Bike-share sitingJuly 26, 2012 • By The Villager
As we’ve editorialized before, we’re a strong supporter of the city’s new bike-share program. The program’s launch has been delayed by a month or two, reportedly due to problems with the software that will use G.P.S. to track the bike stations’ amount of usage and the bicycles’ routes.
Bike-share will be a big plus for the city on many levels. It will offer a quick, affordable means to commute to work or travel for shopping and errands or just to go see a friend or visit another part of the city. The program is not geared toward tourists, but New Yorkers, as a way to make their lives more convenient — and also to create a greener, healthier city.
We’re eagerly looking forward to using bike-share ourselves. We have a large area to cover, and we’re sure that our staffers will be using bike-share to help them get around the area, not to mention commute to work.
Through a community process, the Department of Transportation identified numerous sites throughout our Downtown community boards for bike docks — where bike-share users will be able both to get a bike and then drop it off after a ride.
The locations for these docks are largely in the street by the curb, or on sidewalks. Downtown community boards were extremely clear that they didn’t want treasured park space being taken up by bike-share facilities. In fact, Community Board 2 ranks 59th out of the city’s 61 community boards in terms of open park space — so every inch really is precious.
However, D.O.T. chose to flout the community’s concern when it drew up a plan for a 30-bike docking station at Father Fagan Square in Soho, at Prince St. and Sixth Ave. The design called for the cycles to be lined up along the park’s western edge — but in fact the bike-share operation would have dominated the entire park. Riders would be zipping into the park from the street, and gliding through the plaza, while others would be backing out. It would be a very busy scene, particularly around rush hours.
Yes, this square would be an ideal place for a bike-share hub — but the fact is it’s already a park, and we can’t afford to lose any green space in this community.
The park is named after Father Richard Fagan, who gave his life to save fellow priests in a fire in 1938 at nearby St. Anthony’s Church.
Within the past week, at the urging of C.B. 2 and St. Anthony’s, D.O.T., to its credit, has relented on the idea, and is now looking at siting the bike-share dock at nearby alternative sites, either along Houston St. or MacDougal St.
Houston St.’s sidewalk is extra-wide now after the street-improvement project a few years ago, which might make it a good location. The downside is that Houston St. also is dangerous with a lot of car traffic. A new site can and will be found — but we’re just glad that the bike-share won’t be located in Father Fagan Square, which would have overwhelmed the park.
That said, we do take exception with some of the opponents’ rhetoric surrounding this story. For example, in a press release slamming D.O.T. for threatening to “desecrate a memorial site” at the square, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said the department aims to turn the streets of New York into “Ho Chi Minh City.” We assume that means encourage a lot of biking in the Big Apple — which is something we wholeheartedly support. Safe, responsible cycling, that is.
One shouldn’t have to go all the way to Vietnam just to enjoy that right.