TA Kicks Off Campaign for Safer Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Manhattan’s Fifth and Sixth Avenues are two of the busiest bicycle routes in the city, even without protected bike infrastructure to make cycling appealing to a broader range of New Yorkers. They are also major pedestrian thoroughfares in need of safety upgrades. While DOT’s “6½ Avenue” project can help relieve some of the crowding, both avenues devote wide expanses to motor traffic and could use the kind of overhaul that the city has used to improve conditions for walking and biking on other major streets.

The existing Sixth Avenue bike lane is narrow and subject to frequent incursions. Photo: ##http://cityphile.com/photo/car-parked-in-sixth-avenue-bike-lane/##Will Sherman##

Now advocates and volunteers are mobilizing for changes: Last week, Transportation Alternatives kicked off a push for protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues. TA and its volunteers are still in the early stages of outreach to build public support for the concept, but this is a major campaign that’s already generating attention from the local press.

Sixth Avenue is the most-biked street in New York, with Fifth Avenue ranking as the busiest southbound avenue in Midtown, according to DOT counts cited by TA following last week’s meeting. Protected bike lanes on Fifth and Sixth Avenues would fill in the center of Midtown with safer routes, providing safer options between the existing north-south pairs of protected lanes on the East and West Sides (First and Second Avenues, and Eighth and Ninth Avenues).

Miller Nuttle, a bicycle advocate at TA, described the meeting as “a brainstorming session about how to organize.” While the campaign does not have specific prescriptions for the avenues, Nuttle pointed to the safety interventions DOT has implemented on other major streets, such as protected bike lanes. Other changes the campaign might investigate include sidewalk widening or improvements to the dedicated bus lane on Fifth Avenue. The campaign has not yet focused on a specific stretch of the avenues.

“We’ll be reaching out over the next several months,” Nuttle said, “responding to the demands for safer and more efficient streets.” Any street safety changes on Fifth and Sixth Avenues will involve working with a broad range of partners, including businesses, commuters and Community Board 5.

In October 2011, the CB 5 transportation committee deadlocked over a proposal by committee member Eric Stern to explore the possibility of extending the Sixth Avenue bike lane — currently a narrow, painted lane — from Bryant Park to 59th Street. At the time, the chair of the transportation committee, Michael Keane, said that the proposal “just doesn’t make sense.” The committee now has a new chair, Raju Mann, and the board as a whole voted 38 to 0 in April for painted crosstown bike lanes on 29th and 30th Streets.

TA’s campaign kickoff was picked up by DNAinfo’s Mary Johnson, who went on Fox 5 to speak with anchor Greg Kelly (Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s son) about the meeting before it was held. True to form, Kelly injected his own doubts about Midtown bike lanes into the segment – “too much commercial traffic, too much stuff,” he said – and cast the work of organizing for safer streets in a cynical light. “How much was it their lobbying and how much was it Janette Sadik-Khan and this mayor?” Kelly asked Johnson. He glanced at his watch. “They have a year-and-a-half left.”

For the record, last week’s meeting attracted about 40 attendees, who have broken into three working groups. The groups are focused on grassroots organizing, such as letter writing or petitioning; coalition building, including meeting with business and resident groups; and campaign materials and media outreach.

Volunteer Steve Vaccaro is helping to coordinate the grassroots organizing working group. “Pedestrians are the key to this campaign,” he said, while also noting the importance of business interests. “There’s a lot of people who will be involved in the long haul. This won’t happen overnight.” Working group meetings and events, which will be hosted over the next several months, are posted on BikeNYC.org. Late this year or in early 2013, the campaign will reconvene and begin its next phase.

  • They screwed up so many facts here that it’s a joke. Fifth and Sixth Avenues already have bike lanes on them for long stretches!

    I don’t blame Mary, she covers her beat well, but she got invited on TV and they simply bullied her into compliance of their murderous worldview by way of leading questions. Let’s just kill everyone who ever inconvenienced Greg Kelly, ok? He’s so deeply rude and distasteful as a person.

  • It is vitally important that people who live and work on this route “own” a change but at the same time a much larger group – many of whom will not participate in this process – will use it every day and simply need infra which is predictable and consistent with the best stuff so far implemented in the city.

    On a technical note, however, one of these routes would be great for a pilot for proper Dutch-style bike-dedicated signalization at the main cross streets, such as 14th, 23rd, 34th and so on.

  • fj

    any location where someone is killed by a car should be made a car-free zone for at least a year.

  • KillMoto

    May Greg Kelly hit every red light and be stuck in every traffic jam until the day he dies. 

    fj – Awesome, simply awesome. 

    There’s a time and a place for Critical Mass.  Time: The last Friday of every month @ 6pm.  Place: 5th and 6th venues.

  • The city should take away at least 1 car lane to expand the sidewalks and put in a protected bike lane. Private cars take up too much space in this city. 

  • Standingupforgooddrivers

    You staycationers simply don’t get it. Trucks and cars need to get around midtown. They need to get around the city, they need to get around the outer boroughs. People have to work even if you may choose to not. Some people walk, some people take mass transit (and more would if it wasn’t so shitty), some bike and many take an automobile. What the mayor and DOT commissioner have done to the streets is nothing short of absurd. You really think closing off Broadway and taking away car lanes in an ever growing city for maybe 10 people per day that use the bike lanes is a reasonable solution? Taking away a car lane is not a solution it will be a major problem. The more street space you take away from drivers the more havoc you cause. Automobiles aren’t just used for recreational driving. You have to stop taking away car lanes. You need to understand that cars and trucks are not going anywhere. You can not blame every driver for every accident. The mayor and the bike nut do not care because after the illegally brought third term is completed the emperor will be well on his way to Bermuda as one of the top 5 billionaires in the country if not the world and Khan will be extremely wealthy laughing all the way to the bank. You are so blinded by your love for bicycles and hatred for automobiles that you stubbornly refuse to see the chaos all these changes are causing to the population and to the environment.

  • Anonymous

    The latest troll comment is freaking hilarious. 

    Someone should teach him a little about traffic management. 

    Here’s rule #1.  Increasing road capacity does NOT alleviate congestion.  It only invites more cars which lead to the same amount of congestion if not more. 

    I don’t have time to debunk the rest of the unhinged rant.  Though, please note, the condescension dripping through his comments: 

    You staycationers simply don’t get it.

    Yah, go fuck yourself.  This isn’t the NYPost.  Please go back there. 

  • Station44025

    Oh, But Jarek, what about what bikes are doing to THE ENVIRONMENT??!?!?!???!?

    That has to be my personal favorite go-to argument against doing anything to improve anything.

  • Joe R.

    @912957c6b7a21e0da685d911cba9b751:disqus Please explain to me why anyone NEEDS to drive a private car in Manhattan when the alternatives are both faster and less expensive? Heck, you can usually WALK faster than you can drive in Manhattan so why even bother? This isn’t even getting to the fact that you could make Manhattan 20% expressways and 80% parking lots (Robert Moses seriously proposed something like this), and thanks to induced demand the congestion would be just as bad as it is now.

    In my opinion Bloomberg and JSK didn’t go far enough. Had I been in charge, I would have banned both private and for hire passenger cars (i.e. taxis) from Manhattan entirely, widened the sidewalks, and made the roads for bikes, buses, delivery trucks, and emergency vehicles only. Passenger cars move less than 10% of those traveling in Manhattan, yet they claim 90% of the street space. This is neither a democratic nor a sensible use of valuable real estate. Nobody HAS to drive in a place like Manhattan. Rather, it’s a choice, and an awful, selfish, completely illogical choice at that given that you save neither time nor money, to take a car into Manhattan.

  • Anonymous

    @912957c6b7a21e0da685d911cba9b751:disqus  Please point to places in the city where *actual* vehicle lanes have been lost solely to bike lanes. Not imaginary lanes that facilitated double parking and quite illegal and dangerous motor vehicle traffic, but recognized lanes. Anywhere. To bikes only. Show us.

  • Anonymous

    @912957c6b7a21e0da685d911cba9b751:disqus Thought this deserved a separate post:

    You are so blinded by your love for bicycles and hatred for automobiles
    that you stubbornly refuse to see the chaos all these changes are
    causing to the population and to the environment.

    The chaos shown by the declining rates of injury and death? The chaos by comparison to what Golden Age?  2005 or something? Back when men were men and women knitted? When cyclists and pedestrians took their deaths and injuries the way they’re supposed, dammit: by suffering quietly, away from any kind of media exposure?

  • Anonymous

    @912957c6b7a21e0da685d911cba9b751:disqus Thought this deserved a separate post:

    You are so blinded by your love for bicycles and hatred for automobiles
    that you stubbornly refuse to see the chaos all these changes are
    causing to the population and to the environment.

    The chaos shown by the declining rates of injury and death? The chaos by comparison to what Golden Age?  2005 or something? Back when men were men and women knitted? When cyclists and pedestrians took their deaths and injuries the way they’re supposed, dammit: by suffering quietly, away from any kind of media exposure?

  • Anonymous

    @912957c6b7a21e0da685d911cba9b751:disqus Thought this deserved a separate post:

    You are so blinded by your love for bicycles and hatred for automobiles
    that you stubbornly refuse to see the chaos all these changes are
    causing to the population and to the environment.

    The chaos shown by the declining rates of injury and death? The chaos by comparison to what Golden Age?  2005 or something? Back when men were men and women knitted? When cyclists and pedestrians took their deaths and injuries the way they’re supposed, dammit: by suffering quietly, away from any kind of media exposure?

  • Ben Kintisch

    To our friend Standing up:
    If you want traffic to move faster for you and fellow car drivers, buy your neighbor a bike. Buy all your neighbors bikes. Or a metrocard.

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