PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents
What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2’s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4’s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2’s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

CB 2 transportation committee chair Shirley Secunda said the request shouldn’t be limited to the area south of 11th Street. The committee agreed, unanimously voting to support a request for DOT to study Varick Street, Seventh Avenue South and Seventh Avenue across the entire length of CB 2, from 14th Street to Canal Street. The Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District has already proposed changes for Varick Street between Houston and Canal.

“The most positive thing to me is how many neighborhood people turned out in favor,” Secunda said in an email. “There’s been a significant increase in both understanding of the merits and support of progressive transportation approaches.”

“It was the least controversy of any meeting I’ve ever been at,” said West Village resident and Transportation Alternatives volunteer Alan Jacobs. “There seems to be a little coalition forming around this.”

That coalition is set to extend northward. “We are working on getting this on October’s agenda,” said CB 4 transportation committee co-chair Ernest Modarelli, whose committee covers Seventh Avenue between 14th and 26th Streets. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for September 17. There’s also word that CB 5, which covers Seventh Avenue from 26th Street to Central Park, might also be interested.

All three community boards already requested complete streets studies for Fifth and Sixth Avenues from DOT earlier this year. The next step for Seventh Avenue would be a vote at CB 2’s next general board meeting, scheduled for September 18 at 6 p.m.