Eight Years Later, CB 12 Still Dragging Its Feet on Dyckman Street Bike Lanes

CB 12 endorsed a protected bikeway for Dyckman Street between 10th Avenue and Nagle Avenue (below), and tabled a vote on the DOT plan for a road diet and painted bike lanes between Nagle and Broadway (above). Image: DOT
CB 12 endorsed a protected bikeway for Dyckman Street between 10th Avenue and Nagle Avenue (below), and tabled a vote on the DOT plan for a road diet and painted bike lanes between Nagle and Broadway (above). Image: DOT

Eight years of talking about design upgrades for Dyckman Street was not enough for Manhattan Community Board 12, which voted to table part of a DOT plan to add bike lanes to the major Inwood cross street at a transportation committee meeting last night.

To recap, last spring DOT proposed a road diet for the commercial segment of Dyckman between Broadway and Nagle Avenue: a general traffic lane and five-foot painted bike lane in each direction, with a painted median and a center turn lane. Between Nagle and 10th Avenue, where painted bike lanes were striped around 10 years ago, DOT plans to install a nine-foot-wide, two-way protected bikeway on the south side of the street, which borders Highbridge Park.

The plan also includes a much-needed curb extension and new crosswalk at Dyckman and 10th Avenue, where there is an elementary school. Concrete median islands at Vermilyea and Post avenues, however, were in the plan at one point but are no longer part of the proposal.

DOT developed the plan eight years after local residents called for an continuous protected bikeway along the full length of Dyckman, connecting the east side and west side greenways. CB 12 has asked DOT for Dyckman bike lanes — twice — but in June the board declined to vote on the plan, saying more meetings should be held. After two hours of discussion, much of it off-topic, last night the committee split its vote in two, endorsing the protected bike lane section, including the new crosswalk at 10th Avenue, and tabling the rest of the project.

CB 12 members repeatedly accused DOT of under-counting motor vehicle traffic on Dyckman. For some reason, the specter of motorists attempting to parallel park as other drivers approached from behind was a sticking point. Board members also doubted that the 34th Precinct would make good on a pledge to keep people from double-parking in the painted bike lanes, but none called for DOT to extend the protected bikeway from Nagle to Broadway. Some on the committee criticized the proposal for shortchanging pedestrian safety, and were unmoved by DOT evidence that road diets and bike lanes make streets safer for walking.

Instead, anecdata from board members and BANANAs set the tone. According to their testimony, 100 percent of unidentified random bus drivers agree that bike lanes on Dyckman are a terrible idea, and it’s common knowledge at certain FDNY firehouses that Upper Manhattan bike lanes increase the risk of people dying in fires. (When DOT Acting Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez said FDNY should talk to DOT about any concerns, one woman said he should be ashamed of himself for not caring about public safety.)

A business owner assured the committee that painting bike lanes on Dyckman would be the end of all commerce there. Another man yelled for a while (“There’s no parking anywhere!”) about the protected bike lane on Fort George Hill, which would connect with the planned Dyckman bikeway segment, and claimed bike lanes are a plot for the city to make money on parking tickets. Protected bike lanes on W. 170th Street were a popular target. A good chunk of the discussion had nothing to do with Dyckman Street.

As usual, while the bike-haters made the most noise, supporters of the project — or a more assertive version of it — made a strong showing. Russell Murphy, chief of staff for council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Inwood, urged the committee to endorse the project. Maggie Clarke, one of the locals who presented the Dyckman bikeway concept in 2008, pressed DOT to implement a greenway-to-greenway protected lane. Longtime local safe streets advocate Jonathan Rabinowitz wondered if Dyckman would see improvements by the time his son, now in kindergarten, graduated high school. When one man asked who would be riding a bike in cold weather, many in the room answered “Me!”

When the committee polled the audience, the vast majority of those who remained raised their hands in support of the bikeway segment between Nagle and 10th avenues. Committee chair Yahaira Alonzo then refused requests to take a second vote for bike lanes between Nagle and Broadway — in part because the committee tabled that segment, but also because, according to Alonzo, people who stayed until the committee made its decision were “not representative of the community.”

Ultimately, the committee asked DOT to schedule a workshop to address Dyckman design between Nagle and Broadway. Sanchez noted that DOT had already tried to hold such a workshop, at CB 12’s request, after the June presentation, but got no cooperation from the board. He added that getting board members to show up for two walk-throughs conducted since then was “like pulling teeth.” Alonzo said CB 12 failed to follow through on the Dyckman workshop because the board couldn’t find a venue.

We asked Rodriguez’s office for comment on what CB 12 did yesterday. His office sent this response:

I’m a big believer in bike lanes and am thankful that Community Board 12 have supported real safety measures aimed at protecting cyclists along Dyckman Street east of Nagle Avenue. I look forward to working out the concerns of the community board and other stakeholders so that we can move the full project forward as soon as possible, including from Broadway to Nagle. I know double parking and the concerns of business owners remain challenges, but I think they are surmountable through conversation, education and enforcement, and should not ultimately hinder the safety of street users uptown, especially along a corridor linking east and west side greenways.