Eyes on the Street: Protected Bike Lane Sighting on the Upper East Side

When the First Avenue project is complete, car owners will park on the right side of that thermoplast buffer, and cyclists will ride on the left. Photo: Liz Patek

Reader Liz Patek sends these shots of the new road markings on First Avenue in the 60s. The protected bike lane that Manhattan Community Board 8 approved last summer is going in.

Until now there was no bike infrastructure at all on First Avenue between 60th Street and 72nd Street. Filling that gap is DOT’s top construction priority as the agency builds out plans for protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges on First and Second Avenue up to 125th Street. Farther uptown, work on the East Harlem bike lanes will begin on Second Avenue between 100th and 125th Street. Construction was originally supposed to start this spring — it’s not clear if that timetable still holds after the local community board waffled on the project before committing to it again.

This is one of those moments where you have to sit back and take stock. Five years ago, the idea of merely striping thermoplast on lightly-trafficked crosstown streets ran into a buzz-saw at Community Board 8. Now, after a lot of hard work by advocates, volunteers, city officials, and community board members, streets engineered for safety are coming to vital transportation corridors in a new part of town. Congrats to everyone involved.

Approaching a mixing zone-in-progress. Photo: Liz Patek
  • J

    Awesome! This is a game changer for the UES, once it’s fully built out. Anyone know when the 72-96th Street section is slated to be converted to a protected lane?

    Also, very interesting point, Ben. I think the CB8 reversal is a testament to DOT’s pursuit of truly complete streets. This isn’t just a bike project; it’s a ped safety project, it’s a street greening project, it’s a traffic calming project. More and more CBs are seeing this, and the demand for these projects is only just beginning to heat up.

  • So exciting to see these lanes go in!  I do think this segment was fast-tracked because it’s within the bike-share zone.  And I hope that DoT keeps it’s promise to CB11 to prioritize Second Ave 100-125th.  That would mean that First from 72nd to 125 would come last, and possibly not be completed until next year, though that would be a shame.

  • J

    @twitter-22824076:disqus Honestly, I’m behind prioritizing facilities in the bikeshare zone first, even if it’s a pain in the ass for me. The combination of bikeshare plus a real network of protected lanes within the zone will lead to explosive growth in cycling, creating an incredible momentum for more facilities. The demand for movement in the bikeshare zone is enormous, and if we get people into protected lanes, they will quickly notice where those lanes end and call for extensions. To get to that point, the 8th & 9th Ave and Hudson St protected lanes are absolutely critical, and I don’t mind waiting just a tad longer on other projects to ensure that bikeshare goes well.

  • J

    Also, this street used to be just awful, with speeding cars, trucks, and buses. I basically avoided the UES as much as possible because it’s so treacherous to bike there. With this project, it will be quite a bit better. 

  • Nick

    Does anyone know why the concrete pedestrian refuges/planters don’t cover the full width of the zebra buffer area. Is it to allow for a plow truck to drive through the bike lane?

  • Fiftyninth

    I would think it would also be to allow emergency vehicles through.

  • Not the Slowest

    As a commuter that takes 1st ave from the QBB-60- 125th street I just have to say this is really not helping the cyclist or pedestrian and will only add to more waste.

    First things first, no pun intended. Once we get to 96th street I am pretty much the only cyclist using the bike lane. Delivery cyclists pretty much stop onceI hit
    96th street .Who then is this bike lane for at this section?

    On the 60-96th street portion you now will lock us into the turning lane and curb and the usual pedestrians walking or standing in the bike lane. 

    The current lane does the job and I use it with areas that are frustrating for delivery trucks parked there (thank You UPS) and taxis at the Indian/Paki restaurant areas.
    Of course the delivery people who salmon against the traffic will have a harder time doing this, but I trust they will continue to do so until the city fines them and makes the employers responsible.

    I give this a C+ rating for the fact that the city is trying, but if they would improve the Eastside Greenway which is 2 blocks away more cyclists would head there.

    Not the Slowist

  • J,  I hear ya.  though as someone outside the bike share zone, I’m a little jealous!

    Not the Slowest, If you find yourself commuting alone up first Avenue in the morning, you may want to check it out in the evening and night to see people commuting home to East Harlem.  Especially late at night, I see plenty of food service industry people riding home with me and we really appreciate the safety of these lanes when traffic is light and fast on the avenues and there aren’t many pedestrians.  Even during the day when pedestrians are an issue, bear in mind that probably 2/3 of the cyclists out there like the parking protected design.

    Also, the city doesn’t do things based on your ratings of them on blogs, they do it when you get involved.  There are efforts to improve the Greenway, please join them. 

  • J

    @b0be1aec3fa517c28856deab30479ad0:disqus To be perfectly honest, this project isn’t being built for the strong and confident cyclists, who are already comfortable biking on 1st Ave, and who maybe make up 1% of all potential cyclists. Instead, it is built for the overwhelming majority of people who will never feel comfortable biking right next to 35mph traffic and swerving around double parked cars and trucks. It is also built for the pedestrians who have a hard time making it across such a wide avenue in one go. It is for the people who live along the avenue who could use a little more greenery on their street. Projects exactly like this have resulted in dramatic increases in bike use and sharp reductions in crashes and injuries.   
    Will this make your bike ride on 1st Ave faster? No. 
    Will it make 1st Ave a much friendly place to bike and walk? Absolutely.

    Sure, it may require some time for you and pedestrians to get used to it. It may be annoying at first, but this is how to get large numbers of people biking. This is how it was done in Amsterdam, and it is working here in NYC as well. All the best.

  • Nikki

    Head to the esplanade where you belong.