B.P. Brewer: 12th, 13th Sts. bike lanes here to stay

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The new crosstown bike lanes at the north end of the Village were allegedly installed to deal with a looming transit crisis of such epic proportion that, like a mantra, it was regularly referred to as “unprecedented.” It even had its own awe-inspiring nickname: the “L-pocalypse.”

As it turns out, though, the L train never was, nor ever will be, fully shut down for East River tunnel repairs. Nevertheless, the new bike lanes will now be permanent anyway.

That’s the word from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, per an e-mail she sent out late Wednesday evening.

This obviously comes as terrific news to cycling advocates but a nightmare for many residents living along the streets with the new bike lanes who value curbside access, be it for their own cars or cabs, delivery vehicles and others.

The Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 was set to hear a presentation from city agency officials Thursday night about the city’s latest “experiment” for 14th St., plus the new bike lanes.

The city plans to slash the number of bus stops on the M14 routes and turn it into high-speed Select Bus Service. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

As for that “experiment,” Brewer said she also supports the city’s new scheme to prioritize buses and trucks on 14th St. — and also to transition the M14 route to Select Bus Service — since it would increase the buses’ speed.

But others, like former longtime Councilmember Carol Greitzer, recently writing in a letter to this paper, argue convincingly that existing bus stops along the M14 must be retained — not reduced to allow for high-speed S.B.S. — since one of buses’ major benefits is that they are accessible to less-mobile seniors, the disabled and others who are uncomfortable using the subway: In other words, speed should not be prioritized over accessibility when it comes to buses.

A need for speed: The de Blasio administration wants buses on 14th St. to move much faster. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Brewer doesn’t necessarily see it that way — though she did say she would work to try to save M14 stops on the Lower East Side.

“The city’s Department of Transportation has agreed to create a busway — or what D.O.T. is now calling a ‘Transit-Truck Priority’ project — on 14th St. between Third and Ninth Aves. beginning in June for an 18-month pilot,” Brewer said in her e-mail.

“This means buses and delivery vehicles will be given priority over private and for-hire vehicles during most of the day, with the exact hours still to be determined by transportation officials,” she continued. “Private cars that turn onto 14th St. from the avenues will be forced to take the next legal turn off 14th St., or suffer a traffic-camera ticket mailed to the vehicle’s registered address.

A stretch of the new 13th St. crosstown bike lane, just east of Second Ave. The wide buffer zone is actually a bigger issue than the bike lanes themselves, according to 14th St. Coalition members. (Photo by Lincoln Anderson)

“Along with the creation of Select Bus Service on the M14 routes in June, this should result in significant speed and reliability increases over current routes on 14th St. — and help handle the spillover of transit riders during the L train’s tunnel rehabilitation during the next 15 months. Also, bike lanes on W. 12th and 13th Sts. will be made permanent.

“I support this new plan for 14th St. and surrounding streets,” the B.P. stated, “even though it will require some getting used to by drivers and nearby residents. Many details have yet to be worked out. Traffic spillover onto 13th and 15th Sts. must be carefully monitored, and I am working to preserve the M14’s local stops on the Lower East Side, which are most-used by seniors and low-income riders.”

Judy Pesin, a member of the 14th St. Coalition’s steering committee, slammed the latest bus plan as little more than “a retooled busway,” and said local politicians should not just be monitoring the scheme’s implementation — but must get out in front of it and critically assess it.

“It’s a retooled busway that was said to support the 84,000 daily aboveground commuters resulting from the L-train closure,” Pesin said. “With the closure canceled and the hordes not arriving, the M.T.A./D.O.T. are continuing with this drastic plan with no reason except to speed up the buses — all while the L train is up and running.

“The experiment with a single lane of traffic in each direction and a 17-hour, seven-day vehicle ban doesn’t solve any problems on 14th St. How will buses speed up sharing a single lane with trucks and drop-offs and pickups? It will create problems on all neighboring streets by diverting cars and trucks — whose drivers don’t want the no-left-turn restrictions — over to our fragile side streets. And how will an emergency vehicle get through the single lanes? This plan puts us all at risk.”

“The mayor is saying that helping a commuter save 15 minutes travel time is more important than the safety and quality of life issues of those of us who live here.”

In defense of the new protected bike lanes, they are far safer for cyclists than the preexisting unprotected ones on Ninth and 10th Sts. Using the older lanes, cyclists are constantly at risk of being hit by traffic swerving into the lane. Those earlier lanes are also often blocked by double-parked cars, forcing bikes to veer dangerously out into traffic. The lanes on Ninth and Tenth Sts. also, at points, run past some very active garages, so cars are often at risk of suddenly crossing the paths.

14 Responses to B.P. Brewer: 12th, 13th Sts. bike lanes here to stay

  1. The 9th and 10th st style bike lanes are good enough for me. Everyone, especially bicyclists (I am one as well), to stay safer, just need to slow down, to deal with realities of the congestion present in this city.

    We don’t need these selfish regal wasteful of space bike lanes of the style newly installed on 13th + 12th st (particularly between ave A and 3rd ave). I remind you: I’m a life long NYC bicyclist, so I can see it from this perspective. Every needs a share of the streets: they’re NOT supposed to be prioritized for just a few self-rightous elitist bicycle extremists.

    • Thank you, Villager, for posting my comment. A comment highly critical of the 12th + 13th st bike lanes or opinions against the the bicyclist elitist agenda, most likely would have been censored on evgrieve.com. In my experience, no or selective free speech present on evgrieve.com.

  2. Ummm, Gail, only about 2% of people get around NYC by bike. You do also know that the L-train is NOT shutting down, which was the reason the bike lanes were put in, or at least that is what we were told.

    And how do YOU get around town, Gail? By bike? I'd bet it's not bike, but the way most of us Mahattanites get around – subway, bus, taxi and walking.

    C'mon Gail, get on that bike the next time you visit our neighborhood and use those lanes. Show us how it's done. You do represent us after all, don't you?

    • Wait until you find out how many Manhattanites own cars and then compare that to how much pavement is devoted to storing them!

  3. William Thomas

    I cross town via Citibike all the time and as far as I'm concerned bike lanes are a huge improvement over parking that most people will never use, because most New Yorkers don't own cars.

  4. I do not live on those side streets but i do live in the hood. I know how streets and residents utilize their blocks. there are always cars that need to double park for quick drop off & pick up. Alternate side of the street parking makes it crazy. I can no longer ride bikes, but do need to have the option of more parking space & tempstanding space. parking is even worse with citbike racks taking up street space. they should be staged on the sidewalk, and the bike lanes that I used on 9th & 10th were OK. Seniors need to be able to use taxis for supporting shopping local. where are the taxis going to be? where is support for seniors who are carrying goods after patronizing 14th st shops & union sq markets etc. dont tak away an entire strip of street for the few and mostly non neighborhood bikers

  5. Cars are an important part of the economy. They bring people places like Restaurants and Stores and all types of business places. without passenger cars and delivery trucks the City will die.

    • "without passenger cars and delivery trucks the City will die." — Well, delivery trucks maybe, but for cars that's just not even close to true. It's understandable to be pissed about this strike against cars, but you don't need to lie about it.

  6. These new lanes have some, but very little, to do with bikes. It's about making it more difficult for car drivers, because that is the only way to get people to stop driving high-emission polluters. But don't let that stop anyone from pointing out how few bicycles there are on our streets. ugh.

    • In the meantime streets are empty of people and stores are empty.

      • Seriously? Our sidewalks are packed with people and restaurant tables (need to fix that!). We have to walk in the streets because the side walks are so crammed. We have tons of new storefronts because of all the new buildings, so the only reason any are empty is over-production of ground floor retail spaces. And, we're doing congestion pricing because, what, the streets are so empty? All evidence to the contrary!

  7. "terrific news to cycling advocates but a nightmare for many residents living along the streets with the new bike lanes who value curbside access". Terrific news to residents of the neighborhood who use bicycles to go from place to place and have safer route to ride on. Residents living along the streets who value curb access never had curb access before the bike lanes were installed because the curb was blocked by parked cars. Go to 11 st and see how much access you have to the curb between the parked cars.

  8. Biking is an alternative means of transportation but not of you're elderly, or are wearing a suit or nice dress. Who wants to bike in the snow ? Bike lanes are great when appropriate but places like Avenue B are way to narrow for bikes.

  9. JoeTomGallagher

    At the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation meeting on May 2, the Dept. of Transportation provided data on the increase of bicyclists using these new bike lanes. The numbers were pretty incredible showing a doubling and tripling of bicyclists on those bike lanes and that was even when comparing summer numbers before to winter numbers now. Great news for the city and for the environment. CO2 emissions have done more to ruin the health of our planet than anything else. "Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived "forcing" of climate change."

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