By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community Board 6 has voted to support Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s legislation to protect bike lanes during street construction.
The bill, which Rivera introduced in mid-October, would require holders of Department of Transportation permits that allow construction on city streets to preserve impacted bike lanes and provide a safe and sufficient detour.
The legislation specifies that at least three quarters of the original bike lane or four feet, whichever is larger, should be maintained, and the bike lane needs to be separated from vehicle traffic with a barrier. The bill would also ensure that the bike lane is not open to pedestrian traffic.
At the CB6 meeting on November 12, Stuy Town resident and Community Board member Larry Scheyer raised the issue of whether or not there are already any existing policies addressing this, and member Gene Santoro noted that there is not yet anything specific requiring builders to protect the existing bike lanes.
“They are supposed to in most cases create some kind of alternative thing but it’s vague,” Santoro said. “That’s why there’s a need for this.”
Rivera was prompted to introduce the legislation by a particularly egregious site in her district on First Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The construction site diverted bicyclists from the protected First Avenue bike lane into vehicular traffic with little to no signage or barriers. The site was rectified after the City Council member intervened, but similar conditions have persisted around bike lanes near construction sites throughout the city.
“These kinds of lane closures are not just an inconvenience to bicyclists – they are a public safety hazard to all New Yorkers,” Rivera said. “This common-sense bill will prevent bicyclists from being forced suddenly into pedestrian or vehicular traffic without notice to riders, drivers, or walkers.”
One issue with the legislation that CB6 public member Bob Cohen raised is the extra space that accommodating bike lanes in addition to barriers will take up on the street, possibly obstructing cars.
“Building construction is so far out on street that if you then go out to protect the bike lane too, then you end up with no street,” he said. “We have to somehow try to move the construction sites further into their property and not take sidewalks and parking away. Until you do that, you’ll have a problem.”