The DOT is preparing to extend the protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenue up through East Harlem, adding the lanes and pedestrian refuge islands between 96th Street to 125th Street. Naturally, this is an important opportunity for the tabloids to publish scaremongery stories about bike lanes tearing communities’ apart, and so the News has a report today on all the Harlem merchants who “fear soaring asthma rates and losing customers.” Alternative headline: Three Misinformed Merchants Worry More About Deliveries Than Safety.
Community Board 11 voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bike lanes in September, but then the owners of Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger led an anti-lane campaign in the local business community, claiming that the DOT had never informed them about the project. (DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said her office contacted every business along First and Second Avenues, as did the board’s district manager and transportation committee chair, Streetsblog reports.) They persuaded dozens of business to come out in opposition, and the board rescinded its vote in November.
The DOT can proceed with the project (details below) without the board’s approval, but there will be another vote early next year. On Tuesday night, a meeting to discuss the lane drew 850 signatures in support of the bike lanes, and while the majority of those present appeared to support of the project, Milk Burger owner Eric Mayor continued to fight the good fight. He claims that the bike lane will increase traffic congestion, thus adding to the neighborhood’s already high asthma rates.
The DOT, however, claims that the protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands further south on First and Second Avenues have not increased congestion. And Joanne Eichel of the New York Academy of Medicine, told the board, “There is no evidence to suggest that bike lanes increase asthma rates. On the contrary, we know that riding a bike has extraordinary health benefits.” CB chair Matthew Washington believes the board will ultimately vote to endorse the project.
Even Mayor sees the inevitability of bike lanes, telling the News, “At this point, we can’t stop [the DOT]; we just want to make sure the community is informed.” The tabloid quotes two other merchants who are fighting the project: the owner of Patsy’s and Akbar Ali, owner of Second Ave. restaurant Indo-Pak Halal. “Businesses are already closing because of the bus lanes and now the want to add bike lanes? How much more traffic and congestion can there be?” Ali asks the News. “Why do they even want to add bike lanes here? There are no bikes.” Nope, not a single one. And if the city makes biking safer, there will probably be even fewer cyclists, right?