Midtown Bike Lanes to Be Interpersed With Sharrows, Will End at Eighth Ave.

Proposed crosstown bike lanes would be packed tightly through Midtown, and would not extend west beyond Eighth Avenue. Image: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-05-crosstown-markings-enhancement_cb5.pdf##NYC DOT##

DOT has proposed painting four new pairs of crosstown bike lanes through the heart of Midtown, an exciting statement and a necessary move in preparation for the launch of bike-share. The lanes would be tightly spaced, located on 39th and 40th Streets, 43rd and 44th, 48th and 51st, and 54th and 55th.

But the design of the lanes themselves is a little odd, changing from painted lanes to sharrows block by block and ending at Eighth Avenue, before the southbound protected Ninth Avenue bike lane [PDF]. We checked in with DOT for more information on how the lanes were designed. All answers via the DOT press office:

Streetsblog: How did DOT decide which blocks to put sharrows on and which to give painted lanes?

DOT: The width of the streets on these crosstown routes varies, in some cases block-to-block. Where there is sufficient width for a lane, we proposed one, and where there is not, we proposed shared lane markings.

SB: Why do the bike lanes go only to Eighth Avenue? Why not connect to the Ninth Avenue bike lane or the Hudson River Greenway?

DOT: The decision to bring the lanes as far west as Eighth Avenue was merely an issue of planning logistics, and we wanted to address the Midtown core at the outset. There is nothing in the proposals that would preclude an extension and in fact these streets were first considered based on the viability of potential westward extension.

SB: Why is there a more frequent spacing of crosstown pairs in this Midtown section than further downtown, where crosstown bike lanes are painted every ten blocks?

DOT: The spacing is necessitated by the density and major trip generators (e.g. Grand Central, Port Authority) in Midtown.

  • Love the comment about the ‘trip generators” of Port Authority and Grand Central.  I’m imagining 50% of the rush hour traffic on 43rd and 44th Streets being bike share bikes!

  • Jeff

    @twitter-22824076:disqus  And I imagine them getting roughly 12% of the street space…

  • Zulu

    What about east of Grand Central? There are no lanes going from Grand Central to the UN building.

  • Jeff

    @ebb4035fe30f2d00466ce7ea0b9e7e07:disqus  Didn’t you learn anything from Marcia Kramer?  Bike lanes are magnets for terrorists.

  • Jesse Greene

    “DOT: The width of the streets on these crosstown routes varies, in some cases block-to-block. Where there is sufficient width for a lane, we proposed one, and where there is not, we proposed shared lane markings.”
    Because we all know that these streets are only 4 feet wide with huge sidewalks and zero space for subsidized car parking.  Thanks for keeping your priorities straight, DOT.

  • Zulu

    Well, terrorists too should have the right to get to work on a bike-share bike with out getting run over by a car.(joke)

  • Driver

    Most of midtown is dedicated to truck parking for loading/unloading, not car parking during the day.  You can’t practically eliminate the already short supply of truck parking. 

  • Anonymous


    Truck loading/unloading should be the only curbside “parking” in mid-town.

    But stop the strawman please.  There isn’t loading zones, the whole way, on each block.  

    I don’t think anybody on this board has issues with loading zones.  It’s the subsidized free parking.  Even Muni-meters underprice in midtown.  

  • bill b

    Where will the trade people park their vans and trucks while they do work in midtown buildings. They need their vans for tools, parts and materials. They cannot park them blocks away. Years ago  when NYC was a real city the tradesmen were local  , now they come in from Brooklyn , Queens, the Bronx, Long Island, New Jersey etc..

  • IsaacB

    These lanes/routes worry me. A bike lane (which restricts where a bike can operate on a certain street) that does not have a good chance of remaining clear is worse than no bike lane. The city can pride itself on X miles of bike lanes per capita, but I don’t see this as providing safety for cyclists. 

  • Driver

     “There isn’t loading zones, the whole way, on each block.”
    No there isn’t, for a variety of reasons, but there are enough to make creating a protected or dedicated lane against the curb impractical.   It’s a tough problem with no easy solution.  We all know painted lanes are not effective for protecting cyclists. 

  • Motorist

    How on earth do people in real cycling cities get deliveries or deliver supplies to buildings?  Everyone in Amsterdam must be emaciated waifs due to the inability to drive food delivery vehicles directly to their buildings.  If a plumber can’t make it right to the doorstep of an apartment building in Copenhagen, can the Danish ever use the toilet?  It must be miserable.

  • Anonymous

    @bc0f9262a430f4ff4041582f16b0065e:disqus , as much as I’m skeptical of “New York is not Amsterdam” arguments, I have noticed that the typical building in Amsterdam (or Copenhagen) is not 40 stories high, which is the case in much of midtown Manhattan. I can only assume that having such tall buildings results in a very large increase in “density of deliveries”.

  • Jesse Greene

    I concede that it’s possible that the space is needed for loading zones.  In that case there’s nothing physically preventing the DOT from making the center lane a dedicated bike lane and just leave the curb free for deliveries.  In other words close the streets off to passenger cars that are passing through or dropping off/picking up people.  How terrible would that really be for drivers or cab riders who have every other street in Manhattan?  And conversely, how awesome would that be for cyclists getting through midtown?  It would be a marginal loss for drivers and an astronomical gain for cyclists.

    And there’s no physical barrier to this. The DOT’s answer presents the issue as if they would just love to provide real bike lanes but it would be physically impossible.     There’s nothing they can do about it because the streets just aren’t wide enough.  That’s disingenuous.  The streets are plenty wide but the DOT chooses to allocate the space to cars rather than bikes.  It’s not a physical barrier.  Moreover, it’s not even really a legal one because we’ve seen with projects like Times Square that the DOT can pretty much do whatever it wants.  It’s a political barrier. 

    And that’s fine!  It’s politics.  They’re accountable to the “motoring class” which happens to be much bigger than the “cycling class.”  But the DOT should at least be forced to acknowledge that it’s a trade-off they’re making and not avoid any responsibility. In other words, the “cycling class” should hold them accountable as well.

  • Anonymous


    Motorist was being sarcastic.  But to your point, Amsterdam may not have the tall buildings, like we have in midtown, it is nevertheless very densely populated.  

    @SB_Driver:disqus No there isn’t, for a variety of reasons, but there are enough to make creating a protected or dedicated lane against the curb impractical.  

    Ummm, have you seen Amsterdam?  Have you seen how the canals?   Talk about impractical. 

    This stuff isn’t brain science.  We have deliveries along the 1st/2nd ave bike lanes.  

  • Ben Kintisch

    I know everyone is

  • Ben Kintisch

    ….disappointed with this initial set of lanes. Yes, they should be continued farther east and west. I know not everyone agrees with me on this one, but sometimes a good beginning is a good beginning. If this admittedly so-so plan is approved, we instantly see a huge boost in midtown bike lane infrastructure. Then, we can set about asking for improvements, upgrades, and extensions. Remember – before this announcement, there were hardly any crosstown lanes in this section of midtown. And, with the density of bikeshare stations and the huge amount of bikehshare trips that will be taken using these lanes, demand will be seen almost right away for improvements. And I say that’s okay to begin somewhere pretty good and then work for better, then great. That’s how progress is made.

  • Guest

    Will DOT ever put any bike lanes of any kind on the Upper East Side?  It is frightening to ride any four blocks north of 59th Street.

  • Driver

     You’re right, it’s not brain science.  The cross streets are typically one traffic lane with a left and right shoulder/parking lane.  1st and 2nd Ave were either 4 or 5 traffic lanes plus two shoulder/parking lanes. It makes perfect sense to compare the two.

    Yes, I have seen Amsterdam, yes the canals are impractical, probably one reason I did not see any dedicated bike lanes running along the canals.  I did see delivery trucks stop in the middle of the street and block traffic to make deliveries, and I did have cars pass me uncomfortably close while I was in the door zone along the canals.

  • One advantage of painted lanes is that they can be moved around quite easily in case of long-term construction projects blocking the streets and sidewalks. 

  • Miles Bader

    @SB_Driver:disqus Hmm, so if there’s typically one traffic lane plus two “shoulder/parking” lanes, it would totally make sense to scrap one of the shoulder/parking lanes and put in a bike lane, yeah?  Surely the density of trademan’s vans isn’t such that you need two lanes just for that!

  • Anonymous

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why they don’t swap the bike lane and the parking lane? Wouldn’t it make it all the safer to have a shield of parked cars on the one side and sidewalk on the other, while riding a bike? Just flip the design one step over, and it’ll be perfect. Right now it’s just paint… no one respects that, but swapping the lanes for the parking lane, would make it difficult if not impossible to park in the bike lane.

  • Anonymous

    If they could at least paint the non-protected bike the same color (green) EVERY where, so we’d have some uniformity instead of all these different looking ones…

  • Tallycyclist

    thomsa040  I think colored lanes can work if, like you said, there’s a set standard within a given city and a color is chosen which improves visibility of the lane but yet is not too intrusive.  Many of the bike paths in Holland are red (they apparently use red asphalt, not paint) and in Denmark they put blue paint at some intersections to mark the bike lanes.  

    I kind of have mixed feelings about painting bike lanes bright green.   Is it solely for better clarity and visibility?  Is it a blatant message to all non-cyclists that biking is “green” and “sustainable” and is somehow very different than every other mode?   Or is it to make belief that we now have an extra 4-feet of grass median?  I’m not arguing that biking is not more environmentally-friendly than driving or transit, because it is.  The benefits are aplenty.  But for those who aren’t supportive of sustainability and continue to drive their cars, the wrong impression might further polarize the “us versus them.”

  • Anonymous

    Lots of good routes in this plan but some really bad ones.

    DOT “in fact these streets were first considered based on the viability of potential westward extensions”
    Like 39 th street which is closed for the antiques street fair every Saturday and Sunday all year round, and 40 th street that is the exit of the Lincoln tunnel for thousand of NJ buses….

  • Guest

    What is a sharrow and why does the article assume all potential readers know such jargon?

  • Driver

    Because if you don’t know, it is assumed you know how to google sharrow.


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