Columbus Avenue Bike Lanes to Be Extended

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Bicyclists may soon get their wish for a safer Upper West Side. Last week, Community Board 7 voted in favor, with a few caveats, of the Columbus Avenue bike lane extension that would add protected bike lanes below 77th Street and above 96th Street, for a continuous lane that runs from 59th to 110th streets. Josh Benson, a representative from the Department of Transportation, said that construction would begin by the end of this year, and be completed in only a few months. During the Community Board meeting, dozens of bike riders wore pink "I Heart Bicycles" stickers handed out by the advocacy group, Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, in favor of the proposition. "This is a complete street solution," said Joseph Barkowski, 26, an Upper West Side resident who bikes to the East Side every day. "It allows cyclists to slow down, feel safe and make their way downtown. The goal is zero pedestrian and cyclist fatalities." Seven out of the 10 community board members voted yes, agreeing that longer, protected routes for bicyclists would be safer. Also, the new lane would hopefully encourage more people to use this greener form of transportation. "I dream of a more livable city," Mary Beth Kelly said during the public session. Kelly is an Upper West Side resident whose husband died in a cycling accident. But not everyone in the community approved of the Columbus Avenue bike lane plan. For one thing, the plan takes away approximately 90 parking spaces. For another, the bike lane would also run through the extremely dangerous three-way "bowtie of death" intersection of Broadway, Amsterdam and 71st Street, and the construction site of the third water tunnel, which is not expected to be complete until 2020. "We think that bringing anything into the bowtie before construction of the third water tunnel is finished is unsafe," said Monica Blum, director of the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. "We've also spoken to businesses who are against these bike lanes; it would be directly where their loading zones are." Because of these objections, Mark Diller, chair of CB7 chair added said amendments were added to the resolution. First, the board will speak with schools whose students board and disembark buses on Columbus Avenue. For concerned businesses, the board proposed specific loading and unloading zones and times for deliveries. Finally, Diller also said that the board is working on a solution for blind pedestrians who will be crossing directly into the path of moving bikes. "It's not a 'we vote yes and go home' kind of thing," Diller said. The next step in the process would be vote for the Department of Transportation to review the board's plan before construction can begin.

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