The controversy surrounding the bicycle lane installation on Broadway near Van Cortlandt Park is still fresh in many people’s minds. But just in case it wasn’t, city transportation officials are pitching traffic calming plans for another community street — this time Mosholu Avenue between West 254th and West 256th streets.
Like Broadway, the plan includes bike lanes — delighting folks who enjoy getting around town on two wheels, but disquieting those who prefer four.
But speeding is indeed a problem on Mosholu, DOT bike and greenway project manager Amber Knee told members of Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee last week. Studies conducted in April found that 80 percent of drivers on Mosholu traveled over the 25 mph posted limit.
Mosholu’s intersections are also rather wide, Knee said, and lack clearly marked crosswalks which puts pedestrians at risk when traversing intersections.
So transportation officials want to add a painted curb extension where Mosholu meets Liebig Avenue to shorten the crossing while adding a high-visibility crosswalk at West 256th.
They also developed a plan to “visually narrow” Mosholu from West 254th and West 256th by adding a painted bike lane — called a “sharrow” — on either side, Knee said. Existing parking would remain untouched. Motorists tend to speed along wide streets and slow down on narrow ones, she added.
Sharrows alert drivers there could be cyclists traveling on the street and to remain alert.
“It also helps direct cyclists so they will all be using the same street,” Knee said. “And it will pull cyclists away from opening car doors, so as long as they bike in the middle of the lane symbols, they’ll be out of the range of being hit.”
Cyclists don’t really frequent Mosholu now, Knee said. But by creating a bike lane, it could attract more to Mosholu, and off surrounding streets.
“More cyclists will be using this street versus another street,” Knee said. “It helps make drivers more aware.”
And awareness typically causes drivers to slow down.
David Gellman, a committee member who also is an avid road biker, said sharrows have added needed safety to busy streets like Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.
“About a year or so ago, I was biking on it and there was a painted bike lane in a shared lane,” he said. “It made a dramatic difference.”
Others attending the meeting were slower warming to the proposal, however. Laura Spalter — who has been a vocal opponent of the Broadway restriping — said she’s heard Mosholu merchants express trepidation over the potential of a bike lane.
“There are not enough parking spots,” Spalter said. “So people do double-park to get their pizza, to get their dry cleaning, to drop their kids off at schools.”
Merchants on West 242nd Street are “howling and suffering because business has gone down because of lack of access to their customers” since bike lanes were installed on Broadway last year.
Merchants attending the meeting asked why the transportation department didn’t just put a bike lane on one side of the road to allow customers to continue double parking like they’ve done for years.
“We’re not going to design something to facilitate an illegal activity,” borough DOT commissioner Nivardo Lopez said. “If it’s a question of curb access, that is something we can study. But we can’t design around an illegal activity, even though it’s one that’s been commonly done for many years.”
Knee told transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht that DOT has reached out to some businesses along the route already, and that “they seemed happy about it.”
“They did talk about speeding, especially around the bend near Liebig,” Knee said. “But we can go back and speak to more people for sure.”
Many in the committee meeting’s audience were opposed to sharing the road. Some asked why they were getting bike lanes when requests for a left turn lane at West 256th had gone unheeded for years.
“Whenever possible, we do add the bike lanes because it’s safer, and we add a protected lane whenever possible,” Knee said. “But sometimes there’s not the road width, and we want to direct cyclists to a safer space.”
Cyclists are already using the Broadway bike lanes, so it makes sense to connect them with side streets that have adequate width to safely accommodate them and other vehicles, Knee said.
Christopher Rizzo, who represents the North Riverdale Merchants and Business Association, read a statement from his organization supporting the bike lanes and more pedestrian safety projects like this. The merchant association would like to see a second phase next year include additional key pedestrian safety improvements, like at least new pedestrian crosswalks.
“We talked about long distances between pedestrian intersections and crosswalks, Rizzo said. “That is a problem.”
The committee ultimately approved a resolution supporting sharrows between West 254th to West 256th, shortened crosswalks on Liebig, a formal outreach to affected merchants, and an investigation into more crosswalks on Mosholu between Broadway and West 254th.