As a resident of West 13th Street for more than 37 years, I’ve seen a great many changes in our neighborhood. Factory buildings have been gutted and converted to condos, co-ops and college dormitories; mom and pop stores disappeared as chain stores bought up leases; and I’m still smarting at the loss of a hospital that served this community well for many years. Over time, though, I’ve learned to accept change.
Now, I have a different feeling about the “Bike Share Program” that may become a major risk to all of our constituents. I attended a Forum on May 2 sponsored and moderated by Community Board #2 and I quickly realized that I’m not the only person who feels that the developers of this program gave little or no consideration for the needs of area residents, particularly senior citizens and others who are physically challenged.
In asking the following questions, you will immediately understand my chagrin.How will ambulances and access-a-ride vehicles get to curbside when docking stations for bicycles are blocking access to a building? How will garbage trucks make collections without clogging streets? What kind of access will be available to certain City agencies when docking stations are blocking fire hydrants, manhole covers or gratings for emergency exits from our subway system? Who will maintain the bikes and the stations if or when they’re vandalized? How will the 18-wheeled trucks deliver their products to the shops in our area without impeding traffic for long periods of time? Where does the liability fall if a person is injured while within the DOT’s white parallel line adjacent to the docking stations?
At the Forum, several proponents of the program pointed out that a similar bike share plan is successful in England, France and many other European countries. Why not in New York City? A resident speaker gave us the answer. She agreed that the bike plan works well in London; however, their bike riders do not peddle on sidewalks,must obey all traffic rules and their docking stations are all located in neighborhood park areas. This speaker received a deafening round of applause from the audience.
In my humble opinion, Citibank could have put its investment of $35 million to better use, perhaps for partial funding of a new St. Vincent’s Hospital on the west side of lower Manhattan. Then, West Village and other area residents could receive timely care if they’re injured by a negligent bike rider. I concur with the many comments made at the May 2 meeting that this program was poorly planned and executed by the Department of Transportation. It’s “an accident waiting to happen.” I hope it is stopped by court order, if necessary. I love the Village as it is, and making it imitate London, Paris or any other city won’t make me like it any better.
—David H. Olin