By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community Board 6’s transportation committee this Monday voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Department of Transportation’s proposal to install bike lanes on 26th and 29th Streets.
Community Board 5, which covers the western portion of the streets, had a much more contentious meeting last week on the proposal in which a vote was delayed because of disagreements about the removal of parking spaces.
While Community Board 6 members were not enthusiastic about the loss of parking either, the members ultimately voted to support the plan in a 9 to 2 vote.
Board member Fred Arcaro was one of those who voted against the proposal.
“It feels like you’re trying to put too much into a narrow street,” he said.
Public member Bob Cohen was also hesitant about the plan because of the loss of parking.
“Have you contacted all the New York residents about how they feel about losing their parking?” he asked DOT officials.
Representatives at the meeting responded that the presentations to the community boards are actually one of the ways that the agency is getting feedback on the proposal and DOT is taking those comments into consideration.
Board member Andrew Gross said that he is one resident who might be affected by the loss of parking since he drives but he said that he was willing to make the sacrifice because cycling is increasing in the city.
“I’m bothered by losing these parking spaces as a driver but I also feel a sense of responsibility to protect the well-being of people who bike,” he said, explaining his support for the plan.
Ted Wright, the DOT Bicycle Program Director, explained at the meeting that there were a few reasons for specifically choosing 26th and 29th Streets for the crosstown lanes.
Wright said that one of the reasons is that both streets connect directly to the Hudson River Greenway and neither street conflicts with the DOT’s congestion management plan. Wright also noted that 34 feet is the ideal amount of space for a street with a protected bike lane and although not all of the blocks on 26th and 29th have this “magic number,” he said that they are the streets with the highest number of crosstown blocks with that width.
Jeanette Jones, a disabled resident who lives on East 26th Street between First and Second Avenue, said she was concerned about the loss of parking, especially since parking for the new micro-unit building on Carmel Place took away some of the parking on her block.
“I can’t afford to pay more for parking than I do for rent,” she said of the alternative options. “I’m from Copenhagen and I’m glad you’re putting them in but not at the expense of disabled residents who need access to cars.”
A number of other attendees at the meeting, however, expressed support for the proposal and around 20 people came to the meeting specifically to speak in favor of the plan.
George Calderado, a resident of East 28th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, said that he is a daily bike rider but cycling in his neighborhood has been hazardous without protected bike lanes.
“I’ve been pushed from the painted bike lane into traffic on East 29th Street,” he said. “Bike lanes don’t increase congestion. It’s Uber and other for-hire vehicles that increase congestion.”
Another neighbor, James Miller, who said that he bikes often, said that the lack of bike lanes is dangerous for cyclists and that he supports the DOT’s plan.
“This is what it’s like for bike riders everywhere in Manhattan,” Miller said, pointing to a slide in the DOT’s presentation showing a cyclist in a narrow space between a truck and parked car. “This is a real safety issue. People’s lives are at stake.”