DOT to Extend East Side Bike Lanes to 57th, But Mostly With Shared Lanes

Photo: DNAInfo
The protected bike lane on First Avenue will extend north to 49th Street, where it will become a shared lane for eight blocks. Cyclists hoping to reach the Second Avenue bike lane from the north will have to ride in heavy Midtown traffic to get there, with only a shared lane for protection. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/20100816/lower-east-side-east-village/east-village-stores-that-cater-cabbies-bitter-about-new-bike-lanes##DNAInfo##

The First and Second Avenue bike lanes on Manhattan’s East Side will only be extended from 34th Street to 57th Street this year, not up to 125th Street as advanced in a plan that won community board approvals in 2010.

While First Avenue will receive Manhattan’s first northbound parking-protected bike lane above 34th Street, the rest of the East Side extension this year will mostly consist of a new shared-lane treatment, not parking-protected lanes or even the buffered, painted lanes that were endorsed by Community Board 6 last year.

DOT presented its plans to the First and Second Avenue Community Advisory Council last night. According to CAC member A. Scott Falk, the protected bikeways and pedestrian refuges have been a big success where they’ve been installed below 34th Street. Injuries for all street users are down 8.3 percent, bike volumes are up, and traffic hasn’t been slowed at all.

But whether because the local print and TV media have declared war on bike lanes or because a new deputy mayor has reportedly given less leeway to bike projects than his predecessors did, DOT’s plans on the East Side seem to keep diminishing.

Overall, the next phase of the bike project along the two East Side avenues will be far less robust than the first phase. On First Avenue, reported Falk, the parking protected lane will be extended from 34th Street to 49th. After that, cyclists will ride in a specially-designed shared lane to 57th Street. The design of the shared lane is new to New York City, with the “sharrow” stencil placed directly in the middle and a solid white line setting it off from regular traffic lanes. On Second Avenue, the same shared lane treatment will extend the entire way from 34th to 57th. Streetsblog has a request in with DOT to confirm that this will be the full extent of East Side bike lane construction in 2011.

At last night’s meeting, said Falk, DOT claimed that it was only installing shared lanes because Community Board 6 hadn’t taken a strong stance in support of the bike lanes. But last year CB 6 had in fact voted to endorse buffered lanes on First Avenue from 49th to 57th, as proposed by DOT at the time, and then went further, requesting that buffered lanes be considered on Second, where DOT had never proposed them. So while the community board had asked to make more room for safe cycling, DOT came back this year with less.

East Side residents have already seen the ambitious plans for protected bikeways from Houston to 125th Street sliced into stages. At this rate, the East Harlem residents who have forcefully demanded safe cycling facilities won’t get them for at least a few more years. That the Midtown design was watered down against the community board’s wishes is an unexpected additional setback.

The fifteen blocks of protected lane on First are still very important. They mark the first northbound protected lane to make it past 34th Street in Manhattan, and will include 12 pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic.

CB 6’s transportation committee will be meeting this Monday to discuss the revised plans for First and Second Avenue. Hopefully community board members will remind DOT of exactly what it was they asked for one year ago. It would surely be helpful if supporters of safer streets attend the meeting to restate just what is at stake.

Update: You can see DOT’s presentation, which includes plans for bus bulbs and transit signal priority to further speed up buses on First and Second Avenue as well as the bike plans, in this PDF.

  • Mike

    Hard to understand why they couldn’t do protected lanes all the way up First Avenue this year. That would be about as much construction as they did last year on this project — maybe less.

  • Mike

    Hard to understand why they couldn’t do protected lanes all the way up First Avenue this year. That would be about as much construction as they did last year on this project — maybe less.

  • J

    First, this implementation seems to be what was originally proposed for that stretch. The buffered bike lanes (without protection) were a later addition. I must say, that I’m not a fan of wiping out all parking in favor of bike lanes. Businesses need deliveries, and taxis need to make drop offs. Unless the lanes are physically protected, cars and trucks will simply double park in the bike lane. This is what happens on 2nd Ave, between 14th & 23rd streets, and there aren’t even that many businesses there.

    Second, I really like the idea of a better design for sharrow lanes, and I very interested to see what it looks like and how it functions in practice. Obviously, it’s not anywhere near as good as protected bike lanes, but if done well, I think it could function better than a buffered bike lane full of double-parked cars, and certainly will be an improvement over the existing situation.

    Third, has DOT given any indication that they are not building protected bike lanes in East Harlem this year? This article seems implies that DOT has indicated that it won’t, but I haven’t seen or heard anything to back this up.

  • J

    First, this implementation seems to be what was originally proposed for that stretch. The buffered bike lanes (without protection) were a later addition. I must say, that I’m not a fan of wiping out all parking in favor of bike lanes. Businesses need deliveries, and taxis need to make drop offs. Unless the lanes are physically protected, cars and trucks will simply double park in the bike lane. This is what happens on 2nd Ave, between 14th & 23rd streets, and there aren’t even that many businesses there.

    Second, I really like the idea of a better design for sharrow lanes, and I very interested to see what it looks like and how it functions in practice. Obviously, it’s not anywhere near as good as protected bike lanes, but if done well, I think it could function better than a buffered bike lane full of double-parked cars, and certainly will be an improvement over the existing situation.

    Third, has DOT given any indication that they are not building protected bike lanes in East Harlem this year? This article seems implies that DOT has indicated that it won’t, but I haven’t seen or heard anything to back this up.

  • 1. DOT said in their presentation that this is the extent of the planned 2011 implementation.

    2. Last year, prior to the scaling-back of the plans, CB6 had been promised additional parking and/or loading on side streets to partially make up for the loss of parking on 1st Avenue in the area of the buffered lanes.

  • 1. DOT said in their presentation that this is the extent of the planned 2011 implementation.

    2. Last year, prior to the scaling-back of the plans, CB6 had been promised additional parking and/or loading on side streets to partially make up for the loss of parking on 1st Avenue in the area of the buffered lanes.

  • Kaja

    @ascottfalk (who I see is already in this thread) covered the CB6 thing last night on Twitter; he indicated the construction resources are actually tied-up at Grand Army.

  • Parking protected lanes don’t eliminate parking. What they need is Shoup style parking reform – we need to get rid of free parking, not all parking (besides, all those parked cars make a lovely buffer from that crazy ass traffic on the avenues.)

  • Driver

    Suzanne, the new parking protected lanes reduce parking, or it could be said that they eliminate SOME parking. I’m not arguing against the lanes, but in fairness this is a legitimate gripe by businesses and delivery companies operating in congested areas.

  • J

    Suzanne and Scott,
    I think we all agree that parking protected lanes don’t and shouldn’t eliminate all parking, as the parking is what provides the protection for the bikes. In my previous post, I was referring to the proposal to replace curb-side parking on 1st avenue (between 49th & 59th streets) with a buffered bike lane, much like what is already in place on 2nd ave between 14th & 23rd. I think this idea would create a mediocre bike lane that is constantly full of parked cars and trucks and while also pissing off local businesses and residents. I don’t think adding side street parking would prevent double parking on the avenue in the bike lane, and the NYPD has shown little interest in that type of enforcement. The result would be mediocre at best, and I don’t think it’s worth putting up much of a fight at this point. Show me a proposal for a protected path, however, and I’ll write editorials and go to meetings to support it.

  • J

    Suzanne and Scott,
    I think we all agree that parking protected lanes don’t and shouldn’t eliminate all parking, as the parking is what provides the protection for the bikes. In my previous post, I was referring to the proposal to replace curb-side parking on 1st avenue (between 49th & 59th streets) with a buffered bike lane, much like what is already in place on 2nd ave between 14th & 23rd. I think this idea would create a mediocre bike lane that is constantly full of parked cars and trucks and while also pissing off local businesses and residents. I don’t think adding side street parking would prevent double parking on the avenue in the bike lane, and the NYPD has shown little interest in that type of enforcement. The result would be mediocre at best, and I don’t think it’s worth putting up much of a fight at this point. Show me a proposal for a protected path, however, and I’ll write editorials and go to meetings to support it.

  • Jeff

    Uh-oh, wait until NBBL and the Post hears about DOT ramming a shared lane and generally truncated facilities down CB6’s throat, despite the board having voted on protected lanes up to 125th!

  • AlexB

    For someone who bikes to and from work via the Queensboro Bridge, the lanes on 1st and 2nd avenue will make a huge difference to the safety and convenience levels. I hope there is greater protection for cyclists in the vicinity of the bridge where drivers seem to get crazy. I imagine DOT wants to avoid a lane on second avenue because of all the people using that street to enter the bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the fact that 2nd Ave is so torn up in the UES due to subway construction. That doesn’t change the fact that a lane is needed on this avenue sooner rather than later. After DOT decided not to build the lanes north of 34th, I assumed that was the end of it. I am glad they decided to move forward with this, even though it’s scaled back. Any news on when exactly this will be finished?

  • Ah. Yes, I see. Eww.

    Lane on the side = ick. Worst of all worlds – gets rid of parking (and the buffer parked cars create), makes drivers mad, and they park in the lane anyway.

    I can’t say I agree about sharrowed lanes, tho. The ones I’ve experienced have been as nerve wracking as not having any lanes at all. Maybe it was just bad design. Like Vanderbilt in Brooklyn – worst part of my commute. Even the buffered strech along the Navy Yards is better… even with the parked cars and the bus stops.

  • J

    Slow and steady wins the race. I much prefer adding a few miles of protected bike lanes each year to adding 20 miles of protected lanes in one year and spawning a even more massive backlash that halts all construction of future bike lanes. Our streets didn’t become auto sewers overnight, and our city won’t become great for walking and biking overnight either. This is real and good progress, and I am excited to see it come to pass. The slow pace of progress can be maddening, but it is progress nonetheless.

  • Those bike counts on page 17 of the pdf are amazing–deep winter biking with the protected path is almost the same as june biking without the path, and April 2011 (assuming the data labels on the last few bars have typos for the year indicated) shows a 155% increase from June. Can’t put too much stock in these, though, because they are only single day counts.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, protected lanes are need MOST near the bridge and tunnel where the traffic is the most congested and unruly.

  • Driver

    Perhaps 2 way bike lanes on 1st Ave would be better for all involved. Even with protected bike lanes, the turning conflict would be tremendous, and the backlash from the lost traffic lane would be significant.

  • carma

    suzanne. you are only half right that there are too many cars. most residents in manhattan dont own cars. it is more inconvenient to own a car when manhattan already has great public transit. especially when its time for street cleaning 2x / week. now w/ that said, the outer boroughs have higher car ownership b/c guess what, transit sucks.

    manhattan also has a lack of parking b/c not all parking spaces are for the residents. its called delivery and from ppl outside (or possibly inside manhattan) shopping providing there services, delivery, etc…
    if parking was so perfect, there wouldnt be the businesses on columbus complaining about losing a few spaces.
    so to say we have “SOOOOO” many spaces is completely wrong. think about it, why would garages be able to charge $30 for parking and still get away with it.

    one thing that the dot has done right though is charge more for on-street parking at busy locations. charging $3 / hour is definitely freeing up some of the meter spaces, allowing for higher turnover. when meter spaces go up, there is less incentive for onstreet parking, and instead turn to a garage if you do need to drive into manhattan.

    ever since the city has done this, it has been a lot more easier on me on those few occasions i do drive into manhattan. (perhaps twice a month)

    if anything, the city should eliminate a lot more free parking and convert those spaces into muni-meters charging $3.00 / hour minimum. that would certainly discourage more manhattan car ownership + allow better flow of goods, and help in the overall commerce.

  • carma

    suzanne. you are only half right that there are too many cars. most residents in manhattan dont own cars. it is more inconvenient to own a car when manhattan already has great public transit. especially when its time for street cleaning 2x / week. now w/ that said, the outer boroughs have higher car ownership b/c guess what, transit sucks.

    manhattan also has a lack of parking b/c not all parking spaces are for the residents. its called delivery and from ppl outside (or possibly inside manhattan) shopping providing there services, delivery, etc…
    if parking was so perfect, there wouldnt be the businesses on columbus complaining about losing a few spaces.
    so to say we have “SOOOOO” many spaces is completely wrong. think about it, why would garages be able to charge $30 for parking and still get away with it.

    one thing that the dot has done right though is charge more for on-street parking at busy locations. charging $3 / hour is definitely freeing up some of the meter spaces, allowing for higher turnover. when meter spaces go up, there is less incentive for onstreet parking, and instead turn to a garage if you do need to drive into manhattan.

    ever since the city has done this, it has been a lot more easier on me on those few occasions i do drive into manhattan. (perhaps twice a month)

    if anything, the city should eliminate a lot more free parking and convert those spaces into muni-meters charging $3.00 / hour minimum. that would certainly discourage more manhattan car ownership + allow better flow of goods, and help in the overall commerce.

  • carma

    suzanne. you are only half right that there are too many cars. most residents in manhattan dont own cars. it is more inconvenient to own a car when manhattan already has great public transit. especially when its time for street cleaning 2x / week. now w/ that said, the outer boroughs have higher car ownership b/c guess what, transit sucks.

    manhattan also has a lack of parking b/c not all parking spaces are for the residents. its called delivery and from ppl outside (or possibly inside manhattan) shopping providing there services, delivery, etc…
    if parking was so perfect, there wouldnt be the businesses on columbus complaining about losing a few spaces.
    so to say we have “SOOOOO” many spaces is completely wrong. think about it, why would garages be able to charge $30 for parking and still get away with it.

    one thing that the dot has done right though is charge more for on-street parking at busy locations. charging $3 / hour is definitely freeing up some of the meter spaces, allowing for higher turnover. when meter spaces go up, there is less incentive for onstreet parking, and instead turn to a garage if you do need to drive into manhattan.

    ever since the city has done this, it has been a lot more easier on me on those few occasions i do drive into manhattan. (perhaps twice a month)

    if anything, the city should eliminate a lot more free parking and convert those spaces into muni-meters charging $3.00 / hour minimum. that would certainly discourage more manhattan car ownership + allow better flow of goods, and help in the overall commerce.

  • Bill

    I use the lanes on First and Second Avenues to commute to work. On most days they work fairly well except for (as “J” points out) the section of Second Avenue between 23rd and 14th Streets. This is where the lane becomes unprotected. There is nothing safeguarding cyclist from speeding vehicles. There is also no parking so drivers park in the bike lane and consistently so. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to ride the section without having to navigate around parked vehicles. On average, there’s one every 2 or 3 blocks. This is stressful and dangerous for cyclists. It’s also hard for businesses that need deliveries. In my opinion, the protected lanes work so much better. Cyclists are safer. Drivers have an assigned space to park. I wish the DOT would focus on these.

    The sharrow concept, even in it’s new form, sounds of little value. It’s not even a bike lane so there’s no reason for motorists not to park in the space and it’s perfectly legal for them to drive in it. I anticipate lots of swerving around parked cars and lots of cars passing about a foot off my shoulder.

    To me anyway, sometimes DOT seems to have their priorities confused. It’s funding ad campaigns to encourage people to ride and pushing for a bike share system. But there’s still no way to cross midtown (where many people work) safely and the extension of these important East Side North/South routes seems half-baked. I fear that even the nicest ads or shiniest share-bike will lose their allure when new riders actually ride and discover that routes are limited and the experience is scary.

  • I was excited last year that DOT painted new stripes and buffers for the bike lane north of the 30’s (and envious of the protected lanes downtown). Unfortunately, after the snow and ice finally melted, those stripes are barely visible – I’m in the 80’s on First, and you can barely see the bike lane. I hope that they’ll re-stripe the parts of the lane they aren’t turning into protected lanes.

  • Alon Levy

    East Harlem specifically asked for a bike lane. What backlash are you talking about?

  • J

    @Alon,
    In East Harlem there is no backlash yet, but nothing has been done yet to backlash against. Not all business owners and residents go to CB meetings, but all of them see the streets and many of them have friends at news agencies and in political office. I’m just saying that not everyone is always on board. It is much easier to say, “the city has gone crazy with a massive expansion of bike lanes everywhere” than to say, “the city has gone crazy with a modest expansion of bike lanes in a few strategic places.” Granted, some people will say the former, regardless, but it will have much less resonance with the majority of people who experience the latter.

    I do, however, think they should at least start on some East Harlem improvements this year.

  • J

    These are very exciting, and the lanes haven’t even been open during summer months yet.

  • J

    These are very exciting, and the lanes haven’t even been open during summer months yet.

  • J

    It would actually be very easy to add back parking on this stretch, but it would remove a travel lane. The initial plans called for parking protected lane on the stretch between 14th & 34tgh, so DOT must have drawing for this already. I am surprised, though, that there wasn’t much uproar at all about DOT completely wiping out parking on this stretch. Maybe the uproar will happen later.

  • J

    It would actually be very easy to add back parking on this stretch, but it would remove a travel lane. The initial plans called for parking protected lane on the stretch between 14th & 34tgh, so DOT must have drawing for this already. I am surprised, though, that there wasn’t much uproar at all about DOT completely wiping out parking on this stretch. Maybe the uproar will happen later.

  • @ carma

    There are around 13 Central Parks (or 10,800 acres) of parking in New York City (thanks Streetfilms!) I’d say that’s A LOT. Although I agree with you that the problem is that there are too many cars, owned by people who felt that having all this free parking meant they HAD to have a car.

    If people didn’t shoot down bike lanes in the outer boroughs, combining bikes with transit (with the occasional Zipcar rental) would be a winning option for many, if not most, people even there. Of course some people will need, or just want, their own car but we shouldn’t be encouraging them, seeing how much damage cars do.

    And let’s not forget, we’ve probably passed peak oil so we really need to be putting infrastructure in place NOW, for the expensive gas tomorrow.

  • “protected lanes are need MOST near the bridge and tunnel where the traffic is the most congested and unruly.”

    Agreed. Ironically, to accommodate the chaos 2nd Ave changes from 3 to 4 and then to 5 lanes as you approach the bridge. Funny how this doesn’t happen at the Midtown Tunnel… hmm, maybe because the tunnel isn’t free!

  • “protected lanes are need MOST near the bridge and tunnel where the traffic is the most congested and unruly.”

    Agreed. Ironically, to accommodate the chaos 2nd Ave changes from 3 to 4 and then to 5 lanes as you approach the bridge. Funny how this doesn’t happen at the Midtown Tunnel… hmm, maybe because the tunnel isn’t free!

  • Obfd

    The author wrote traffic hasn’t slowed at all on First and Second Avenues below 34th Street. What a load of nonsense! I live in the area. First & Second Aves used to be the fastest avenues in the city. Now, they have been reduced from five lanes to three, and are constantly in a traffic jam. The traffic is much slower, and it is harder to cross the street, for bikes come from both directions (illegally!) in the bike lane, and enforcement is nonexistant here.

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