Volume 80, Number 7 | September 23 - 29, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Bike lanes on a roll

Traditionally, New York has been way behind the curve compared to places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen when it comes to being a “bicycling city.” But, as anyone can see, that’s quickly changing.

In 2006, the Bloomberg administration announced it would add 200 miles of new bike lanes in the next three years — a goal it met. The plan is now to keep adding 50 miles of new bike lanes each year.

We’re a huge supporter of bike lanes, simply because they make it so much safer to ride in the city and enjoy the benefits of cycling. Cycling is a healthy and liberating way to get around and commute — no one can argue with that.

But, as with anything new, there’s an adjustment period. In particular, the protected lanes — where bicyclists are separated from moving auto traffic by a lane of parked cars — are a revolutionary change to the streetscape.

These new protected lanes were installed this summer on First and Second Aves. in the East Village and have been embraced by cyclists eager for a safe space to ride. However, some local residents — angry over reckless cyclists and those who ride on sidewalks — are up in arms, charging that the new lanes are “rewarding bicyclists for bad behavior.” Some merchants object, too, saying the lanes make it harder for suppliers to do deliveries and customers to park.

These concerns, again, will be ironed out as we all learn the proper “street etiquette” needed for this new roadway infrastructure. For example, where there are protected lanes, pedestrians must look for bicyclists before stepping into the bike lane to get to the crosswalk waiting area. People must also recognize that the new green bike lanes are not sidewalk extensions for strolling or hanging out in.

Above all, cyclists need to control their speeds and not ride recklessly. A moderate speed is perfect for a city like New York, but racing at up to 25 miles per hour is dangerous and increases chances of serious accidents.

Truthfully, though, it’s not cyclists who are “setting the tone” on the streets, but motorists with their aggressive driving.

Cyclists should follow the key rules of the road — that is, stop at red lights, don’t ride on the sidewalk, go the right way, use a bell and have lights on at night.

But the fact is, bike lanes — including protected lanes — reduce accidents for everyone. According to study figures provided by Transportation Alternatives, pedestrian injuries decrease 40 percent on streets with protected bike lanes, while sidewalk bike riding also decreases on these streets.

Bike lanes are encouraging people who might not have felt safe riding on the street before to give it a try. Senior cyclists feel more protected. Also, the new lanes are helping address the gender imbalance among city cyclists. According to T.A., in bike-friendly European cities, female cyclists equal or outnumber male cyclists. In the U.S., the ratio is 3 to 1, male to female.

As for truck deliveries, in some busy spots with bike lanes, the city has created side-street loading zones. Again, there’s an adjustment period, and suppliers are learning how to negotiate the new street layout.

On shopping, a study by N.Y.U. students and T.A. showed that most shoppers along First and Second Aves. come by foot or mass transit, not car.

Speaking of mass transit, on Oct. 10 rapid bus service will begin during rush hours in the new priority bus lanes on First and Second Aves., a vitally important bus corridor.

These improvements represent the transportation wave of the future. Manhattan isn’t a car culture kind of place, and the administration’s move toward improving cycling and mass transit is the way to go.



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