Last year, when the city’s Department of Transportation installed a bike lane along Ninth Avenue, between West 23rd and 16th streets, cyclists greeted the project with enthusiasm.
Now, many view it as a mixed blessing.
Some residents believe that the lane’s creation has made the intersection of West 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue a hazardous traffic zone, one that’s endangering pedestrian safety.
Concerned by the increased number of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts, residents of London Terrace—a huge landmark-designated apartment complex occupying an entire block bound by 23rd and 24th streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues—took the matter to Community Board 4’s Transportation Planning Committee.
Describing the corner of 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue as a “problematic intersection,” Edrie Cote, president of the London Terrace Tenants Association said, there’s been a spike in the number of accidents in the recent months.
“There were two fatalities last year and one of my neighbors was struck down,” she added.
Explaining the nature of the problem, Jay Marcus, the committee co-chair, explained that once vehicles pass the Lincoln Tunnel bottleneck, traffic speeds increase on Ninth Avenue, south of 34th Street.
When they approach 23rd Street, they must either merge into one fewer lane south of 23rd Street due to the bike lane, or turn east, onto 23rd Street.
Currently, both vehicular and foot-traffic are allowed to turn and cross simultaneously, which leads to frequent traffic incidents, he added.
Unlike most of the city’s on-street bike lanes, where cyclists are often forced to mingle with vehicular traffic, the new bike lane design—said to be inspired by cycle-tracks in European cities like Copenhagen—created a 10-foot wide path for the exclusive use of bike riders.
To make room for it, the number of motorist lanes had to be reduced by one, paring it down from four to three. The space for street-side parking was also curtailed.
The committee is currently in the process of formalizing a letter to the transportation department, requesting it to tackle the issue.
“The committee did decide to write a letter regarding the traffic issues, brought to their attention by the London Terrace Tenants Association. It’ll be voted on by the full board April 2,” said Renee Schoonbeek, assistant district manager for Community Board 4 in an e-mail response.
The committee has made a couple of suggestions to the transportation department which, taken together, will slow down the speed of traffic along Ninth Avenue, from 23rd to 34th streets.
It’ll also leave pedestrians at the intersection of 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue with ample time to go over the crosswalk, without fear of being mowed down by speeding cars.
“We’re requesting the installation of a left-turn signal. And it should be so timed that it eliminates the chances of cars turning through a crosswalk at the same time that pedestrians are crossing. The pedestrian-only crossing time should occur before the car-only turning time,” Marcus said.
Further, he added, lights on 9th Avenue, from 23rd to 34th streets, should be re-synchronized so that the speed of traffic is reduced.
“One of the suggestions I have is that since we’re stuck with the bike lane, we might as well have it start at the post office instead of just south of 23rd Street [where the lane currently begins],” said Cote.
The transportation department is independently doing a study of the traffic pattern in the area as it’s a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It’s expected to come up with a separate set of recommendations within a few months.
N.O.R.C. is a community where residents have remained for several years and aged as neighbors. A typical N.O.R.C. resident is a person, about 60 years of age, who moved into a particular area or building when younger and has remained there ever since.