bike lane Plan spurs opposition
SoHo residents, including some cycling advocates, say DOT proposal could compromise safety
by alan krawitz
A proposal for a Spring Street bike lane has met with opposition from some downtown residents, including local cycling advocates who worry about bicyclists’ safety.
In a presentation to Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee earlier this month, representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation discussed a plan for a Spring Street bicycle lane that would extend from Washington Street on the far west side to the Bowery and would provide an eastbound cycling connection through SoHo. The committee was unanimously supportive of the proposal and Sean Sweeney, a CB2 member and director of the SoHo Alliance, said it was “very likely” the full board would follow the committee’s recommendations and approve the plan in a vote later this month.
At least some residents, however, are skeptical of the DOT plan, with several citing safety concerns for cyclists as well as for pedestrians.
“The dissenters cited all the logical reasons why a bike lane on Spring Street is stupid to consider at this time; too much construction for one, no ticketing for bike offenders on sidewalks, the entitlement factor, a billion tourists, etc.,” Darlene Lutz, a SoHo resident who attended the presentation, said in an email to the SoHo Alliance.
Sweeney said he received about a dozen emails from SoHo Alliance members, all in opposition.
Sweeney, who said he is ambivalent about the plant, said that even before DOT presented the Spring Street bike lane at the April 2 meeting, he had received negative feedback about the issue, much of it citing heavy congestion on Spring Street, and that it was “dangerous to be encouraging bike lanes there.”
A DOT spokesperson, though, said the “proposed bicycle lane on Spring Street does not require the removal of any travel lanes or parking lanes, coordinates existing bicycle and motor vehicle traffic, and reduces friction between the two modes.”
According the spokesperson, the bike lane “will complement the existing westbound bicycle lane one block to the north on Prince Street.”
The agency added that Spring Street is already a popular informal bike route with an average of more than 1,100 bicyclists counted on Spring Street between Crosby Street and Broadway during a two-hour weekday count in September 2014.
Lutz, unconvinced, likened the Spring Street proposal to another bike lane issue on the east side of Varick Street, noting how that shared bike lane has led to a proliferation of bikers on the sidewalk from Broome to Canal streets. She said street cameras had picked up almost 68 bikes on the sidewalk in an 8-hour period.
Micki McGee, another SoHo Alliance member, also was not persuaded by DOT officials of the need for a Spring Street bike lane.
“Based on the way the meeting was conducted, I had the impression that it was a sham meeting and that it was already a done-deal,” she wrote in an email to the SoHo Alliance. “After the meeting, I was opposed.”
McGee was critical of how the meeting was run, saying there were “a lot of shills in the room.”
“I’m sorry there’s going to a bike lane on Spring Street,” McGee concluded. “There’s no space for it… . People will get hurt.”
Sweeney called the community’s relationship with DOT as a rocky one and compared the agency to New York’s mid-20th century “master builder,” Robert Moses, calling them “bullies with bulldozers.”
He also speculated that bike advocacy organizations such as Time’s Up! and Transportation Alternatives, favored a green, protected bike lane for Spring Street the entire way, but that is not happening. The proposed Spring Street lane will only be protected between Sixth Avenue and Wooster Street.
Protected bike lanes vary in design but generally do not share lanes with vehicles and are often set apart from vehicle traffic and parking.
Transportation Alternatives routinely lobbies the DOT on the need to protect bicyclists on city streets. A spokesman for that organization did not return a request for comment by press time.
Sweeney said that In this case, the bike lane will be a compromise. “No one’s happy,” he said. “Even the bike advocates think it’s too dangerous.”
CB2 will vote on the Spring Street bike lane proposal on April 23.