October/November 1999, p.6

DOT Nixes City Planning Bike Lane Improvements
Rejects Plan Praised as "Innovative" and "Excellent" by T.A.

Here is an innovative 2way bike lane in Montreal, with a barrier between bikes and cars. Apparently this type of bike lane is out of NYC's league.In a tour de force of defeatism, the Department of Transportation has rejected the innovative recommendations made in the Department of City Planning's report Making Streets Safe for Cycling: Strategies for Improved Bicycle Safety.

This report, published in May, was the product of months of thoughtful research by City Planning's bicycle planners, and elicited strong praise from T.A. and others at public meetings. The report cites numerous examples of advanced bicycle lane designs from bike-friendly cities like Montreal, Paris, Copenhagen and Portland, Oregon. In effusive May 26 letters to the Department of City Planning and DOT, T.A. complimented DCP Commissioner Joe Rose on the report and urged the DOT to adopt its recommendations. T.A. asked DOT to mark off some bicycle lanes with bright pigment and bollards, and install new contra-flow bike lanes to close critical gaps in the bicycle network. Specifically, T.A. endorsed the report's call for:

  • Colored bike lanes on Lafayette Street and 5th Ave.
  • Plastic bollards separating lanes at Madison Square and
    Broadway, 5th and 6th Avenues and Adam Clayton Powell
  • Contra-flow lanes near the entrances to the East River
    Bridge and on West Broadway from Grand Street to Walker

Unfortunately, in an August 12th letter from DOT to T.A., Assistant Commissioner Peter Pennica rejected the report's ideas. Pennica wrote that DOT "expressed concerns to City Planning regarding this report." He then explained that contra-flow lanes are "too dangerous" and that bollards and "other devices to create a physical separation between bicycles and oncoming motor vehicle traffic creates other problems... Snow and litter removal becomes difficult, if not impossible... Barriers also make curb access more difficult for deliveries." Pennica added that painting "colored pavement (in bicycle lanes) is not effective for night operation, and is extremely difficult to maintain."

The DOT's wholesale rejection of the report raises distressing questions. First, where was DOT during the drafting of the report? Why aren't DOT and DCP working together on bicycle improvements? Supposedly, the NYC Bicycle Network is a joint DOT/DCP project. Second, what is the point of DCP's bicycle planning if DOT feels free to reject it? Indeed, does the joint DCP/DOT Bicycle Master Plan mean anything if DOT seems to ignore bicycle plans in general? Third, and perhaps most worrisome; after rejecting DCP's thoughtful effort, does the DOT have its own proposal for bike lane designs and on-street cycling?

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