Fifth Avenue Will Get a New Buffered Bike Lane

The Department of
Transportation announced the installation of a buffered bike lane on Fifth Avenue in this month’s NYCycles, a monthly e-newsletter produced by DOT on cycling issues.

In this photo taken yesterday, it is not clear where DOT plans to fit the buffered zone. The apparently temporary lines that were painted on a newly paved 5th Avenue beginning at 23rd Street lie exactly where the old bike lane used to be, however all street markings disappeared after a few blocks and nothing but bare asphalt reaches all the way to Washington Square Park. We’ll keep an eye on the street:

In the late 1970s, when cycling was still mostly for the few and the
brave, the DOT installed a bike lane on 5th Avenue. This lane was
designed in accordance with the standards of the time, and the
four-feet of space it afforded cyclists was a big step forward for
cyclists. In fact, at the time New York was ahead of most cities in
providing dedicated street space for cyclists.

Today though, with cycling booming in New York City, cyclists deserve better.  The DOT Bicycle Program and Geometric Design Office have redesigned the bike lane on 5th Avenue between 23rd Street and Washington Square North with a five-foot wide lane and buffer. New York City is again on the leading edge in installing these buffers, which provide cyclists with additional room to maneuver and a little extra room to breathe between parked cars and moving traffic.


The construction is being completed now, as part of a planned street resurfacing project, saving taxpayers money, by incorporating this work into a pre-existing project.
The lane miles striped will be in addition to the planned expansion of the bicycle network.

  • momos

    I suppose this is good news. But why not take the opportunity to swap the parking lane and bike lane? Parked cars are a much better “buffer” than a painted stripe that SUVs freely drive over.

  • Dan

    Seriously Momos! Why not. It’s the same amount of road space and yet this solution pretty much refuses to make structural changes to the way we think about streets. I know we should all be glad for this, but can we take just a few more risks with this kind of intervention.

  • steve

    The failure to creates a 5th Ave. cycle track is further evidence that DoT may limit those to roadways with “excess capacity” (of which 5th Ave. is not one).

  • Dave

    It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the intersection at 23rd St. DoT already limits traffic travling south on Fifth Ave to one lane (giving Broadway 3 lanes…why?) leading to tie-ups there. If they push the left-most through lane on Fifth south of 23rd further to right (west) it will just make the situation worse.
    A major reconfiguration of the Bway/Fifth/23rd St intersection is sorely needed especially with this change. Anything in the works?

  • gecko

    The suspense is unbearable! When will the tipping point come when they stop hedging and start doing transportation right?

  • steve

    Dave good pt.! Since 5th is 1 lane at 23rd, then each lane over 1 south of 23rd is excess and cycle track-eligible!

  • nobody

    Those of who frequent MyBikeLane.com are eagerly awaiting cars parking in the new, buffered bikelane. 😉

  • steve

    Folks at mybikelane.com are psyched because many double-parking motorists will stick to the buffer where one is available, leaving the bike lane free–a better solution for everyone. I don’t think there are any posts on mybikelane of buffer-only parking. But expect the transgressions of the lane proper that do occur to be documented!

  • mork

    [N]othing but bare asphalt reaches all the way to Washington Square Park

    It’s a woonerf!

  • Dan

    This really is the kind of halfway measure that must be designed to drive streetsbloggers insane. It is this kind of watered down, offend no one/please no one, take no risks planning that’s gotten us to this point. The goal of bike lanes isn’t to make some symbolic gesture to bike riders, but to, you know, actually make better streets for people to use for biking.

    Since you’re taking the space away from motorists anyway why not actually physically appropriate the lane for bikes? I always assumed that DOT preferred non-physically separated bike lanes because it held out the possibility of the lane being restored to car use at some point.

  • steve

    A cycle track down 5th Ave. would be glorious, but I doubt it’s happening anytime soon. I would be very happy to get a buffered bike, which doesn’t cost much to install and can be removed to make way for a cycle track at any time. What bothers me is that there is still no continuous downtown path or lane for bicyclists north of 23rd street and east of Madison Square Park. As much as I love the 9th Ave cycle track concept, it is far less relevant to creating a connected bicycle network than addressing the gaping hole in that network in the northeastern part of Manhattan.

  • Actually, 5th Avenue is 3 lanes at 23rd Street. It’s just that 2 of the lanes are for traffic coming from Broadway and only 1 lane is for traffic coming from 5th Avenue.

  • momos

    RE: #7 “Those who frequent MyBikeLane.com are eagerly awaiting cars parking in the new, buffered bikelane.”

    DOT should just formalize the practice of cars parking in the buffered space. No need for a full-fledged bike track a la 9th Ave (though that would be great). Just swap the bike and parking lanes! As Dan (#2) points out, the swap would not change the distribution of road space. But it would make a bonafide bike lane.

  • gecko

    They built cycle tracks overnight during the transit strike using traffic cones. Cars make a better barrier. Know it that we are in the age of survival with climate change the emergency of the millenium that won’t be stopped with dithering.

    With cars out of the play pen human-powered transport will florish to trigger the transformation of this town into one of the great regenerative capitals of the world.

  • @alex

    The suggestion of moving the bike lane inboard of the parking lane is a good one – but there’s one detail that you’re overlooking. Unless there are dedicated left-turn lanes (replacing parking space) having parked cars between the bike lane and car traffic does not improve cyclist safety – it actually reduces it, due to decreased visibility of cyclists at the intersection (where far more accidents occur).

    While it’s true that a buffered bike lane and a cycle track take up the same amount of space, you have to sacrifice quite a bit of parking every other block to get the cycle track. I don’t think DOT is ready to do this yet. Let’s see how the one on 9th Avenue works before we start duplicating it everywhere. It’s quite possible that we’ll learn from the 9th Avenue implementation, and therefore be able to improve on the design before implementing it elsewhere. In the meantime, a buffered bike lane will be a big improvement.

  • Dan

    In my vision for moving the lane, I think it would not be difficult to stripe or pave a small pedestrian refuge area/buffer at each left turn(really ever other street). There are many places where you cannot park at intersections so this really doesn’t strike me as that much different. If you lose one space per two blocks you’re losing ten spaces per lane mile.

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