The Community Board 7 transportation committee approved a proposal from the city Department of Transportation to extend the Columbus Avenue bike lane from 65th to 110th streets Tuesday night.
The bike lane extension, which passed the committee 7-2 with one abstention, will be voted on by the full board next month. If the proposal is approved by the board, the existing protected bike lane on Columbus, which currently stretches from 77th to 96th streets, will extend almost the entire length of the Upper West Side.
DOT representatives announced several changes to the proposal in response to concerns raised at a meeting last month. After some residents objected to the loss of parking spaces at the December meeting, the representatives said they would remove regulations prohibiting some parking north of 96th street during the morning rush hour, which would yield about 105 new parking spaces, they said.
The revised proposal also increased the space for cars to turn left, known as mixing zones, which DOT representatives said would increase biker visibility and reduce the danger of crashes. It also included five new loading zones for businesses with deliveries.
More than 100 people attended the meeting, with the majority of those who spoke voicing support for the proposal. The debate over the bike lane has been one of the biggest issues debated by CB7 over the last two years, and bike activists have consistently turned up in droves to lobby for it. Supporters have harshly criticized the committee, often in personal terms, for not moving more quickly on the issue. But they cheered as the proposal passed.
“It’s not just a bike lane. Lives are being saved and lives are being improved,” said Tila Duhaime, a former CB7 member and an organizer with Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, a group that supports transportation alternatives. She said that she hopes the board members will “do the right thing and approve the extension” at next month’s meeting.
Mary Beth Kelly, an Upper West Side resident for over 30 years, said she was ecstatic about the approval. Since her husband died six years ago from a biking accident, Kelly said that she’s been advocating for safer conditions for bikers.
“It’s not over, but it’s been a very long, slow slog to this,” she said. “This is a public health issue. A parking spot is not more important than the safety of our bikers.”
CB7 chair Mark Diller, who voted in favor of the proposal as a non-committee board member, said that he was glad the community was able to voice its opinions. He said that the existing bike lane on Columbus was too short and the proposal “absolutely deserved a vote at full board.”
Others said they weren’t happy with the result. Jaye Murray, who lives on Columbus, said she wants safer conditions for bikers but that the protected bike lane actually creates more problems with trucks unloading.
“My chances of getting hit by a bicycle are greater than getting hit by a car,” she said.
The full board will vote on the extension on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m.