Back in December, the city installed parking-protected bike lanes on both sides of Dyckman Street in Inwood, connecting the east- and west-side greenways on a notoriously dangerous commercial stretch. Outrage over lost parking spaces soon followed, with local businesses and the community board eventually convincing some elected officials, including Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to call for the bike lanes to be taken out.
But instead of ignoring the usual bikelash, the Department of Transportation quietly announced in a tweet on the Friday before Labor Day weekend that they were taking steps to replace the eastbond protected lane with a shared "buffer zone" for cars. The decision to remove a protected bike lane appears to be without precedent in the Vision Zero era. (The infamous Bedford Avenue bike lane erasure of 2009 was pre-Vision Zero and did not involve a protected bike lane.)
Wait. Are you guys actually removing the protected bike lane on the South side of the street between Broadway and Nagle Avenue?!? You caved to the haters and you're trying to sell it as an "improvement"???
— macartney (@macartney) August 31, 2018
Now, the city may be reversing course once again. Asked about the decision during a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he wasn't informed of the DOT's plans to remove the protected lane, and would be hitting pause on the un-installation project for now.
"It’s a very big government and sometimes things happen that do not reflect my will," the mayor said. "It will be brought to my desk and I’ll render a judgement, then we’ll let you know. So, that decision’s on hold until I review it."
What that means for the Dyckman Street bike lane in the short term is not entirely clear. The streets are currently being milled and repaved, and according to mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein, the Department of Transportation will soon paint yellow lines on the street for cars. The area is also set to undergo a controversial rezoning (though Stein noted that the bike lane decision was reached last month, before the rezoning proposal was passed.)
In recent months, bike lane naysayers have offered a wide range of justifications for removing the lanes, citing safety concerns and the potential for slower emergency response times—familiar complaints that don't hold up under scrutiny. But the real motivation for getting rid of the bike lanes, safe streets advocates say, is to allow drivers to continue double-parking on Dyckman.
"You don't have to be a traffic engineer to realize that this design is intended for people to be able to double park in the bike lane," said Joe Cutrufo, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives. "It's the business community valuing patrons' ability to double park over the safe passage of people on bikes."
On Tuesday afternoon, Borough President Gale Brewer appeared to admit as much, telling Streetsblog, “Cars need to be able to stop and get their coffee. Columbus and Amsterdam have more space. You don’t have double-parking like you do on Dyckman. The culture is double parking! You’re not going to change that.”
Whether the mayor sides with proponents of bike lanes or double-parking remains to be seen. A spokesperson fo the Department of Transportation did not respond to multiple inquiries.