Eyes on the Street: A Walk Down Broadway Boulevard

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After Summer Streets wrapped up last Saturday, I headed over to Times Square to check out the progress on DOT’s "Broadway Boulevard" project. The new street geometry and surfacing are mostly in place, while plantings and furniture have yet to arrive. The bike lane was also fully functional, making this pedicab ride across 41st Street a lot more pleasant than it would have been a few months ago.

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Same intersection, different angle. The plaza surfaces are at grade and have a pebbled texture. Crossing distances for pedestrians have been halved…

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…which is especially helpful if you’re pushing a stroller. More pics after the jump.

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The left turn bay at 36th Street.

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Here’s the left-turn signalization, a la Ninth Avenue, in action.

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Can monster promo trucks be banned from parking next to the pedestrian plazas?

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A drainage problem at the corner of 37th Street. 

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When the boulevard treatment ends, Herald Square Park is just a few steps away. 

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Bursting off the sidewalk at 34th Street and 6th Avenue. 

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Next item on the agenda: Bigger pedestrian refuges for Herald Square. 

  • Brooklyn

    The pebble-texture surface is stable and good to ride over when you need to — to avoid the puddle in the picture above, for example, or to avoid pedestrians spilling into the bike lane.

  • J

    The planters arrived this morning. The main problem with the bike lane on this stretch is that the connection to the lane from the north is horrible. This lane would get a ton of use if there was a protected lane from Central Park down 7th Ave to Broadway. The bike lane south of 34th all the way to Union Square is really nice and newly paved. Light traffic and relatively few double parked trucks make a protected lane less necessary south of 34th. As it currently stands, the pavement north of 42nd Street on both Broadway and 7th Ave is in horrible condition, particularly in the bike lane on Broadway. Vehicles are constantly double parked and both streets have heavy taxi and bus volumes. Finally, both Broadway and Seventh Ave run right through Times Square. If this connection was fixed, there would instantly be a phenomenal connection between Harlem and Union Square.

    That said, the lane still receives a decent amount of use and is a VAST improvement over the former bike lane, which was pretty much an afterthought. Once pedestrians get used to the bicycle lane and vehicles adjust to the new signal, it will function quite nicely.

  • momos

    Does anyone know if the pebble treatment is an interim step until DOT fully builds out the sidewalk extensions and raised curbs? This redesign is so exciting but it can’t be considered finished until the full build-out gives it permanance a repaving can’t wipe out.

  • So in between two very large pedestrian-only, car free areas (1. the sidewalk and 2. the pebbled plazas), where peds feel rightly entitled to meander about with their guard (and eyes and ears!) lowered, you lay out a bike lane?!

    Sorry, everyone, for failing to keep my pessimism to myself on that one aspect of this obviously very good intentioned and otherwise very good project.

    See, it’s good of J to expect that pedestrians will eventually get used to bikes rolling along the green, and I hope he’s right.

    But I’m not only worried about peds’ learning curve; I’m worried about the cyclists I’ve already seen tearing down the lane and yelling, sometimes civilly, and sometimes viciously at every single pedestrian setting foot on the lane.

    However pedestrians end up treating the bike lane over time, I still hope that next time they don’t put a bike lane in between two huge car-free, ped-only areas.

  • Great idea, poorly designed.

  • L.

    I’d like to see more signage for the bike lanes. Anyone who works in the area knows the tourists, in general, and a fair number of New Yorkers, are bad at adjusting to the flows of traffic (e.g., crossing against the light without first checking for cars, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk). I think if more bicyclists used the bike lane–so there were a steady stream of bike traffic comparable to that in European cities–pedestrians would be more likely to recognize it as another traffic element to watch out for.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Got to agree on the bike lanes, hopefully the increased usage makes people more aware. But I’m not counting on it.

  • I love this project and can’t wait until its complete. I think others are right that there will be bike-ped conflicts du to the sandwiching of the lane but that doesn’t bother me because I would use this lane with my kids at low speeds and just move out into traffic when I’m on my own–problem solved.

    As for increasing use of this lane, there should be signage and traffic devices installed on the CP Loop to inform and guide bicyclists destined for points south how to proceed. At present, the southern portion of the CP Loop is conceived as a standalone recreational facility with absolutely no attempt to channel the substantial bicycle commuter traffic onto Broadway (the only designated southbound route in all of midtown) or any of the other southbound routes commonly used by bicyclists in midtown (7th, 5th, and Park Aves.). This gaping hole in the bicycling network should be addressed next.

  • Brad

    I have to agree with you BicyclesOnly, I love riding to the park and in the park, taking 6th ave up from the 20’s isn’t too bad. Coming down Broadway seems like the absolute worse route possible. I love to ride in the Park with my g/f but she doesn’t ride as much as I do so taking her down Broadway, I don’t feel comfortable at all doing. I tried taking her down 2nd ave which was a little bit better but still dangerous (I saw a cab just miss on us twice).

  • i lost traction and skid a bit over some of the loose gravel/pebbles in the bike lane at herald square. but i wasn’t wearing a helmet, so it was probably my fault.

  • AnthoNYC

    I love the new BLVD bike lane but it’s also very popular with Pedicabs which is fine as long as I can overtake them but I’m concerned they’re going to put so many planters along there that I’ll be stuck behind tourists every evening on my home commute.

  • g

    sorry for a pessimistic comment: as of late i have the unfortunate displeasure of working in midtown and was really excited about this project when i first heard about it — but most of the time it’s a nightmare: the pedestrians wait to cross the street at the mouth of each block’s bike lane, and hordes of pedestrians use the bike lanes as a sidewalk, or the run out into it mid-block without looking to cross the street. the don’t move when you try to get by and i even get mocked sometimes when i ring my bell: “woah! you must be a in big hurry fellah! gotta get by us really quickly!” it’s gotten to the point where i take 7th avenue which has no bike lane and horrible paving – because the commute from 42nd to 34th had me frustratedly screaming “Coming through!” “On your right!” “This is a bike lane not a sidewalk!” the entire time. not sure what would improve it? more cyclists? definitely some signage – BIKE LANE FOR BIKES ONLY.

  • Moser

    I think the rules are that pedi-cabs aren’t supposed to be clogging up bike lanes generally.

  • I do still bike down Broadway every day; I just use the car lanes just like I always did. I might have used this new green bike lane if it was between the car space and the gravel plazas, rather than between two ped-only areas…

  • Get an Airzound bike horn. You won’t be mocked then – the horn is so loud that you’ll be able to ride underneath the peds. Of course you’ll be hated, but as a cyclist you should be used to that…

  • AnthoNYC

    Thanks for the Airzound suggestion, Andy Trafford. It’s just the kind of thing I’ve been wanting to get. Just orderd it now! 🙂

  • Please. This Airzound is exactly the kind of thing that is an equalizer when used against cars, but a bully tactic against pedestrians. Don’t be a bully.

  • According to various web sources, the Airzound horn emits 115 decibels. That is enough to cause instant and permanent hearing damage to anyone in the vicinity, including the user. Anyone who uses this product in any kind of vehicle or public setting is a sociopath, and is guilty of assault, and should be treated as such by the police and the courts.

  • I strongly, strongly urge anyone reading NOT to use an Airzound on city streets, ever.

    *Open your mouth and use your beautiful voice.* Say “heads up” or whatever you like.

    The last thing we need is to antagonize pedestrians, and scaring the @#$% out of them with that stupid thing is going to make enemies for all of us.

    Don’t use it. AnthoNYC, I suggest you cancel your order.

    Use that thing and you’ll be worse, in one specific regard, than motorists who honk their regular car horns.

    NO AIRZOUND!!

  • AnthoNYC

    I wouldn’t consider myself a sociopath. This air horn is supposed to have a volume control on it which I would use – I’m not planning to be as obnoxious as all the cop cars, EMT vehicles and fire trucks.

    In fact I am sick of sticking my fingers in my ears walking down the street when those sirens go by while all the fat, lazy, selfish car drivers block the traffic sitting in their sound-insulated bubbles of ignorance.

    Ok… maybe I am a sociopath after all! 😉

  • I can’t help saying more on this:

    Do not blame pedestrians for wandering into this particular bike lane, since the lane is laid down right in the middle of a huge ped-only expanse of space. Blame the design.

    For god’s sake, don’t terrorize pedestrians. What gives you the right, anyway? And why would you want to be such a rude, mean, aggressive person?

    NO AIRZOUND!!

  • I was wrong to suggest using an Airzound to warn pedestrians. My post was a bit of a joke, and in hindsight, not a very funny one.

    I have an Airzound, but it’s currently sitting on a shelf unused. I used to have it on my commuter bike and at first I loved it, as I felt for the first time like I could answer back. As time went on I found myself almost hoping for cars to do something stupid so I could “shout” at them. I was becoming just like the motorists, so the horn was removed….

  • AnthoNYC

    Ok, I’ve emailed a request to cancel the order.

    But shouting isn’t my style and commuters walking crab-like sideways to Penn Station in the evening with in-the-ear phones on can’t hear me anyway.

    Should I just invest in a handlebar video camera and record everything to cover myself?

  • Sorry if I overreacted, folks, but I’m glad no one plans on blasting pedestrians with non-lethal weapons.

    AnthoNYC, I DO recommend mounting camera(s) on your ride! I haven’t gotten around to it, but it’s on my list, seriously.

  • Nah, ddartley, you’re absolutely right. We shouldn’t start shouting at pedestrians since that’d make us just as bad as the motorists who shout at us… I’d say that we need to break the cycle, but that’s maybe not appropriate…

  • Streetsman

    The camera thing is one of those ideas I’ve just been meaning to get to. Would love to get one of these little flip video cameras:

    http://www.amazon.com/Video-Ultra-Camcorder-60-Minutes-Black/dp/B000V1PXMI/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1219181207&sr=8-2

    and mount it to the handlebars:

    http://www.camerahacker.com/build/Bicycle_Camera_Mount.php

    One of things I would love to do with the video to play back my morning commute and see how many motor vehicles are violating traffic laws in front of me on my way to work – parking in bike lanes, double parking, parking in no standing zones, turning without signals, blocking intersections, stopping in crosswalks, running red lights, etc. Drivers always complain about cyclists breaking the laws but I swear they just don’t realize how many laws they are breaking everyday for their convenience – in exactly the same manner.

  • AnthoNYC

    Ok, I’m happy everybody loves me again! I’m really one of the good guys… honestly.

    And even I’ve made the mistake of walking into a bike lane earlier this year down in the Meatpacking district.

    Maybe I should just chill on my way home behind a pedicab and let the pedicab be the cattle guard? 🙂

  • On Saturday I was in Central Park for the first time in ages and I was amazed at how many pedicabs there were. They seem to be rapidly taking over from the horse-drawn carriages…

  • AnthoNYC

    I noticed that too going West through the park on 72nd after doing Summer Streets. At least they don’t have the poop problem.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I was in town for Summer Streets and ended up coming down Broadway to get back to Penn Station at around 5pm. I rode through this new section and didn’t really have any issues with peds. I was leading two other riders from Philly so we were taking it a little slower than I normally would have (which would have been around 12mph since I was in wearing cloths, pants and nice shoes).

    However I agree with the concern Bicycles Only has about the design with pedestrians being on both sides of the bike lane. Most Americans don’t know how to behave around bicycles and bicycle lanes. This is only complicated further by the hordes of tourists gawking and taking pictures in the Times Square Area. I could envision the scenario of camera wielding tourists walking into the bike lane without looking and hurried New Yorkers also walking into the lane to get around said tourists.

    Also (and I’m not trying to beat a dead horse with this) I’m still concerned about the lanes being on the left. With the lanes getting a sheltered treatment, the main reason for putting them on the left (to avoid conflicts with buses) is now negated. Also the secondary reason (to minimize doorings since the drivers side would be at the curb) is also eliminated. The better visibility to drivers thing is a fairly weak tertiary reason for putting lanes on the left side but would still be in play with these left side, sheltered lanes.

    However, all of the negatives of left side bike lanes remain:

    First and most compelling is that this practice is totally uncustomary and unheard of to anyone from outside of NYC (I had to explain to the folks from Philly with whom I was riding with this weekend, to expect the lanes on the left and they all found this to be odd).

    Second, left side lanes may encourage more people (than do so now) to ride their bikes in the wrong direction. This becomes even more of a possibility with sheltered bike lanes. I don’t need to explain how this complicates turning issues at intersections.

    Still, I’ve got to say that I’ve have a great deal of respect for NYCDoT to push ahead with these bold projects. The engineering of the left turn signals to eliminate the typical conflict and sight line issues with protected bike lanes is superb! I’m quite confident as things progress and bike lanes, sheltered bike lanes, road diets and expanding sidewalks becomes more accepted, the designs will continue to be refined and improved. Conditions will never get any better if nobody is will to be bold and be the first to try!

  • Andy B from Jersey

    (which would have been around 12mph since I was wearing regular cloths, pants and nice shoes)

    I’ve got to get an account so I can edit my glaring mistakes!

  • I’m a big fan of tackling tasks that are politically feasible, but I’m disappointed that this does relatively little to address the overcrowding on Seventh and Eighth Avenues between 30th and 50th Streets. I hope that the DOT will be able to address this soon.

  • axlotl

    “After Summer Streets wrapped up last Saturday…”

    I believe it continues through next Saturday actually. “…open it up to people on three consecutive Saturdays in August (August 9, 16, & 23).”

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/home/home.shtml

    Or maybe this was meant to say “…after it wrapped up for the day last Saturday?”

    I’d also like to note that the sandy zones are treacherously skid-prone surfaces on a bike, though I expect that will diminish as the top layer abrades away. Also, obviously bikes aren’t even supposed to be on these at all, but the design is imperfect and sometimes it is impossible to avoid traversing them (e.g. west-bound on 24th at Broadway).

  • axlotl

    “(e.g. west-bound on 24th at Broadway).”

    Make that EAST-bound……

    I wouldn’t go WEST on 24th street! That would be the wrong way!

  • gecko

    Developments in front the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street are also quite spectacular!

    These beautiful, easy, low-cost multi-purpose developments greatly improve the quality of life, reduce congestion, and make walking and cycling a lot easier and safer.

    This is where the focus should be. This is where the money should be spent.

    It wouldn’t cost much to reinvent New York this way to secure its place in a very pleasant future . . .

    Of course, with cyclovia everywhere, all the time!

    Cheers to Sadik-Khan and the DOT that “Runs the Roads.”

    And, to the Mayor for allowing it to happen and, especially to the hope that he’ll encourage the festivities to truly begin!

  • AnthoNYC

    A little follow-up to biking the new BLVD. Last night was the first night I have taken the new bike lane home since they added the street furniture. Oh boy! I’m very happy that the new seating spaces have been so successfully adopted by the public – some people almost look too comfy – like they’re at home in front the of the TV or something!

    And that’s all great but it’s just made the people-on-the-bike-lane issue 10 times worse. I couldn’t go more than 15 feet without people walking into the lane or blocking it altogether last night. So I’ve decided to boycott the lane altogether and cycle on the street instead. I don’t see any other solution other than the city putting railings along the bike lane or moving it to the street side.

  • Andyp

    My first attempt to use the bike lane was on a late summer Saturday at 7pm. At it’s worst the lane was crowded with more than six people, groups of tourists mostly. Most every street had at least 2 people in the lane. For me the bike lane is only a bike lane when no one else wants to use it be they cars, peds, vendors, whatever.

  • Estrella Sesti

    Area is no smoking but no respect. Must be bigger sign.

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