Wall Street Journal Residents Wary as Bike Share Expands by Mozes Zarate

Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Residents Wary as Bike Share Expands
Mozes Zarate
07/10/2015

As plans roll along to expand New York City’s bike-rental system into the Upper West and Upper East sides, some residents there have mixed feelings about sharing the road with more cyclists.

The city Department of Transportation and some Manhattan community boards and residents have been in talks about where to place Citi Bike stations on the Upper West and East sides. Two draft maps, which received a lot of attention in the past several weeks, showed the proposed locations of 39 stations in each neighborhood stretching from 59th to 110th streets.

On Thursday night the city released the final maps for the Upper West and East sides. Several proposed stations that were near intersections were moved across the street, and other stations were put on sidewalks instead of in the roads.

Citi Bike’s push farther north is part of the second phase in a three-year plan to double the number of bicycles and docking stations in New York, bringing the totals to 12,000 additional blue bikes and 700 more docking stations by 2017.

The first wave, scheduled to finish by the end of the summer, includes new Citi Bike stations in sections of northern Brooklyn and the west side of Queens, according to the transportation department.

“We conducted extensive outreach in local neighborhoods, and after reviewing their concerns, have created an expansion plan that will provide a great new transportation option for more New Yorkers,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement.

Community Boards 7 and 8 heard from residents prior to the release of the final draft, and many complained about what they viewed as troublesome proposals for the new Citi Bike locations in upper Manhattan.

They cited spots on streets they thought already were too narrow or were too close to playgrounds, and on sidewalks frequented by seniors and roadways notoriously congested with traffic.

Some residents were worried about losing parking to stations that are built in the roads, as opposed to on sidewalks. In response, the city asked the transportation department to consider sidewalk stations instead for those locations, said City Councilman Ben Kallos, whose district includes Upper East Side and Midtown.

Outside the formal meetings, residents had a range of views about Citi Bike’s arrival in the neighborhood.

Hester Eisenstein, 74 years old, from the Upper West Side, said she doesn’t see the city working to lessen motor traffic in the neighborhood’s busiest intersections. She said those intersections could be doubly hazardous for pedestrians when Citi Bike stations move in.

“More bikes to get run over by, and the same number of cars to get run over by,” she said. “It doesn’t excite me.”

Bryan Cloonan, a real-estate agent who lives on West 70th Street, said there is no room for cyclists on most roads on the Upper West Side.

One southbound bike lane exists on Columbus Avenue, stretching from 110th to 69th streets, with a northbound lane on Central Park West one block away.

Major streets, including Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, don’t have bike lanes, which can provoke dangerous or illegal behavior by cyclists, Mr. Cloonan said.

“They’re hazardous and reckless,” he said, of bike riders. “Some people ride on curbs, and others are getting hit by cars because they don’t give them room.”

Although Paula Capps, 52, welcomed Citi Bikes to the Upper East Side, she said she was worried that more cyclists would add to the roadway chaos introduced by the construction of the Second Avenue subway line.

With the neighborhood containing several multilane “super highways,” including First, Second and Third avenues, Ms. Capps said Upper East Side roads can be perilous for new cyclists.

“There aren’t many side streets that [bicyclists] can meander through,” she said. “It’s all full of traffic.”

Despite the traffic, Ramine Mossadegh, who lives on East 74th Street, said Citi Bike was perfect for people like him: residents who live in smaller apartments and don’t have the space to store their own bicycles.

“I would use it if they were up here,” he said, of the bikes.

Happy Freedman, who works at the Hospital for Special Surgery on East 70th Street, said Citi Bikes would be convenient for regular patients.

“I have patients who would love to ride their bike, see the doctor, then go home,” the 57-year-old said.

The city had proposed a Citi Bike station for East 72nd Street between York and First avenues, near the Hospital for Special Surgery. At a July 1 meeting of Community Board 8’s transportation committee, several neighbors complained the station would be dangerous for seniors, medical patients and ambulances that frequented the nearby hospitals and nursing home.

Ultimately, the transportation department moved the East 72nd Street location to the other side of the York Avenue intersection, in front of a building on the Hospital for Special Surgery campus.

For the community boards, the challenge is to please all residents, even those who don’t attend the meetings, said Elizabeth Caputo, Community Board 7 chairwoman.

“A lot of people live up here, and we want to make sure we’re paying attention to everyone,” she said.

Issue: 
Transportation