CB 7 Turns Down Bike Racks as Big Complete Streets Meeting Approaches

Despite a positive vote in committee, earlier this week Community Board 7 on the Upper West Side sidelined a plan to bring more bike racks to the area, after some procedural maneuvering by transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig stifled discussion. With a key presentation from DOT on extending the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane coming up next week, the episode is a reminder that just about any change to the street faces an uphill battle with Zweig and his fellow co-chair, Andrew Albert.

Next week CB 7 will discuss a bigger issue than bike racks: the potential extension of the Columbus Avenue bike lane. Image: DOT

On Tuesday evening, Manhattan CB 7’s full board meeting seemed to be off to a good start. A proposal for a bike corral at Broadway and West 105th Street, which DOT modified to include more bike parking in response to committee members’ requests, passed the full board 34-1, with two abstentions.

Next up: a resolution asking DOT to consider installing bike racks at locations that the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign had determined met the city’s standards on Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and Columbus Avenue. After reaching out to adjacent businesses and property owners, asking if they wanted to opt out of getting a new bike rack, the campaign was left with 111 bike rack locations that it presented the transportation committee, which passed a resolution in support, 7-2.

Committee co-chair Dan Zweig, who voted against the resolution, introduced the issue to the full board Monday night. In giving many board members their first glimpse of the proposal, Zweig acted “as though the work we had done was really threadbare,” said Lisa Sladkus, an organizer of the campaign. Zweig wanted committee members to talk to business owners and property owners themselves about each bike rack location.

“We felt we went over and above what was required,” Sladkus said, adding that the campaign modeled its outreach on DOT’s popular CityBench program, which allows adjacent businesses or property owners to opt out. Sladkus said she even sent Zweig a file containing voicemails, emails, and letters between businesses and property owners and the UWS Streets Renaissance Campaign. “Whatever we provided, they wanted more,” she said. “Dan Zweig did not believe us.”

Quickly after Zweig gave the resolution a withering introduction at Monday’s meeting, board member Ian Alterman made a motion to send the issue back to committee. With the motion on the table, board members were forbidden from speaking about the merits of the bike rack plan. The board, which had heard only criticism of the proposal, voted 23-13, with one abstention, to kick it back to the transportation committee.

Streetsblog has reached out to Alterman for comment but has not received a reply.

UPDATE: In an email to Streetsblog, Alterman said, “I felt there was a 50-50 chance the resolution would fail — or that someone else would end up returning it to committee.” (The committee voted 7-2 in November to recommend passage by the full board, which overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting a new on-street bike corral immediately before Alterman made his motion.) “I felt that one more month, in which the committee could do more direct due diligence,” he wrote, “could not really hurt, and would give the committee a chance to present a more informed resolution that would garner less questioning.”

A motion was made to proceed only on bike rack locations where adjacent property owners not only raised no objection, but replied to the campaign affirming their interest in new bike racks. This limited the number of new bike racks to three.

“People were surprised that there was no opportunity to debate the motion, other than to ask technical questions,” said Ken Coughlin, who serves on CB 7 and its transportation committee. Later in the meeting, members accepted draft revisions to the board’s bylaws that would cut down on this type of procedural short-circuiting, as well as set term limits for committee chairs. Zweig has headed the transportation committee for at least a decade; his co-chair Andrew Albert has held his position even longer. Final revisions to the board’s bylaws will be voted on in February.

After this week’s parliamentary intrigue, the stage is set for next week’s transportation committee meeting, where DOT will present an update on the Columbus Avenue bike lane, which runs from West 77th to West 96th Streets, and discuss extending it to 110th Street and 59th Street, where it would connect to the protected bike lane on Ninth Avenue.

DOT has not discussed plans for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which would provide a northbound route to complement southbound Columbus, although it is likely to come up at next week’s meeting. Sladkus noted that the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance has measured “staggering” rates of speeding on Amsterdam.

In 2009, CB 7 asked DOT to study protected bike lanes on both avenues, but as Zweig and Albert have ramped up their obstructionist tactics, Amsterdam Avenue has fallen out of the discussions.

“This is shaping up to be a community referendum on the Columbus Avenue redesign,” Coughlin said. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 West 83rd Street.