Still No Progress on UES Crosstown Bike Lanes at Community Board 8

The surreal world of Upper East Side bike lane meetings took another bizarre turn Wednesday night. DOT has put forward a simple plan for painted crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood, but instead of breezing through Community Board 8, it’s become a prime example of how even the most basic safety improvements can get bogged down in a series of gripe sessions.

DOT wants to install three new crosstown dedicated bike routes on the Upper East Side [PDF]. Image: DOT
The three pairs of crosstown bike lanes in DOT’s plan. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan would add painted bike lanes on three pairs of crosstown streets: 85th and 84th streets, 78th and 77th streets, and 67th and 68th streets [PDF]. The project removes no parking spaces or car lanes. CB 8 passed a resolution asking DOT to install crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood in November, but once DOT showed an actual proposal, the NIMBYs came out of the woodwork.

Wednesday’s meeting was no different, according to advocates and committee members in attendance, with a succession of residents and organizations from each affected street arguing why their block could not handle a painted bike lane.

“There were people from each of the streets who were at the meeting and they all said ‘on my street over my dead body,’” said attorney and UES resident Steve Vaccaro. Compared to previous meetings, Vaccaro said, “the anecdotal evidence was even more irrelevant. There were people saying, ‘There’s a thrift shop on our street.’ There were people saying, ‘There are restaurants on our street.’”

Earlier this month, the committee called “not on my street” opponents on their bluff, passing a resolution asking DOT to study the feasibility of bike lanes on every crosstown street in the neighborhood.

At Wednesday’s meeting, board member Michelle Birnbaum claimed Borough President Gale Brewer’s office had determined the resolution was invalid because it had been proposed by a “public member” of the committee — a non-voting member who did not go through the political appointment process. Brewer’s office said today that its staff had responded to “a hypothetical that was similar to but different from the question CB 8 wound up facing Wednesday night,” that its advice “may have been incorrect,” and that it is now consulting the city’s Law Department and “researching the question further.”

The parliamentary wrangling will probably turn out to be irrelevant. Vaccaro said CB 8’s final resolution does not explicitly reject the street pairings in DOT’s plan, instead requesting that DOT explore possible alternative pairs for the board to consider. Vaccaro said he’s confident the board will support DOT’s plan — eventually.

There is no law stopping DOT from striping the bike lanes without a resolution from the community board. A DOT spokesperson said the department is waiting on the text of the board’s resolution before making a determination on how to move forward.