Monday, November 24, 2008

Biking Up the Wrong Tree

As if we didn't need more proof that the Bloombergistas were hostile to neighborhood business, we now find that the folks over at the DOT want to "redesign" 8th Avenue in Chelsea with bike lanes: "Chelsea residents and cyclists from all over the city reconvened this week to discuss the proposal to install a buffered bike lane on Eighth Ave. after the issue created a stir in the community this summer...Ultimately, though, the committee members {CB #3} voted 8 to 2 in favor of the lane, asking the Department of Transportation to address any concerns raised by the community."

Not that the good burghers of Chelsea were unaware that this might cause trouble to local merchants: "Chairperson Jay Marcus said his committee wants the DOT to reach out to businesses along Eighth Ave. to discuss the possibility of mid-block loading zones, side-street parking and other options to mitigate problems the lane could pose to deliveries."

Nothing like signaling one's approval before ascertaining the potential impact on the community stores; and we loved the hauteur here: "Fellow committee member Eric Muise called the new lane part of a “fantastic program,” noting that “75 percent of us do not own cars.” What abou the tax base and the access for emergency vehicles? As the DOT's borough commissioner pointed out: "Margaret Forgione, DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner, said that DOT has been in constant contact with the Fire and Police departments, and that they have not expressed concerns about the proposed new lane on their operations."

The transportation advocates are, as always, living in a world where cost as well as benefits are not considered; particularly when those costs upset their simplistic-and ideological driven-world view. As one business related: "Rick Schmetzler, co-owner of the Gym Sportsbar on Eighth Ave., said that although he is “an avid bike rider, I don’t think this has been very well thought through.” He claimed that the DOT has done “absolutely no outreach to business owners.”

Our friend Dirk McCall was right on point at the CB meeting: "Dirk McCall, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of several business owners who he said either couldn’t come or couldn’t stay long enough to speak at the meeting. He and other members of Board 4 surveyed every store along Eighth Ave., and McCall said that overall owners are “extremely opposed” to the lane...McCall refuted claims in the community that storeowners are OK with the proposal, saying that he has received several “furious calls” from owners on the matter."

It would seem to us that, at the very least, a full EIS needs to be done so that environmental as well as social impacts can be properly gauged. Will the bike lane impede business and create even more hazardous motorist and pedestrian traffic? We should have some idea before embarking on an experiment that would, in our view, create even more traffic congestion in Manhattan.