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Bike racks:DOT ignores input on bike stations

BY RICHARD BARR

During a meeting of Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee earlier this summer, Upper West Side residents cited a variety of reasons why they thought a Citi Bike station on West 87th Street would be a bad idea on the block between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. They also suggested that officials from the city’s Department of Transportation were not listening to their objections or making the effort to communicate with them.

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Although DOT representatives said they were in fact listening to the complaints, my own experience that evening and subsequently is in line with that of residents. During the DOT presentation on July 12, an agency representative went on to mention other Citi Bike locations that would be installed later on, including on West 87th between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, my block. I spoke with the representative following the presentation and said that no one on my block seemed to know of the impending installation, and asked when it was supposed to happen. “In the fall,” she said.

I went back to my block, and solicited reactions; 48 of my neighbors were opposed, for a variety of reasons, while just two were in favor. I submitted that information to DOT but that same week, on July 31, three weeks to the day from the CB7 meeting, the docking stations were nevertheless installed, west of my block and on mine.

Earlier this month, DOT representatives returned to address the CB 7 Transportation Committee and said that the bike rack between West End and Riverside was going to be removed and installed temporarily on 88th Street while impending construction at the current location commences. It appears that not only does the agency not bother with listening to residents before they go ahead with the station, but it doesn’t even think through other issues before moving ahead.

I know of many other issues created around the city where DOT installed these stations without first considering schools, nursing, rehab facilities and other institutions, where access for buses, vans and ambulances was going to be hampered once installed.

Similarly, when discussions took place about installing protected bike lanes on Columbus Avenue and later, on Amsterdam Avenue, many residents, storekeepers and others commented on issues such as safety concerns for disabled, vision and hearing impaired pedestrians facing danger from quiet, hard-to-see bicycles operated by the occasional reckless cyclist whizzing by as soon as they came off the curb; great inconvenience for all the commercial enterprises along these avenues who depend on trucks for deliveries or pickups; danger for cars parking or leaving spaces now well out into the avenue, while trucks and buses speed by; and stalled traffic because now when a truck is double parking it is almost halfway across the avenue. And when trucks, buses and cars are idling, their engines are putting a lot of exhaust pollution into the air.

Bicycling advocates claim lanes “calm” these avenues and make them safer. What could calm them more than staggering the lights, a remedy which went largely unmentioned at the meetings?

Was all this outweighed by greater convenience for the 50 cyclists per hour which studies say use the lanes? Yes, said the hundreds of bicycle lobbyists who packed each meeting, mostly sent to them by Transportation Alternatives. Should bike lanes be put instead on streets and avenues which don’t have trucks, buses or stores, eliminating many of these issues? No, said the lobbyists. In every case, the views and desires of an incredibly influential bicycle lobby seem to prevail over the objections of anyone else in this town who might see things differently.

The DOT needs to recognize that many New Yorkers have legitimate concerns about the placement of these docking stations, and those concerns should be listened to and addressed. The rest of New York may not be as vocal at meetings as the bike lobby, but there are probably more of them, and they should have a say in their city government’s actions.

Richard Barr is an Upper West Side resident.