Cyclists, Pedestrians, Call on Mayor to Fulfill East Side Safety Pledge
Wide Support for Finishing Pedestrian and Bike Improvements on First and Second Avenues
Transportation Alternatives today delivered a foot-tall stack of 2,500 letters hand-written by cyclists and pedestrians to Mayor Bloomberg, asking that the city follow through on its plans for pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes on Manhattan's First and Second avenues. The elected leaders, cyclists and pedestrians who pushed for the promised safety improvements on the East Side turned out to rally on the steps of City Hall. Speakers included state Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, state senator José Serrano, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Sabrina Bishop, whose friend Bob Bowen was hit and killed by a truck while cycling on Second Avenue this summer.
The bold redesign of First and Second avenues features bus-only lanes to speed riders between Houston and 125th streets on the new M15 Select Bus Service. As recently as this past winter, plans also called for pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes along the length of the corridor. But in June, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the bike lanes and pedestrian islands would start at Houston Street, as proposed, but stop at 34th Street, leaving a four-and-a-half mile void through Midtown, the Upper East Side and East Harlem.
Nearly 4,900 pedestrians and cyclists were injured or killed on First and Second avenues between Houston and 125th streets, from 1998 to 2008, according to the state Department of Transportation. Seventy-two percent of those injuries and fatalities took place on the stretch between 34th and 125th streets. East Harlem, in particular, has one of the city's highest rates of bike commuting but no bike lanes connecting to business districts in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Completing the safety improvements on First and Second avenues would save life and limb, while encouraging more people to walk, bike, shop and enjoy the neighborhood.
The city's own research has shown that pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes slow cars down and dramatically reduce the number of crashes, as well as deaths and injuries to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrian refuges and protected bike lanes have cut injuries to all road users by more than 50 percent, and pedestrians up to 60 percent. Protected bike lanes have reduced sidewalk cycling by more than 80 percent.
The East Side pedestrian islands and bike lanes have strong community support. All of the East Side Community Boards whose borders touch the project have signed resolutions in favor. Nineteen elected officials--members of City Council, the state Assembly and Senate and U.S. Congress--also wrote letters of support to the DOT and MTA last December. Since June, more than 2,500 people have written to the mayor asking that the pedestrian islands and bike lanes be built as planned.
"Whether walking from a parking spot or to the subway, every New Yorker is a pedestrian at some point in their day," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "Physically protected bike lanes calm traffic, and with accompanying pedestrian refuge islands, these changes make the streets safer for everyone: cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and transit riders."
"Bus riders are also pedestrians who want to feel safe crossing First and Second avenues as well as boarding and getting off the bus--the full build-out of both avenues is absolutely necessary," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at the NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign.
"The bike lanes that have been implemented are a great start, and will likely improve the commute for East Side residents, from the Lower East Side all the way north to my district in East Harlem," said Sen. José Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx). "However, I must emphasize the importance of ensuring that the design be completed in full throughout the corridor, and that no community be excluded from the benefits of this plan--particularly the safety improvements that have been implemented from Houston to 34th Street. As cycling becomes more popular among city-dwellers, the deficiency of cycling infrastructure must be addressed. We must act now to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, not only in downtown Manhattan, but uniformly, throughout the city."
"Today we're saying to the city, 'Please finish what you started'," said state Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan). "Completing the bus and bike lanes and pedestrian islands, as promised, will allow people who live, work, visit, or merely pass through our East Side neighborhoods to get around in ways that are safer, more efficient, greener, and healthier. This work is long overdue, and we must continue to rethink and revamp the ways we travel until we get the job done."
"It is unacceptable that my community in El Barrio/East Harlem is being excluded from these important transportation improvements on First and Second Avenues," said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. "We should be doing all we can to provide the maximum level of safety to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike in all parts of our city by expanding the pedestrian islands and bike lanes beyond 34th Street."