CB 6 Votes Conditionally for East Side SBS, Endorses Better Bike Lanes

Design_D.pngCB 6 urged DOT to consider buffered bike lanes instead of sharrows on parts of Second Avenue. DOT had previously upgraded plans for sharrows on First Avenue with a buffered lane design, shown above. Image: NYCDOT

Prospects for safer cycling on the east side of Midtown got a boost last night, as Manhattan Community Board 6 strengthened its support for uninterrupted bike lanes as part of NYCDOT and the MTA’s redesign of First and Second Avenues. 

The full board passed a resolution expressing general support for Select Bus Service, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian refuge islands along the corridor, with some conditions attached. The board also added a clause urging DOT to consider buffered lanes for parts of Second Avenue, where current plans would dump cyclists traveling on protected lanes into regular traffic with shared-route markings once they hit Midtown.

Only one board member voted against the resolution, though a set of amendments to further strengthen the board’s support of SBS and protected lanes was voted down by a wide margin. 

In contrast to last week’s chaotic committee meeting about this project, the discussion last night was more civil and substantive. From both public comments and the board’s discussion, however, it quickly became
clear that anger over crosstown bus cuts is still fueling some
opposition to Select Bus Service.

All the opponents of the plan argued that when paired with service cuts to the area’s crosstown buses — the M27, M50, and M104 — Select Bus Service would leave the Turtle Bay neighborhood with only one local bus stopping in the area on nights and weekends. "If the DOT and the MTA get what they’re asking for," said Bill Curtis, the president of the Turtle Bay Association, "it’s going to be a lot harder to get to Turtle Bay." In effect, because the transit funding crisis has caused bus service to deteriorate, opponents were able to bolster their case against significant service improvements for other bus riders.

The board’s resolution — which is advisory, not binding — makes its support of Select Bus Service conditional on the inclusion of stops at 50th Street and 28th Street.

Everyone who testified in support of the resolution focused on the need to improve the bike lanes in the plan and ensure that cyclists on protected lanes don’t get suddenly mixed in with Midtown traffic. "The East Side has been behind the West Side on the vision thing," said Hugh MacGlincy, a lifelong resident of the CB 6 district who called for running protected or buffered lanes along the length of First and Second Avenues. "This is CB 6’s chance to get into the 21st century."

The board took a step in that direction, adopting a resolution urging that Design D, which includes a buffered but unprotected lane, be considered for the bike lane gaps on Second Avenue. DOT currently intends to implement Design D on part of First Avenue, so the board is also endorsing plans to close the bike lane gap for northbound cyclists. 

A set of amendments to the resolution, proposed by board member Bill Oddo, would have called for a second bus lane, to allow SBS buses to pass local buses more easily, and for fully protected bike lanes on the length of both First and Second Avenues. That resolution failed in an 11-26 vote, with multiple community board members saying they might have voted yes on one issue or the other had they been separate motions.