Volume 81, Number 16 | September 15 - 21, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A sunflower grows in Chelsea — in a bike lane.

Maybe critics will like bike lanes better if they have flowers in them

By Khiara Ortiz

In an effort to create a safer traffic environment for cyclists and beautify bike lanes, the city’s Department of Transportation has approved the planting of flowers and vegetables in some bike lane medians.

According to Ian Dutton, former vice chairperson of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, this initiative, which falls under the idea of “traffic calming,” theorizes that adding a few bouquets of flora to the stretches of concrete streets will create a neighborhood atmosphere and urge drivers to practice more caution while driving alongside cyclists.

It started with the efforts of a woman from the Chelsea Garden Club who planted vegetables in a bike-lane tree bed only to have them uprooted by a city contractor opposed to the idea.

After an agreement between the Parks Department, D.O.T. and state Senator Tom Duane to allow these beautification efforts, the adoption of bike-lane tree pits in Chelsea (Eighth and Ninth Aves.) and on the Upper West Side (Columbus and Amsterdam Aves.) has been opened to the public.

“In our dense, urban environment, we need every square foot of green space that we can get,” Duane said. He also hopes that the tree-pit planting program will “inspire local children both to learn about horticulture and to appreciate the benefits of civic engagement.”

The project anticipates expanding to the East Village bike lanes on First and Second Aves.

As for when exactly that would be, Dutton said, “It will depend on whether there are groups or individuals who want to ‘adopt’ the spaces. The existing procedure that was set up through the involvement of Tom Duane’s Office was that prospective gardeners would contact the local community board office and, assuming they signed liability paperwork and agreed to follow the guidance from the Parks Department, they would become the designated ‘planter.’

“In the case of Community Board 2, we have only a couple of planting spaces on Eighth Ave. and no one — to my knowledge — has yet expressed interest,” Dutton said, adding, “I don’t know if the East Side boards (C.B. 3 and C.B. 6) have had any contacts.”

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