‘Safer for everybody’: Manhattan BP proposal would build a new bike lane on the West Side Highway

The West Side Highway would get a bike-friendly makeover under a new proposal by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

The proposal calls on transportation officials to close one lane of the highly trafficked road to car traffic and replace it with a two-way protected bike lane along the western shore of Manhattan.

A mock-up image of the proposed bike lane shows a green-painted lane running parallel to the highway, but separated by a curb and planters. Graphics of the design indicate it could go on either the west or east sides of New York State Route 9A, also known as the West Side Highway.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Levine said the Hudson River Greenway that runs just west of the highway had become too congested, and that the West Side Highway would provide a more pleasant – and safer – experience for cyclists and pedestrians alike. The bike lane would also give e-bikes, which are currently banned on the Greenway, a safe and legal route along Manhattan’s west side, Levine said.

“During the morning commute, the evening commute on evenings and weekends when the weather is nice, it is simply too crowded on the green way,” Levine said on Tuesday while being flanked by local elected officials and advocates. “This solution would make this route safer for everybody.”

In a letter to the city and state transportation officials last week, Levine requested that the agencies begin studying the feasibility of the bike infrastructure in a two-phase approach. According to his proposal, the first phase would implement a four-mile stretch of the bike lane between Chambers Street and 57th Street immediately, with plans for the section north of 57th Street to follow.

A frequent user of the current Greenway bike lane, Councilman Christopher Marte, painted a picture of the chaos he and his constituents see during their commutes along the path.

“One of the complaints that we get from parents is when they’re bringing their kids to P.S. 89, they have to deal with a number of cyclists, a number of e-bikes a number of joggers, it’s like a maze for them to make sure that their kids can go to school,” Marte said. “This is just an accident waiting to happen. And so this is an easy idea that can be implemented.”

A spokesperson for the city’s transportation department said the agency was looking into the proposal. The New York State Department of Transportation, which controls New York State 9A and would be in charge of the implementation of the bike lane, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Levine said he was inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane, which opened last September and was an immediate hit with cyclists.

“It’s been a fabulous success. It has made the Brooklyn Bridge safer and it’s a great example for what’s possible on the west side,” Levine said. “We should actually, by the way, figure out how to connect what we’re gonna create here on the westside with that great new dedicated bike lane on the Brooklyn bridge.”

This story has been updated to include additional comment from a member of the City Council.

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