Ithaca Town Hall

No decisions have yet been made on whether Tioga Street will get bicycle lanes in its 200 and 300 blocks, outside the Tompkins County courthouse and Ithaca’s post office. 

After over an hour of public comment and discussion at Monday’s City of Ithaca Board of Public Works meeting, the consensus seems to be leaning toward simply extending the “sharrows”—shared lane arrows—from Court Street south to the Commons. 

Four people spoke in favor of adding bike lanes to the two-block stretch, including Dave Nutter and David West of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Council and Vikki Armstrong of Streets Alive! They stressed the importance of connecting the Bike Boulevard system with downtown to encourage more bicycle riders. 

“These lanes are framed as cars versus bicyclists, as if bicyclers were a more nefarious version of Mad Max, as if we want to rule the roads,” said Pat Dutt in her comments supporting the lanes. “Bicycling is a legitimate form of transportation and we need safe routes through cities.” 

Seven people expressed their reservations about removing parking on the east side of Tioga Street, where there are 13 paid spots between Buffalo and Court streets and five unpaid, 10-minute spots in front of the post office and the Ithaca town hall. Whether the post office could suffer from removing that parking was speculated upon. 

Gary Ferguson and Kris Lewis of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance expressed business concerns, and Tim Gammons, who works at the Hilton Garden, said he was unsure of the wisdom of taking away spots “when there are a lack of spaces even in the parking garage as we speak.” John Graves of the South Hill Civic Association read a letter that said his organization “supports the lanes in concept, but not when they’re eliminating the parking for public institutions.” 

Commissioner Jonathan Greene said he was “torn” between the options, while adding that the Seneca Street parking garage “is a viable option on that block.” 

“To make the argument the post office lives and breathes and dies without any parking in front of it is ludicrous to me,” Greene added.  

Commissioner Bill Goldsmith, despite making a planning career of fighting against a culture that subsidizes automobiles, came out in favor of extending the sharrows, for now. He agreed with Mayor Svante Myrick’s assertion that traffic in these blocks “is pretty contained and pretty slow.” 

Parking director Frank Nagy told the room that adding bike lanes would turn those two blocks of Tioga Street into "100 percent parked blocks," after his department was charged with freeing up street parking for easy and quick access to downtown businesses, an effort, Nagy said, which has worked through raising prices on the street and lowering them in the garages. •

 

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