Eyes on the Street: First Avenue Protected Bike Lane Extends Uptown

First Avenue at 88th Street. Concrete pedestrian islands and tree pits have already been installed, and the bike lane has been striped.

Our most recent progress report on the protected bike lanes for East Harlem and the Upper East Side came last October, when crews installed the bike lane and pedestrian refuges on Second Avenue between 100th Street and 125th Street. Last year also saw the construction of a protected bike lane on First Avenue between the Queensboro Bridge and 72nd Street. Now, long-time reader Jacob sends in photos of the latest extension on First Avenue, which will stretch up to 125th Street.

This is a major safety upgrade that East Harlem residents and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito fought hard for the past few years. When complete, crossing distances will be shorter for people walking across the avenue, and biking will feel much safer than it did with the old buffered lane, which was frequently obstructed by double-parkers.

Elsewhere, adjustments to pedestrian and bike space on Broadway between Times Square and Herald Square are underway. When this stretch was first redesigned about five years ago, a protected bike lane was sandwiched between the sidewalk and a floating plaza space, which wasn’t the smoothest arrangement for either pedestrians or cyclists. The design tweaks, which got a thumbs up by Community Board 5 last fall, narrow Broadway from two general travel lanes to one, while replacing the plaza-adjacent protected bike lane with a buffered bike lane on the other side of the street. It also widens the plaza space to 20 feet and connects it to the sidewalk. While cyclists now ride between parked cars and motor vehicles, traffic is light and tends not to move at high speeds.

Broadway at 36th Street. The bike lane has been moved to the west side of the street to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists
  • Anonymous

    I think the new system where you have to bike on the street is still far better than the old one, where you biked between the sidewalk and plaza, because almost no pedestrian recognized that there was a bike lane in between.
    It would have been better still though if the lane would have been between the plaza and the road. Riding next to parked cars is always scary.

  • vnm

    This lane is awesome. I rode it last night, all the way up as far as it goes, and continued on to the Willis Avenue Bridge. There were lots of delivery cyclists using it, plenty of salmon, and some cyclists were still riding in the regular motor vehicle lanes. One Access-A-Ride driver parked in the bike lane to unload his wheelchair-using passenger. One delivery truck was parked in the bike lane unloading crates of beverages, completely blocking it. Hopefully all this misuse of the new configuration (on the part of drivers AND cyclists) will settle down once the lane has been in place for a while.

  • Daphna

    I am very pleased that First Avenue is finally getting the protected lane installed after so many years of delay. I hope Columbus Avenue will get its protected bike lane extensions installed soon!

    Correction: the protected lane on Second Avenue was not installed all the way from 125th Street down to 100th Street; rather it ends around 104th Street.

    Regarding the re-configuration of the Broadway bike lane (35th – 42nd Streets) from being a protected lane to being an in-the-door-zone lane that can be conveniently used for illegal double parking: that lane works during off-peak hours but during certain weekday hours it is completely filled with illegally double parked cars and is unusable (which was a completely predictable result of this plan). This plan is disappointing. It takes a 10′ wide vehicle lane and makes it 12′ wide for half of each block and 15′ wide for half of each block where there is no buffer on the bike lane. It widens the area for floating parking by 2′. It adds a 3′ buffer to the pedestrian area that was already well protected with large planters. All the extra feet of road width that were given to wider floating parking, a wider vehicle travel lane and to the buffer on the east side of the floating parking could have been used to easily fit a protected bike lane elsewhere on that stretch of street.

  • J

    So I think the worry was that any curb-side bike lane would be overrun by pedestrians, given the insanely high volumes there. The solution, then, is to deal with the curb usage issues, so that loading zones aren’t completely full and trucks don’t need to double park in the bike lane to drop off goods.

  • Anonymous

    re: Broadway.

    Wouldn’t riding in traffic still be better than before? The broadway bike lane was utterly unusable during the day time.

    And sure, it’s annoying, if the door zone bike lane is blocked with double parking . . . but Bway below 42nd gets such little vehicle traffic, I’d think just riding with traffic (when bikelane is blocked) would still be ok, especially given that cars expectations have lowered there so they won’t be honking like crazy if they’re behind you for a half a block?

    I think before, it was unreasonable to think that peds wouldn’t want in the bike lane given how it was right next to the ped area.

  • Daphna

    With the protected lane configuration before the bike lane was taken over by pedestrians and rendered unusable. Now with the unprotected lane, the bike lane is taken over by double parked cars and rendered unusable. Either way, cyclists must ride in the vehicle lane. This is a low traffic street so this is possible, but this is not robust bike infrastructure and is not going to help timid riders feel safe enough to start biking on the streets.

    The point is that there was enough left over street space once the lane was removed to put in a parking protected bike lane on the west side of the pedestrian area, or by the curb on the west side of the street.

  • Anonymous

    what about fifth avenue?! why is the center one left out?

  • Anonymous

    This is a low traffic street so this is possible, but this is not robust bike infrastructure and is not going to help timid riders feel safe enough to start biking on the streets.

    Don’t worry. After bike share, the powers that be will be clamoring for bike paths to “corral all the bikes.” And I think this path is still peaceful enough that many newbies will feel ok with it.

    Given that there are few protected south routes from Midtown (8th ave, 2nd ave (sorta)), we’d expect this route to be heavily trafficked by bike share users. So don’t worry, after a few months of blue bikes treating the vehicle lane as the bike lane . . . the powers that be will be begging for better bike lanes.

    Also, maybe they need to add more side street delivery parking only in these areas because while double-parking sucks, it does mask the legitimate need for delivery trucks to make deliveries.

  • Albert

    The total transformation of 5th & 6th Avenues to “complete streets” is one of Transportation Alternatives’ new campaigns. Check out “5th & 6th Forward” on TA’s website (2nd slide of 5 on the home page: transalt.org).

  • Sean Kelliher

    This is assuming that all motorists are considerate. Sadly, they are not. I see it daily where there are legal parking spots 20 – 50 feet away, but motorists still park in the bike lane because it’s closer to their destination. Sadly, some drivers just don’t care and the DOT really needs to design bike infrastructure with these people in mind. Without barriers, bike lanes will be parking lanes.

  • Ben Kintisch

    So great that the protected lanes on first are still marching uptown. Hooray!

  • J

    I agree and see the same obnoxious double parking all the time. I would much prefer a protected lane, but it gets tricky when there are so many people walking there. You really need a pretty constant stream of cyclists to keep it clear. Once Citi Bike gets a lot more people biking, then maybe a protected lane on the curb would work better.

  • guestnyc

    Anyone know the expected completion for the 1st Ave protected lane?

  • david

    Someone raised the point that perhaps the bike lane on first ave should have been placed on the right side of the street since most people in cars are turning on the right side of the street. Any science to this concept?

  • Joe R.

    I think you meant to say since most people in cars are turning on the left side of the street. Yes, some have mentioned it. The reason it wasn’t done that way is the right side is needed for buses. Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have any buses which have doors on the left side. It would have been much better to put the bike lane on the right side. Besides fewer turning conflicts, there are stretches where there are no cross streets intersecting on the right side, and hence no need for traffic signals in those parts to apply to the protected bike lane (because bikes wouldn’t be conflicting with motor traffic). You might just need a flashing yellow “yield to peds” as is done on PPW.

  • Eddie

    I’ve given up trying to ride the 1st Ave bike lane, and now take 3rd Ave instead. There are too many pedestrians treating the bike lane as an extended sidewalk, delivery cyclists going against traffic, and cars not yielding when they make a left turn in front of you. The 9th Ave lane works much better, with separate signals for bikes and turning cars, but traffic volume on 1st wouldn’t allow that.

  • Clarke

    Any word on when lane will extend up from 49th, where it turns into the Uphill Sharrowway of Death?

  • TomG

    Love the First Ave protected bike lane. Now, if we could only get one on Second Ave. I see bike lanes on the Upper West Side that are jury rigged to deal with construction. Why can’t we do the same with the Second Avenue subway construction?

  • TomG

    Ugh, yes, with the sharrows disappearing into a double left turn lane on 57th that makes you cross 2 lanes to shuffle into oncoming traffic that’s all shifting lanes at the same time. It’s like a meat grinder. Sometimes I just get off and walk to 60th Street.

  • Albert

    Protected lanes are planned for the entire length of 2nd Avenue up to 125th Street once subway construction is finished. In the meantime, protected lanes on Second Avenue do exist south of 34th Street.

  • guestnyc

    I wish the city would paint the protected bike path ahead of the curbs.

    That way you can have a protected bike path up and running in a much shorter time. The parked cars create most of the buffer anyway, the curbs can be added shortly after.

  • SecondAveBiker

    Any news on when protected bike lanes on second avenue between 100th and 34th are coming?

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