Clips, Hyperlocal

Bike Lane Gets Mixed Reviews

A new bike lane on Ninth Avenue that runs southbound between West 23rd and 16th streets has received mixed reviews from the neighborhood.

Soon after the city’s Department of Transportation began installation of the lane toward the end of 2007, the project became a subject of animated debate.

Cyclists greeted the news with enthusiasm. According to a study conducted by the department, on any given day, there are about 782 bike riders between West 17th and 18th streets.

“I welcome a bona fide bike lane where I don’t have to worry about dodging around double-parked cars into traffic, being sideswiped by taxis picking up fares, speeding cars trying to get by me with an inch margin,” wrote a cyclist in a neighborhood blog, ClickYourBlock.

“I was also struck by how spacious and luxurious this bike lane is for bikers. From a biker’s standpoint, it’s amazing. But it takes up like two or three full lanes. I’m wondering what effect it’ll have on car traffic?” wrote another.

He continued: “I take cabs down Ninth Avenue quite often, and while I’m all for giving bikers a safe place to ride, I’m not sure I’m so enthusiastic over it if it means car traffic is going to be substantially slower.”

Unlike most of the city’s on-street bike lanes, where cyclists are often forced to mingle with vehicular traffic, the new design, said to be inspired by cycle-tracks in European cities like Copenhagen, has created a 10-foot-wide path that’s for the exclusive use of bike riders.

Next to it is an eight-foot-buffer, comprised of plastic posts and large planters—whose construction is to begin soon—to prevent cars from entering. To the right of the buffer zone is the parking lane and beyond that, are three lanes for moving traffic.

“The concrete work is all done, but the planters will be done once the wet weather is over,” said Edward Timbers, spokesman for the department of transportation.

Recently, concerns have surfaced about the lane’s impact on parking and the traffic flow because motorist lanes have been pared down from four to three and street-side parking has been reduced.

“Those who’ve businesses along that stretch of Ninth Avenue are concerned that there’ll be less parking spaces for businesses. The location of the bus stops will also be changed,” said Renee Schoonbeek, assistant district manager for Community Board 4.

In a related development, the board has charged that the city Department of Transportation didn’t seek adequate community feedback prior to embarking on the project.

In an October 11, 2007 letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, the board wrote, “While Manhattan Community Board 4 is supportive of the citywide goal of increasing bicycle lanes and is quite supportive of the Ninth Avenue bike lane, we can’t be supportive of the process that was used for its installation.”

The letter stated the bike lane proposal “seemed a done deal” when it was presented to the Transportation Committee, with little community input, a week before installation began. “We remain concerned that community input is still lacking and community notification essentially nil,” the letter continued.

Responding to it, Department of Transportation spokesman Edward Timbers said, “Community input is of paramount concern to us and we’ll continue to work very closely with CB 4 on all transportation related projects.”

Transportation officials added that they’d met with the board numerous times concerning the 9th Avenue bike lane and that they’d made many changes to their plans to accommodate their requests, including lifting the left-turn ban on 20th Street.

The board has also asked that the department work closely with all affected parties to identify appropriate loading and delivery zones for businesses and add signage along Ninth Avenue to alert drivers of the traffic pattern change.

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