downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 19 | September 22 - 28, 2006

City rolls out plan to add miles of bike lanes Downtown

By Lori Haught

The city is adding five miles of bicycle lanes on the Lower East Side over the next year.

The lanes are part of the city-wide addition of 200 miles of on-street bicycle paths, lanes and routes over the next three years. The city Dept. of Transportation is installing 40 miles of bike lanes in Fiscal Year 2007, which began July 1, 2006, and has plans for 70 miles in F.Y. 2008 and 90 miles in F.Y. 2009.

The five miles of new bike lanes to be added Downtown will include a lane on Grand St. running from the F.D.R. Drive to West Broadway, on Madison St. from the Bowery to Grand St. and lanes on Clinton St. and Lewis St. stretching from Grand to Delancey Sts. Delancey St. will also have a path extending from the west end of the footbridge to the F.D.R. Drive. Several other bike lanes and paths are planned for Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and uptown Manhattan as well, totaling 27.7 miles in all.

The creation of these new bike lanes, as well as new lanes in Brooklyn and other parts of the city, the first phase of D.O.T.’s three-year plan, is to be completed by this December, Chris Gilbride, a D.O.T. spokesperson, said.

The installation of the last 158.8 miles of paths and lanes has not been finalized yet, Gilbride said. However, a D.O.T. map of “planned/proposed” new bike lanes shows many in Lower Manhattan, including connecting the new Madison St. lanes to Water St., as well as adding lanes to Broadway, Maiden Lane, Liberty St. and South End Ave. It will cost $30,000 per mile to create the new bike lanes.

The announcement comes on the heels of a joint report “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City 1996-2005,” issued by D.O.T., the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Parks and Recreation and the Police Department. The report recommended adding bike lanes and encouraging helmet use. It found that 225 bicyclists were killed in the last decade and there were 3,462 bicyclist injuries from 1996 to 2003.

Twice as many New York adults bicycle or walk to work compared to the national average, according to the report. However, bicycle death rates are the same as the national average, the report states.

D.O.T. is hiring new staff and has pledged more funding for its Bicycle and Highway Design divisions.

Other findings of the report:

*Only one fatal crash with a motor vehicle occurred when a bicyclist was in a marked bike lane.

*Almost three-quarters of fatal bicycle crashes (74 percent) involved a head injury.

*Nearly all bicyclists who died (97 percent) were not wearing a helmet.

*Large vehicles (trucks, buses) were involved in almost one-third (32 percent) of fatal crashes, but they make up approximately 15 percent of vehicles on New York City roadways. (On Friday, an East Village restaurant owner, 60, making a delivery on his bike was hit by a truck and killed on E. 17th St.)

*Most fatal crashes (89 percent) occurred at or near intersections.

*Most bicyclists who died were males (91 percent), and men aged 45 to 54 had the highest death rate (8.1 per million) of any age group. Officials attributed the higher death rate for males to “risk-taking behavior.”

Time’s Up!, the East Village-based environmental group, praised the city’s attention to bicycle safety but said the city must do even more to find “real solutions.”

In a press release, the group stated: “Time’s Up! is pleased that the city has taken the first step in implementing the improvements in bicycle safety that were recommended by the New York City Bicycle Coalition.

“The city’s proposal to add 200 miles of bike lanes would be a vast improvement to the city streets. Unfortunately, only 5 miles of bike paths will be physically separated from motor vehicle traffic; the other 195 miles will consist of striped lanes and signed routes, which give unprotected space to bike riders. In order for striped bike lanes to be truly part of a safety plan, they must be wider than the unbuffered bike lanes that currently exist on the streets. The narrow, unbuffered bike lanes … do not keep cyclists safe from being ‘doored’ by someone carelessly exiting from a parked car. 

“The city’s focus on helmet use in retaliation to cyclist fatalities perpetuates the use of victim-blaming rhetoric,” the Time’s Up! statement continued. “Emphasis on educating drivers… and encouraging drivers to stay out of bike lanes would offer better hope of lowering crash statistics.”

Wendy Brawer, a Time’s Up! volunteer, said this year her group has marked eight city streets where bikers were killed. “We look forward to the day when that number is zero.”



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