Call for greater bike safety on CPW

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In wake of cyclist’s death, bike advocates push for protected lane on Central Park West


  • Cyclists traveled along Central Park West Aug. 17 for a memorial ride in honor of Madison Jane Lyden, a 23-year-old Australian tourist who was struck and killed by a truck as she biked on the avenue one week earlier. Photo: Michael Garofalo

  • A cyclist, right, navigates around a taxi stopped in the bike lane on Central Park West at 67th Street, near a memorial to Madison Jane Lyden, a cyclist who was struck and killed nearby by a sanitation truck Aug. 10 after swerving around a livery vehicle stopped in the bike lane. Photo: Michael Garofalo

Bicycle safety advocates are calling for Central Park West to be redesigned to include a two-way protected bike lane following a recent collision that left a young cyclist dead.

Madison Jane Lyden, a 23-year-old tourist visiting New York City from Australia, was cycling north on Central Park West near West 67th Street Aug. 10 when a livery vehicle pulled into the painted bike lane, police said. With the bike lane blocked, Lyden was forced to swerve into the adjacent traffic lane, where she was struck and killed by a private sanitation truck. The truck’s driver, Felipe D. Chairez, was later arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

A protected bike lane, in which cyclists are separated from vehicle traffic by a row of parked cars, almost certainly would have prevented Lyden’s death, supporters say.

“There’s no question that this was a preventable death,” said Helen Rosenthal, who represents much of the Upper West Side on the City Council. “Had there been a protected bike lane here, Madison Lyden would not have had to interact with traffic at all and this tragedy would have been avoided.”

Rosenthal formally requested that the city’s Department of Transportation install a two-way protected lane on Central Park West soon after the collision, and said that the agency had already informed her office that its street engineers would analyze the corridor for improvements. A DOT spokesperson confirmed that the agency is studying the area.

“It’s disheartening that it would take a crisis to bring a protected bike lane to fruition, but I’m confident this will be a good solution,” Rosenthal said. She suggested a two-way lane on Central Park West would also lessen bike traffic on Broadway, which does not have a bike lane and is the Upper West Side’s most dangerous street for cyclists.

Cyclists and members of the bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives gathered on Aug. 17 near the site of the Aug. 10 accident for a memorial ride in Lyden’s honor. “Madison,” read a handwritten sign posted to a tree along the curb, “We are sorry that New York City failed you.”

Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives’ executive director, criticized police for consistently failing to ticket vehicles that block bike lanes. “Our mayor and NYPD are failing to keep cars and trucks out of our bike lanes,” he said. “This is a rampant safety hazard that we see all over the city. It’s illegal to idle or drop-off in bike lanes, and yet we see it every day.”

“NYPD is more concerned about harassing delivery cyclists than it is with enforcing against this deadly behavior,” White said. A cab stopped nearby as White made his remarks, partially blocking the bike path and forcing a passing cyclist into the traffic lane.

The NYPD’s 20th Precinct, which patrols the Upper West Side between 59th and 86th Streets, had issued four bike lane violations in 2018 through July. The 24th Precinct, which covers the northern half of the neighborhood from 86th Street to 110th Street, issued just one bike lane violation over the same seven-month period.

“Our first focus is on the protected lanes, because even in the absence of good enforcement those protected lanes by design can help keep motorists out,” White said, adding, “The evidence is so clear that protected lanes are so much safer, and that applies to pedestrians and motorists as well as cyclists.”

Redesigning Central Park West to include a two-way protected bike lane would likely require the elimination of a travel lane or parking along the east side of the street. “Some people will cry foul, but that’s the public policy conversation we need to have,” White said. “Our contention is that people’s safety is more important than vehicle storage.”

“The leading edge on these projects is always political, despite our best efforts to make it otherwise, so the fact that Council Member Rosenthal has already stood up in support of a protected lane and the DOT has signaled its intention to look at this is encouraging,” he added.

A two-way bike lane on Central Park West would provide another southbound route for cyclists along the heavily trafficked thoroughfare. Currently, cyclists heading south must travel a block west to use the protected lane on Columbus Avenue. Getting to Columbus from the neighborhood’s other avenues, however, is an issue unto itself given the dearth of crosstown bike routes on the Upper West Side, where there are only three pairs of unprotected east-west lanes.

Upper West Sider Jay Kauffman said he regularly bikes in and around Central Park but usually steers clear of Central Park West. “I try to avoid it when I can, because it’s dangerous,” Kauffman said.

The area around the park presents “all these quirks” making it difficult to navigate even for experienced cyclists, Kauffman said. “If you’re not familiar with it, forget it.”

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