A plan to expand bus lanes, bike paths and sidewalks across the Big Apple has been stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic and the city’s budget crunch, The Post has learned.
The “streets master plan” hatched by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson now faces “COVID-19 delays,” according to budget documents released by the city last week.
Amid a $9 billion budget shortfall, the delays will save the city $1.3 million, the documents noted — but leave the Department of Transportation months behind on a study for the plan, which is supposed to be complete by Dec. 21, 2021.
Johnson’s car reduction scheme was created in October as a set of sweeping benchmarks for overhauling the city: 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes and 250 miles of protected bike lanes within five years, signal priority for public transit at nearly 5,000 intersections, and 1 million new square feet of space for pedestrians within two years.
A City Hall spokesman blamed the delays on “the impact of COVID-19 on contracted studies and outreach efforts including the inability to conduct traditional neighborhood outreach during the pandemic/stay at home orders.”
“The deadline for completion of the Master Plan remains December 2021,” the spokesman said.
But Johnson — who is angling to be the city’s next mayor, and thus the person who will actually implement the plan — said the city can’t afford not to forge ahead with the scheme now.
“The benchmarks laid out by the streets master plan were passed into law for a reason and they should not be delayed, especially now,” Johnson said in a statement.
“We can’t let a painful budget slow down our city’s reimagining of what public space and mass transit look like.”
The delay comes amid criticism of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s flat-footed response to calls for more space for walking, biking and buses, even as officials continue to ask New Yorkers to stay off the subways as much as possible.
Bus ridership outpaced subway ridership for more than two months after the pandemic struck, while the number of New Yorkers biking swelled. As the pandemic let up in June and July and the city began to reopen, people began flocking to sidewalks to eat and drink.
The city in turn let restaurants repurpose curbside space outside as outdoor dining, and put forward plans to add 20 miles of bus lanes — one-third of what the MTA requested — and nine miles of temporary protected bike lanes.
De Blasio also created 67 miles of supposedly car-free “open streets” for recreation, but they have been literally hit or miss.
Bike New York spokesman Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official, attributed the delays in Johnson’s plan to unavoidable consequences of the pandemic.
“They were way down on crews until recently,” Orcutt said. “DOT’s lost the better part of an implementation year, just on projects alone.”
“They were rolling out bike lane announcements in the spring, and now they’re way behind on that agenda.”
Drivers fatally hit four cyclists in June — the same number killed in the first five months of the year. Among the June victims was a cyclist killed on Fifth Avenue right by Central Park — which does not have a bike lane.
“Of course there are budget cuts that need to be made, but there are things this pandemic has revealed that we need to invest in, [in order] to have a dynamic and equitable recovery,” said Marco Conner DiAquoi, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.
“I think the elements of the streets plan are exactly that.”
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