyclists’ presence on the street, remind drivers to share the road and to be on the lookout and provide the NYPD greater authority to clear the lane so bicyclists can traverse safely without weaving between cars,” Enoch said.

But Betty Cooper Wallerstein, the president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, suggested that before more bike lanes are installed, application and enforcement of traffic laws need strengthening.

“There should not be one more bike lane, dedicated or painted, until all cyclists, and drivers for that matter, are obeying all the rules of the road. The people who are not being considered are the pedestrians,” she said.

Birnbaum, like Wallerstein, wants to see more enforcement of traffic laws when they are flouted by bicyclists, and has long advocated for their licensing. “If they are part of traffic, and we are getting more of them, then they need to be held accountable, responsible and liable just as any other road vehicle is,” Birnbaum said. “Any cyclist that wants to use a city street needs to be licensed and have a license plate on his bike. A licensed biker will more likely obey the rules of the road.”

This latest skirmish for safe streets, and how they should happen, will continue March 2, when CB8’s transportation committee next takes up the matter.