Eyes on the Street: Lines Forming for Ninth Ave Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Hilda Cohen

Construction on Midtown protected bike lanes continues apace. Reader Hilda Cohen sends in the above shot from Ninth Avenue, where she says “contractors are out marking lines between 47th and 39th.”

“Traffic was already moving smoother,” writes Hilda.

Photo: Andrew Neidhardt

On Twitter, @andrewneidhardt posted this photo of Ninth at 38th.

Regular Streetsblog readers may know that I don’t ride a bike. While the pedestrian safety benefits are often overlooked, as one who walks the city I am much more likely to linger, shop and eat in places where the sidewalk is bounded by a bike lane. I doubt I’m the only one.

Exciting stuff. Keep ’em coming, folks.

  • CTP

    I made a comment on the 8th Ave post, and suspect that we’ll see quite a bit of pedestrian traffic on the 9th Ave bike lane too if it’s not barriered off from the sidewalk. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but go try riding there yourself during rush hour, and to a lesser extent during working hours and you’ll see it’s a fine home for pushing fabric carts, loitering/smoking and walking/talking on cell phones.

  • Jesse Greene

    Agreed. Every time they put in a new protected bike lane it becomes obvious that the sidewalks are too narrow. The avenues were widened to accomodate peak rush hour car traffic and the sidewalks were narrowed to barely accomodate the lowest volume of foot traffic they ever see. What we need is twice the sidewalk width and then a protected bike lane. But wherever will we get all that space?

  • Station44025

    I’ve been I two crashes in the protected lanes on first ave caused by peds walking into the lane without looking. Fortunately I didn’t hit either one, but still banged up my bike and self avoiding them. Hopefully people will get used to them, and bike share will help. Any visitor to Copenhagen learns *right away* not to walk in bike lanes.

  • Joe R.

    I’m really surprised these lanes aren’t fenced off from the sidewalk. That in my opinion is a major design flaw. In NYC it’s a given pedestrians will wander wherever there are no cars unless a barrier is put in place.

  • Miles Bader

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus Barriers like that are evil, and almost always a sign that something else is screwed up.

    If the sidewalk is too narrow, make it wider (taking out car lanes as necessary), but trying to fence pedestrians in like cattle is offensive and wrong.

  • Ian Turner

    Agreed with Miles on this. When pedestrians walk in the bike lane, ring your bell or buzz them, but building a fence is not the way to go.

  • Joe R.

    @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus I’m all in favor of widening sidewalks along the Manhattan avenues, but given the clout of the motoring minority, how well do you think that will go? Not only will we hear complaints about losing one lane to bikes, but now we’ll hear about losing yet another lane (or perhaps even two) for pedestrians. Bottom line though is if you want the bike lanes to work as intended, you either need to put up barriers or widen the sidewalks. I’d certainly prefer the latter but I doubt it would fly, even in the Bloomberg administration. If I rode in Manhattan, I would personally avoid the protected lanes as they currently exist because the frequent obstacles would prevent me from maintaining any kind of speed high enough to make cycling (as opposed to simply walking) worthwhile. Remember I can average about 4 mph walking in Manhattan along the avenues most times. Given the fairly short trips one usually takes in Manhattan, you’ll save very little time cycling over walking if you use the protected lanes (i.e. you’ll be lucky to average 6 mph between the obstacles and the f-ing traffic signals). On the other hand, riding in a traffic lane along the avenues, I have averaged 22 to 25 mph a few times back when I bike messengered for a short time in 1981. I think the signal timing is still largely the same. Do 20+ mph and you can ride for many blocks without hitting a light. Go 8 mph and you’re hitting a light every other block. The protected lanes as is pretty much constrain you to the latter thanks to the constant intrusion of pedestrians. I’m not blaming the pedestrians here, either. The sidewalks are just too narrow for the volume of pedestrian traffic but unfortunately the city prioritized things for the 1% in cars instead of the 99% on foot or bike.

  • Joe R.

    @7c177865bd107a919938355fe93de93a:disqus Ambient noise levels in Manhattan are so high bells are either not heard or just ignored. As for buzzing pedestrians, in my opinion people on foot can change direction too quickly to make that a safe practice. Obviously fences are a solution of last resort here, but I can see them as beneficial to pedestrians as well as cyclists in that they help keep bikes off the sidewalk.

    If I were engineering this I would have just elevated the bike lanes, probably over the sidewalks, and used the space currently reserved for the protected lane to make the sidewalks wider. Pedestrians get a wider sidewalk protected from the elements, while cyclists don’t have to be bothered at all with pedestrians, cars, or traffic lights for most of their ride. Obviously this solution costs more, but given the density of everything it probably saves more money in the long haul than it costs. I can see protected lanes working out OK in less dense parts of the outer boroughs on roads with fewer major intersections (and the lanes could actually pass UNDER these major intersections to avoid the lights), but in Manhattan there just isn’t enough room at street level for everyone.

  • Guest

    I’m a little more middle of the road than @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus on this one.

    I agree that full-on fencing is not the way to go, but other design features that reinforce the separation (benches with the back to the bike lane, strategically-placed bike racks, etc.) would make it less enticing for pedestrians because it would not be so seamless to step into the bike lane and back onto the sidewalk to quickly bypass slower pedestrians.

  • Joe R.

    @7d84473213f40db0d63aa6432f2eddae:disqus You could also have a short fence, say about 9 to 12 inches. This doesn’t pen people in like cattle, but at the same time it gives some demarcation as to where each user belongs.

  • Miles Bader

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus Basically then you’re going to have to slow down and be more careful in those areas where there are so many pedestrians intruding that they present a problem.

    On a bike this is not particularly hard, even if you like to keep up a good pace when possible—they stop quickly, are extremely maneuverable, and have very good situational awareness.

    If you”re going so fast that you have problems doing this, you’re probably going too fast, and will likely have more problems with other cyclists than you do with pedestrians (many cyclists, especially with an increasing number of very casual cyclists, just don’t go all that fast).

  • GG
  • Joe R.

    @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus Generally if there’s so many pedestrians intruding as to present a problem, I just avoid the area altogether. Same thing if there are lots of slower cyclists. Although it’s possible to fluctuate between a fast and slow pace as you say, it gets tedious for me very quickly. I just like get on the road and highball all the way (hence my idea of elevated bike highways). 🙂

    @88e0c64c631ee370f7e101a5822433b6:disqus Well, that’s probably the only thing Marty Markowitz and I agree on. I’m actually envisioning a bike network which is useful for both short, local trips where speed really doesn’t matter (as the protected lanes in Manhattan are), and rapid transit for those commuting to work, or just going fairly long distances. The latter is where the elevated bike lanes come in. With such infrastructure and a decent velomobile, even an average cyclist could rival subway travel times.

  • J

    I think @google-9ed3368a6439fa92efd353af4436290d:disqus is right. If you can’t slow down quick enough to maneuver around pedestrians, then you are going too fast. If you want to go faster, you can always take a lane, and I often see people do that on 1st Ave.

    I think it’s a bit premature to judge these things right now, especially since bikeshare is going to put of lot more bike in the bike lane to better keep them clear of pedestrians. Also, a lot of people walking on the crowded sidewalks are going to opt for bikeshare as well, putting less pressure on those sidewalks.

    As for separation, there is one, and it’s called the curb.

  • Joe R.

    @Uptowner13:disqus Yes, I do think part of the reason for the problems now is the fact that bike traffic on the protected lanes is rather sparse. It’s sort of the same reason why people will walk along a lightly-used railway, and then be taken by surprise when a train actually comes. Once these lanes see a decent volume of bike traffic, I agree pedestrian intrusions will largely be a nonissue. I hate to say this, but I’ll even admit to walking in the bike lane myself when the sidewalk gets crowded, but I will at least watch for bikes, and jump back on the sidewalk before they get anywhere close. Most pedestrians though won’t do this because not being cyclists, they just can’t put themselves in a cyclist’s place. Bike share will certainly help here by getting people on bikes who otherwise wouldn’t be.

  • CTP

    J, and you will get ticketed for riding outside the bike lane! Happened to a friend on 1st Ave., and to me on 5th Ave., both rightly so. As for your “separation/curb” comment, my point is that that is not working.
    I think there’s a lot of interesting discussion here, but I’m not sure how many of you have actually ridden in the midtown area, and are just speaking generally about other similar-looking bike lanes… I’m fine with all the others, never had a major problem on them, but midtown is like another world! It’s a few people in the bike lane during work hours, and it’s TONS of people walking in the bike lanes during rush hours. Bells, whistles, screaming are a waste of time.
    Somebody (unhelpfully) suggested not riding in troublesome areas, but that’s where I work, so it’s not really an option.
    Go try midtown for yourselves! 8th Ave from 35-40th St…

  • AlexB

    Very good news.  I love how these little extensions have become so normal and expected that no one at the Post even bothers to write about them.  Great to finally have a protected southbound lane, can’t wait until it connects with the Columbus bike lane!

  • J

    @fbff9201ec088496315edfd9f7f5a9fe:disqus I completely understand your point, and I’ve experienced it many many times. The pedestrians there do not pay attention to anything, and there are so many of them that they simply take over. However, I do think that bikeshare is going to bring a lot more bikers to the bike lane, which should help keep it more clear of pedestrians. Also, there are several locations where the City is already planning sidewalk extensions in that area.
    That said, the City really does need to expand sidewalks in Midtown. It’s pretty ridiculous right now.

  • I had to ghost-ride my daughter’s bike uptown on Eighth Avenue yesterday all the way through midtown at approximately 5 pm!  Definitely a lot of pedestrians in the “protected” bike path who couldn’t be bothered to move aside, and some who scolded me (polite term).  It was quite something!

  • Guest

    Perhaps the NYPD could be bothered to write a few tickets when the bike lanes first open to pedestrians who are truly eregious in violating the lane.  I don’t mean petty tickets for walking a few feet around a slow crowd when there are no cyclists, but the people who walk down the middle and are beligerant to polite cyclists overtaking them.

    Wait, what am I talking about?
    Why would the NYPD end its ongoing campaign to deprive cyclists of any rights they have as citizens and fellow human beings?

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • Anonymous

    Joe R and all, 
    when the bike lane was presented to the CB4  we all asked for wider sidewalks ( it is in the resolution) form 45 to 35 th streets . We warned the DOT that hundreds of pedestrians will use the bike lanes because the sidewalks are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians. 

    In response, DOT agreed to widen the sidewalk from 42nd to 43rd only  which is a victory in itself since I cannot remember the last time a sidewalk was expanded in midtown.  

    Fencing is definitely not the solution, since pedestrians immediately want to walk outside of the fence. The solution is for DOT to listen to the community and widen sidewalks where it is needed. 

    The fundamental problem is that DOT installs bike lanes instead of installing “complete streets” .

    Still this DOT is the best we ever had so you have to live with the annoying deficiencies of an otherwise very good partner.  

  • J

    @chekpeds:disqus You’re right that the city needs to expand the sidewalks in Midtown. However, I must disagree with you that these are merely bike lanes and not complete streets. The pedestrian islands that are being installed as part of this project will reduce pedestrian crossing distances by 19 feet, which is nearly 2 travel lanes less street to cross. If you don’t think that is a pedestrian improvement, I don’t know what is.

    Yes, we should push for more for pedestrians, and CB4 and Chekpeds have done amazing things, but I think your criticism is too strong in this case.

  • Anonymous


    I have been the strongest advocate of bike lanes as a benefit for pedestrians . However on this stretch of 8th avenue , I really think the lack of sidewalk modification is a major issue that will hurt bicycles,  as will the lack of bike lane at the Port Authority. We have also asked that all turn lanes be equipped with a split phase, which is a major safety improvement for pedestrians and it was declined.

    too strong is my middle name . so touché

  • Driver

    The reduction in crossing distance where there is a protected lane is only accomplished by pedestrians crossing the bike lane against the light.  Seems like a mixed message.  

  • J

    @SB_Driver:disqus It’s either that or people standing IN the bike lane, waiting to cross. Also, I think it’s treated as a yield situation for peds, where they cross the bike lane when it’s clear to do so (and sometimes when it’s not clear). IMO, it works pretty well, so far. Nothing’s perfect, though.

  • Andrew

    @7d84473213f40db0d63aa6432f2eddae:disqus If pedestrians already don’t have enough space, I’d suggest that cluttering the sidewalk with benches or bike racks might not be the optimal solution.

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus There already is “demarcation.” It’s more commonly known as a “curb.” Your proposed “short fence” would be more commonly known as a “tripping hazard.”

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