The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) presented its plan last week to improve bus speeds along University Avenue and to install protected bike lanes, however members of the Community Board 5 Municipal Services Committee had mixed feelings about the proposal.
University Avenue is a notoriously dangerous thoroughfare for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. From 2014 to 2018, 197 people have been injured, including four severely and two killed, on a 0.6-mile stretch of University Avenue, from East Tremont Avenue to East 181st Street. This section of University Avenue also ranks in the top 33% of all Bronx roadways for fatalities or severe injuries.
In 2020, of the 22 cyclists killed citywide, eight were in the Bronx.
“Improving safety is our number one goal and it’s something we would like to address on the University Avenue corridor,” said Paula Rubira, a DOT senior project manager.
Currently, University Avenue north of Tremont Avenue has four travel lanes and two parking lanes, but under the DOT’s proposed plan there would be a two-way bike path on the eastern curb, dedicated bus lanes in each direction and a concrete boarding island at northbound bus stops. Additionally, there will be a two-way bike path on the eastern curb and one bus lane and one travel lane in each direction from University Avenue, from 179th Street/Burnside Avenue to 181st Street. DOT is also exploring a two-way bike path on the eastern curb and bike path transitions off University Avenue and onto the Aqueduct Walk, from Tremont Avenue to 181st Street.
“We are trying to keep cyclists off the sidewalk,” said DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Keith Kalb.
University Avenue provides connections between protected bike lanes on University Avenue (south of Tremont Avenue) and the Aqueduct Walk, to major destinations including the Washington Avenue Bridge and Bronx Community College, and future connections to the Fordham Area Bike Network.
However, as many cars often drive and park in protected bike lanes, not all of CB 5 members are in favor of adding more bike lanes. Board member Nero Graham Jr., said he is for protected bike lanes, although they often go unused.
“They don’t use the protected bike lanes,” he said. “They ride on our sidewalk. I think what we need to do is educate people who are riding the bikes.”
While protected bike lanes are designed to keep cyclists safer, board member Cheryl Westbrook is worried that people riding scooters may use the lanes and cause accidents with cyclists. She has seen this firsthand, Westbrook said.
If people on scooters and cars don’t obey the traffic laws, then the protected bike lanes are meaningless, she said.
Not everyone on the board was against more bike lanes, however. Lucia Deng, a board member, said over the long haul adding protected bike lanes will only help cyclists riding in the Aqueduct Walk.
Kalb told the board the DOT is trying to complete the improvements before winter.
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