• Better Biking for the Upper East Side

last modified October 5, 2006 by Glenn

A speech delivered to CB 8 Transportation Committee. Committee agreed to study the various proposals in detail with the DOT, City Planning, Transalt and other stakeholder (I'm assuming I'm considered a stakeholder now?)

Community Board 8 Speech on the NYC Bicycling Master Plan

February 13th, 2006


I. Introduction

Thank you Mr. Schneider and Warren for putting this on your agenda. You have renewed my faith in local democracy.


I have a simple desire. I would like to bike safely for my daily commute to work. I want to bike because it would be the fastest, least expensive, most reliable and healthiest way to get to work.


II. Personal Reasons for Wanting to Bike


1. Speed: I live on 85th Street near Second Avenue. I work at 42nd Street and Second Avenue. This 2-mile stretch should be an easy ten-minute ride on bike, compared to 25 minutes door to door on the 4/5 train or 35 minutes on the M15.


2. Health: If I biked to work, I would burn about 100 calories each way.


3. Cost: I already have a bike so it would only cost a little extra to maintain the bike in good condition instead of $2 each way with the MTA or $10 plus tip for a cab ride. Over the course of a year, I have calculated that I could save over $1000 on transit related expenses from reduced need for trains, buses and taxis. Biking around town could also eliminate my need for a gym membership that costs about $75 a month – a yearly savings of $900.


4. Independence / Reliability: If I biked to work, I could start my trip to and from work whenever I am ready, instead of waiting for the next train, bus or taxi. The transit strike was another recent reminder that New York's great mass transportation system is complex and can fail for many different reasons - terrorism, power outage, labor problems, etc. There are also daily subway outages and major changes every week for emergency repairs or water main breaks or planned capital improvements. And even on a good day, there is severe overcrowding on most Eastside options.


However right now biking in this neighborhood is simply unsafe during the morning commute. With five lanes of active traffic and no protected bike lane, I have no doubt that I would be risking life and limb attempting to ride those two miles of treacherous terrain.


III. Community Benefits

I’m not just here because of my own narrow self-interest. There are benefits to the community of enabling more people to bike. Mass transit and automobile traffic on the East Side is beyond capacity. The Lexington Avenue Line is completely overcrowded. The M15 Limited has to swerve around illegally parked cars and trucks. Cars back up for blocks honking their horns (illegally) out of frustration. Here is how the community would benefit from more biking.


Transportation Flexibility: In the event of a major disruption, like 9/11, the blackout, transit strike or a water main break, there is no reason that Upper East Siders should not be able to move around town. Bike owners have the greatest independence from these system failures and a neighborhood that bikes will have less economic disruption.


Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels: Oil prices are steadily rising, and show no sign of going down. Scientists and economists have predicted that oil will not be a stable resource in the near future. By providing bike lanes, the city will put into place a system that will allow New Yorkers to both save money and conserve this diminishing resource


Less Pollution: Unlike all motorized forms of transportation, biking does not pollute the local or global environment with toxic gases that cause health problems like asthma or lung cancer.


Less Car-Traffic Congestion and Noise: Second Avenue is backed up most days from about 70th Street to the Queensboro Bridge to then all the way to the midtown tunnel. The five lanes of car traffic hit a bottleneck at the Queensboro Bridge. It’s a cruel hoax played on car drivers that the easy ride from Harlem down past 79th Street will continue the length of Manhattan. A bike lane could tame this mini-highway through one of the densest urban environments and perhaps discourage drivers from using Second Avenue instead of the FDR


Use of Public Space: A bike takes up much less street space to park than an automobile. In fact you could fit at least 12 bikes in the same space as one medium sized sedan.


Less Crowded Mass Transit: If only a small percentage of physically fit Upper East Siders started biking to work instead of relying on mass transit, that would free up room for those who truly need mass transit like the elderly, disabled or those traveling long distances.


Healthy Population: We have an obesity problem in this country in all age groups. This is causing epidemic rates of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. I watch in amazement at school children taking a bus 10 blocks to school or young people in their 20s and 30s in this neighborhood who have a 2-3 mile commute to midtown and yet they feel they need to join a gym to ride on a stationary bike or run on a treadmill to get exercise.


IV. Enabling Biking on the Upper East Side.


So what can we do to enable and encourage more biking in the community?

Two words: Safety & Convenience


1.      Buffered Bike Lanes: We need at least one North/South buffered bike lane in the district. Specifically the NYC bike master plan recommends First and Second Avenues for this purpose. A buffered bike lane would no doubt require reclaiming a lane of traffic from automobiles. But I believe that this could kill two birds with one stone - Create a safe place for bikers on the road and calm car the volume of traffic on these mini-highways that run through the heart of this neighborhood.


2. Route from Queensboro Bridge to Central Park: It is very difficult right now to get from the Queensboro bridge to Central park despite being so close because riders are forced over to First Avenue and then left to dodge traffic heading west in the low 60s. Making that connection easier and safer should be a priority.


3. Routes from Central Park to East River Greenway: Connecting these two biking areas with east-west bike lanes would be great since that’s the two places I do most of my biking on the weekends.


4. Bike Parking: I live in a walk-up and it is a major inconvenience to haul my bike up and down two flights of stairs every time I want to use it. And my employer does not offer any indoor bike parking.


Specifically I ask you to study the feasibility of installing more high quality sheltered bike racks in key locations:

  • all current and future subway stations
  • park entrances
  • schools
  • shopping areas
  • hospitals and other major local employers


City Councilmember David Yassky has introduced legislation that would require commercial building owners to allow tenants to bring their bikes inside. This would go a long way towards encouraging cycling, as the number one impediment to bicycle commuting cited by potential bike commuters is the lack of safe and secure bike storage.


A more market driven solution would be to create a bike parking market in the Upper East Side. Almost all parking garages in the area refuse to store bikes. Here’s the math: 12 bikes times $35/mo = $420/month. That’s roughly the same as a car space generates for a parking garage.


5. Bike Lane Encroachment Enforcement: On First Avenue north of 72nd Street – CB 8’s only on-street bike lane – there are too many double-parked trucks, cars, cab drop-offs, etc. To keep bike riders safe, enforcement of this lane and future lanes should be vigorous.


 V. Conclusion


We have a serious transportation situation on the Upper East Side. Our roads and mass transit systems are beyond capacity and prone to disruption by many sources. Automobiles can simply not fill that void, even during a minor disruption.


We are blessed with a dense and relatively flat city perfect for all types of person-powered transportation and we should make these safe and accessible to as many people as possible. 


Specifically, I call on Community Board 8 to follow the lead of other areas of Manhattan in implementing the Bicycle Master Plan.


Thank you for your time and consideration on this important subject.


Glenn McAnanama

313 East 85th Street Apt 3A

New York, NY 10028

(c) 646-932-6344