Even Below 34th Street, Gaps Appear in Plan for Protected Bike Lanes

Second_Avenue_Curbside_Bike_Lane.pngNew plans call for an un-protected curbside lane on nine blocks of Second Avenue. Image: NYCDOT

Yesterday brought another disappointing development in the city’s plan to re-design First and Second Avenues. While upgraded bike routes are still guaranteed below 34th Street — a far cry from what was presented to the public — even that portion will not be a continuous protected route.

A new map of the project [PDF], which DOT presented at last night’s Community Board 11 meeting, shows that between 14th and 23rd Streets, Second Avenue is only slated to receive a normal curbside lane. For nine blocks, cyclists will have to navigate a zone where a single illegally-parked car can thrust them into fast-moving traffic.

We have a request in with DOT and the mayor’s office about why these blocks aren’t getting a protected lane. 

Earlier this week, when we asked the press shops for DOT and the mayor’s office about the overall scaling back of the East Side plans, we only received a response from DOT. A spokesperson said that the hold-up is caused by time constraints on construction work, and the need to accommodate construction of the Second Avenue subway.

Here’s their full statement:

Work on First and Second Avenues is being phased to complete as much transit work as possible this construction season. The project’s first phase will enhance pedestrian safety along the corridor and increase the citywide total of parking-protected lanes by one-third while also enhancing existing bike lanes north of 72nd Street on 1st Avenue. 

We will look to make even more bike network improvements when we start the second phase of construction next year.

The omission of protected lanes along nine blocks of Second Avenue,
however, is a clear indication that other factors, like preserving space for rush-hour traffic, are at work. Sometime between DOT’s
presentation to Community Board 6 on April 5
, and the mayor’s official
unveiling of the project on Monday, the Bloomberg administration’s commitment to continuous
protected bike
routes for the East Side faltered.

  • So can we assume that the key event after April 5th was the new Deputy Mayor Goldsmith? Even if that was the case, JSK really should have tipped us off that things were in flux before just announcing that they could only do 1/3 of what they originally promised.

    DOT really needs to get out in front of this issue. I had a staffer from an elected official (who attended the press conference) call DOT and they basically gave him the same story as above and the staffer found that very surprising. They just assumed the whole plan was in place and it was just a matter of time. This is further proof that the plan still seems to be in flux & more degraded with each revelation. Where’s plan? What’s the timeline? Who’s calling the shots these days anyway – Commissioner JSK? Deputy Mayor Goldsmith? Mayor Bloomberg?

  • UES

    Anyone know how this is going to work on 1st Ave by the NYU Medical Center? From about 32nd to 33rd, there’s currently an ambulance zone staked out by plastic bollards that takes up (I think) two lanes at its widest. Will that stay in place? It’s hard to see how they could squeeze in bus and bike lanes too.

  • J

    I can buy the “construction takes time” excuse for the northern sections. However, the 14th to 23rd section on 2nd Avenue appears to be the final design. That means that section will be crappy indefinitely, creating a major gap in the bike network. This design will certainly create backlash from
    1) businesses that stand to lose ALL of their parking and
    2) bikers who get a crappy bike lane that seems designed to encourage double parking, and creates a large gap in otherwise good lanes
    3) drivers who suddenly have no choice but to double park in the bike lane

    The pushback from these groups will almost certainly be greater than the pushback due to increased traffic under the original design. Oh yeah, the original design was analyzed by DOT and deemed acceptable. Someone clearly is overruling DOT.

  • Steve Vaccaro

    I’ll be. Because I didn’t notice the difference between light green and dark green on the powerpoint at last night’s meeting, and the DoT reps specifically stated that it would be a parking-protected bike path from Houston to 34th, I only now see that DoT has taken away 9 blocks of protected bike path on Second Avenue that had already bene approved by Community Board 6, without any notice or opportunity for community input, and without providing any rationale for doing so.

    This lowers my confidence level in the other recent statements by DoT about the project, and increases the need, in the words of Joe Barr, to “keep that pressure on.”

  • UES

    I wonder how much this has to do with the NYPD’s 13th Precinct, which is on 21st just west of 2nd Ave. The police LOVE to park their cruisers and personal vehicles on both sides of 2nd Ave from about 23rd to 19th.

  • J

    Shouldn’t police approval have happened a LONG time ago. If police parking is the issue, then I can guarantee the lane will be occupied 24/7 by police cruisers and personal vehicles. The original plan simply didn’t eliminate that much parking in the area. The new plan is guaranteed to piss off everyone.

  • Good point, UES. The 13th got the DoT to interupt it’s purported “river to river” 21st St. facility so that it would not run past the precinct house. Maybe this 9-block stretch is just more NYPD parking.

  • This is an excellent example of how bicycle infrastructure is a question of the “weakest link.”

    If this segment were protected and complete from Houston up to 34th St, then the route is usable by any cyclist whose comfort level calls for protected lanes at a minimum (you know, the people who we are trying to encourage to get out there and ride). If, however, even one of those 34 blocks is a painted-only lane, then the comfort threshold rises up to the point that the corridor is only useful for those comfortable with a painted bike lane at minimum. In other words, due to the weakest link, it’s the same exact effect as if the entire 34 blocks was unprotected, painted-only.

  • I’ve sent in a request to DOT for what the “Final plan” was prior to the recent reversal because I can’t find “Plan D” or the buffer on First in the fifties anywhere in writing. Can someone send a link or PDF of that to me?

  • Thanks Mike. This helps.

  • meb

    With absolutely no bike lanes planned for my main commuting area around GCT and between offices (Lex & 51st or so and York and 70th) absolutely nothing will improve for me.

    As much as I loved the farmer’s market down in Union Square I never bought a child seat or trailer to ride from Astoria down to Union Square to go to the market on the weekend. I really thought it would be fun and that my kid would love it, but without protected bike lanes I just wasn’t going to chance it.

  • The other day I was riding up Sixth Avenue and there was some crazy yellow cab, in the bike lane, trying to pass an FDNY ambulance enroute to the hospital. That’s how it’s going to be in midtown without anything physically preventing cars, or cabs, from entering the bike lane. Buffers just aren’t going to cut it.

  • I started riding laps around Central Park Thursday mornings with my biking buddy, Hilary. Now, we start from my place at 40th & Second. This means going uptown on First riding rush hour to the bike lane eastbound at 54th, then up on York to 60th, then up to the 89th street exit and west to the Park on 91st. Yes, I could ride west to the unbuffered bike lane on 6th and go north to the park – YOU try that, not me.
    Coming back, we tried Park Avenue. Remember, there is NO N-S/S-N bike lane on the east side below 72 on First and above 14th. Rush hour, again. I almost got clipped by a cab. At one point I dashed on the sidewalk to get out of the way of a double-parked truck.
    I will NOT sacrifice my life to make the sidewalks 100% always free of bikes. Let pedestrians complain. They should be advocating for bike lanes too.
    I don’t think DOT really has a clue what goes on for bikers during a busy day, and how the area they are cutting back the most in for bike lanes, is already the worst in the city.
    I’ve just about given up on them, but closing the Gap on the East side Greenway (38-61) would be the best solution, by far. No X-streets. No turning cars. No mobs of pedestrians – a few joggers, that’s it. No trucks with blind spots. No cabs. Just straight clean biking along the river.
    Why is this 1 mile gap so hard to close when every other part of the city is getting an upgrade – West side 83-91 DONE; LES below 14th In Progress, TBD by Fall; South Ferry In Progress, TBD by 2012; 145-149 DONE etc.
    If you haven’t signed the petition above, please do so to CLOSE THE GAP!!!

  • cf

    “I will NOT sacrifice my life to make the sidewalks 100% always free of bikes. Let pedestrians complain. They should be advocating for bike lanes too.”

    Thats the kind of divisive, self-centered attitude that gives bike riders a bad name and pits pedestrians and bicyclists against each other. Did you ever think about what would have happened if you hit someone on the sidewalk and knocked them down?

  • I ride so slowly on the sidewalk that I am practically walking my bike, with my hands on the brakes, and then only until I can safely bike off the curb again and back safely onto the street. However, there are situations where I stand to get squashed like a bug, and self-preservation comes first. Sorry if that offends you.

  • Scott Baker, no one is asking you sacrifice your life. CJ and I are merely asking you to comply with the law — not to mention common courtesy — and keep sidewalks safe for pedestrians.

  • Clearly, you do not ride the same streets I do at Rush hour. Hundreds of riders are injured in NYC every year. They have to come from somewhere.

  • Scott, I understand your frustration. But pedestrians are not to blame for the fact that motorists endanger cyclists on the street. Please do not shift the violence from the street to the sidewalk.

  • cf

    “I ride so slowly on the sidewalk that I am practically walking my bike, with my hands on the brakes, and then only until I can safely bike off the curb again and back safely onto the street. However, there are situations where I stand to get squashed like a bug, and self-preservation comes first. Sorry if that offends you.”

    And I’m sure the guy who parked his car in the bike lane is only going to be there for a minute and wouldn’t have to do it if there was more parking. Besides, he’s really gotta get that cup of coffee. Sorry if that offends you.

  • Inconvenience vs. Incapacitation, maybe permanent injury. It doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me, but then it’s only my life, not yours, so of course you might think I should sacrifice myself for your sense of civil order (I have never hit anyone on the sidewalk, by the way, not even close – and as I said, I am practically walking my bike). I’m done trying to justify myself to folks like you.
    You want something to complain about; complain about double-parked trucks and cars and cabs who don’t think bikers have a right to the road.
    BTW, my only accident on a bike happened when a pedestrian came out in the middle of the block, from behind a van with no windows (so I couldn’t see him), on 125th street, without even looking. I suppose a car would have just driven over him. Me? I got knocked off my bike when my handlebars went the other way from me. He got a bruise, I nearly got run over. The Fire department across the street offered to take me to the hospital. I declined and rode home, barely.
    Pedestrians are neither innocent nor helpless.

  • Scott, no one is arguing that cyclists have a right to use the sidewalk, especially when endangered. The question is what happens when you get onto the sidewalk: whether you should dismount and walk your bike, or ride it on the sidewalk. Walking your bike is the only legally and ethically acceptable alternative. It will not cause “incapacitation” or “permanent injury” and you show your true colors when you make such specious arguments.

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