By Jen Benepe–November 30, 2013
A pending resolution to convert the lower portion of Amsterdam Ave. into a safe cycling area is being voted on this coming Tuesday.
The measure is being considered by Community Board 7 in Manhattan, and if passed would request the city’s Department of Transportation to redesign the one-way avenue to make it a safer and more welcoming street for all users.
The vote was delayed on Nov. 7 when so many people came to speak about the changes, that there was no more time to take a vote.
The resolution, which passed in the transportation committee earlier in November, calls upon the DOT to consider a study for a street redesign that would increase Amsterdam Avenue’s “safety, aesthetics, and efficiency for all users.”
Currently Amsterdam is the only four-lane, one-way thoroughfare on the Upper West Side and has injury and death rates almost double those of surrounding northbound avenues, reported the Columbia Spectator this month.
Amsterdam is also a designated truck route for 18-wheelers to pass through the city: these trucks are not allowed on Broadway where congestion is much greater, unless the truck is within blocks of its delivery end point.
Those trucks tend to dominate the roadway, as do fast vehicle speeds due to timed lights and four lanes traveling north, making it more dangerous for non-motorized users.
The resolution being weighed calls on DOT to consider removing an unnecessary lane of traffic and use it to create a physically protected bike lane, as well as pedestrian islands, dedicated left-turn lanes and much-needed loading zones, said Ken Coughlin, bicycle advocate and editorial director at ElderLawAnswers.com.
“At last month’s full board meeting, so many voiced their support for traffic-calming this overbuilt and lethal highway that the vote had to be delayed a month,” said Coughlin in a written message. “The chair of [Community Board 7] has decided not to permit any further public comment, but it will be important to have as many there as possible quietly registering support.”
Newly elected Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer who is finishing her term as Upper West Side councilwoman, has been in favor of the changes, and believes that they will benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as businesses along the avenue.
Brewer urged residents of the Upper West Side to make more use of the current Columbus Avenue bike lane, which she said was doing a “great job.”
“We need to use our bike lanes more; we need to make sure that they’re safe; and then we need to make sure that the merchants are happy.”
The changes on Amsterdam would mirror changes on Columbus Avenue, which extended its southbound bike lane this summer almost the length of Central Park, following a months-long debate.
In the Nov. 7 meeting, a majority of attendees testified in favor of a protected bike lane on Amsterdam. Supporters maintained that it would make the avenue safer, create a more livable streetscape, and encourage bike traffic along the store-lined avenue, wrote the Spectator.
The meeting will take place at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, on Tuesday at 6:30 PM. The hospital is located at 1000 Tenth Ave. (at 59th Street). Enter through the main entrance and tell the guard you are attending the Community Board meeting.