Upper Manhattan Poised to Get Its First Protected Bike Lane

Image: NYC DOT
Image: NYC DOT

DOT will install Upper Manhattan’s first protected bike lane this summer, pending an endorsement from Community Board 12.

The parking-protected lane would run north-south on Fort George Hill, which is one-way southbound for drivers, between Fairview Avenue and Dyckman Street/Nagle Avenue. Its installation would be part of a slate of new bike facilities and refurbishments planned for Washington Heights and Inwood [PDF], which DOT initially revealed last spring. DNAinfo reports that DOT brought the plans back before the CB 12 transportation committee on Monday.

In addition, DOT would add crosstown bike lanes to W. 177th Street between Haven Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, and W. 180th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Amsterdam.

On Amsterdam, DOT plans to implement a four-to-three-lane road diet and add painted bike lanes from W. 162nd Street to W. 173rd Street and W. 186th Street to W. 190th Street.

Last year, DOT said the Amsterdam bike lanes may be interrupted where there are “prohibitively high traffic volumes.” The updated plan proposes sharrows on Amsterdam between W. 173rd Street and W. 186th Street — past the George Washington Bridge — and north of W. 190th Street until Amsterdam becomes Fort George Avenue. Lanes would pick up on Fort George Avenue as it curves south, ending at W. 193rd Street. (DNAinfo has mapped the proposed changes.)

“Officials said the presentation Monday represents just the first phase of implementation, with plans for more lanes to be revealed in the fall,” DNAinfo reports.

“We got a half-mile of protected lanes. It’s a start.” said Brad Conover of Bike Upper Manhattan. “We’re happy.”

“These are substantial transitional improvements,” added Kimberly Kinchen, who runs the NYC Bike Train, a social bike communing organization. “These are a step in the right direction, but I do hope we can see more protected lanes uptown.”

Work could be completed in or around July if CB 12 gives the okay.

  • Jeff

    So we have an excessively-wide parking lane, a ridiculously-excessively-wide parking/moving lane combo, and a comically-narrow bike lane? Would it really hurt motorists’ feelings that much if the bike lane were made wide enough to be usable?

  • BBnet3000

    [Last year, DOT said the Amsterdam bike lanes may be interrupted where there are “prohibitively high traffic volumes.”]

    Ah, so we get the ol’ “sharrows at exactly the most critical location”.

    This is something that we really havent addressed yet in New York, and its a huge problem.

  • J

    Sure, a half-mile of protected lanes, but where? On one of the longest, steepest, hills in the entire city. This is one of the most egregious instances of poorly located infrastructure; infrastructure that is clearly not intended to help people get around the city by bicycle in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, the direct routes that would be most beneficial get sharrows because of “prohibitively high traffic volumes”. high volume locations are precisely where you need the MOST intense bicycle infrastructure. This project, however, is token bike infrastructure, and it needs to be called out as such.

    A view of the location:
    http://goo.gl/maps/DQgwv

  • J

    Seriously. 8th Ave next to Port Authority, 1st Ave, btw 49th & 57th, 9th Ave at 14th St, Columbus Ave at 66th St. Broadway/7th Ave between 45th & 42nd. The worst places to bike have the worst gaps in bike infrastructure.

  • Eddie

    Two-way segregated lanes only make sense on flat roads. It’s just crazy to have someone descending at 25 mph sharing a narrow lane with someone climbing at 5 mph.

  • Reader

    It’s a chicken and egg problem and the farmers are afraid of disturbing the hen house.

    There are prohibitively high car traffic volumes, so we can’t have separated bike infrastructure. But until we have separated bike infrastructure we won’t make a dent in car traffic volumes.

    So, sharrows.

  • UES

    Not to mention Second Ave above 34th! No safe way to go south on the UES.

  • guest

    Exactly. This is especially bad because we don’t have a continuous route by the river, unlike the west side, where people can use it as a safer alternative. It will be another 20-30 years before the UN moves and the East River waterfront has a continuous bike lane.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I agree with other commenters that it is frustrating to see these subpar treatments trotted out.

    But there is so little bike infrastructure uptown that this is a win. And one that Brad Conover and BikeUp, and people involved in the livable streets group that predates Bike Upper Manhattan put a lot of work in to make happen. Without them, there would be exactly zero improvements proposed right now, and there would not be a longer list of asks from CB12 of DOT that Bike Upper Manhattan is responsible for putting on the table.

    I pointed out in the DNA info article comments that community members in attendance were in favor of the bike lanes 15 to 1. Thanks to the rollout of Citi Bike and the extension of the network in central areas of the city, bike infrastructure is increasingly seen as an amenity that neighborhoods outside that core *want*. So as laughable and sad as the sharrows are, please remember that it matters that most of the people at the meeting were in favor of the lanes by a significant majority. And even though the same CB12 transpo member still grubs about losing a few parking spaces, increasingly there is acceptance and, in the case of Citi Bike, demand. It is a start, and it’s not a terrible one by any means.

  • 8 feet? That has to be a joke. Take that 13 foot parking lane and make it a standard 9, and now your two way bike lane is a reasonable 12 feet.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Amsterdam Avenue should have this configuration instead of the sharrows at the most congested areas:

    And this is feasible between W 173rd to the W 180s on the east side of Amsterdam Avenue, since it is bounded by Highbridge Park. Granted, sharrows are better than nothing at all, but that is hardly adequate for such a busy vehicular junction such as W 181 and Amsterdam.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96
  • Andrew

    Yes.

  • Sean Kelliher

    When NYC’s DOT wins the prize for largest low-quality bicycle network in North America, I wonder what the trophy will look like?

    In the meantime, when Jon Orcutt visits maimed residents in the hospital or grieving families after a fatality has occurred he can explain how he wishes there was something that could have been done to prevent this, but “prohibitively high traffic volumes” just got in the way. Then maybe Seth Solomonow can jump in with the agency’s “safety is our highest priority” chestnut. I’m sure this will all provide some comfort in a time of need.

  • NYCkid

    They say they are going to put a protected bike lane on 2nd ave once the subway construction is completed

  • Rabi

    I’m not an expert on lane width, but is 36′ for a moving/angled parking lane standard? That seems insane.

  • Daniel

    I wouldn’t call these lanes unusable. They aren’t wide enough to allow easy passing and they could be, but I’m pretty sure they will make cycling there more fun and less stressful for a lot of people.

  • Daniel

    It’s insane when you are riding along a bicycle lane that is interrupted exactly where you need it most. But I think the problem is worse than that. The DOT knows, or should know, that the sidewalks on Canal St are way to narrow to accommodate the foot traffic on them, yet the problem is continually overlooked. They could go out there tomorrow and eliminate parking on Canal, replace the parking with painted sidewalk and place flexible barriers between the pedestrian traffic and the motor vehicles. It’s insane to me that we treat parking as a sacred cow in this city. When word got out on the 150 spot parking lot being built on top of Breeze Hill in Prospect Park my neighborhood mailing list had an avalanche of people who were aghast and just one curmudgeon who wanted a giant parking lot and road widening in the park.

  • Jonathan

    I disagree. The Fort George Hill lane is a great concept.

    First of all, there are only three ways today to legally get downhill from the top of the hill on the East side of Broadway; West 187th down to Broadway from St Nicholas, Fairview Ave down to Broadway from St Nick & W 193, and the path through Highbridge Park from W 190 and Amsterdam down to 10th Ave & Dyckman.

    The park path is not lit, sparsely traveled, and appears like a good place to get mugged. W 187th is six blocks south of the northern end of St Nicholas, so it’s going backward to go forwards. Fairview is poorly designed, with lots of curves and speedy auto traffic.

    Whereas, Fort George Hill heads pretty directly north-south and is already a popular (if not legal) route downhill.

    As for the uphill trek, when you are biking slowly uphill is when you want a protected lane to avoid having speeding cars coming up fast behind you.

  • Jonathan

    Wow, thanks for such warm support of our neighborhood advocacy. Let me know when there’s a meeting to discuss infrastructure improvements in your neighborhood, where you start and end each trip, so I can come and argue that DOT should rather pay attention to these midtown locations.

  • Charles

    Eh, it’s not ideal, but it’s not crazy. The ramps up to the East River’s tall bridges have the same setup.

  • J

    Fair enough for the downhill part of the route. I doubt the uphill section will get much use, though, without a bike escalator thingy.

  • Jonathan R

    There are plenty of people on bikes already using this route. Adding a protected bike lane will only make it more appealing, especially as an alternative to using Broadway.

  • J

    My point was not to disparage your advocacy, but to point out some long term issues that DOT continues to neglect, which is bicycle facilities that have gaps in the places that most need protected infrastructure. In this case, Amsterdam between 173 & 186 needs protection the most, but gets sharrows. If anything, Im pushing DOT to go further than what they’ve proposed for the neighborhood.

    It’s a big big win, but its part of an overall tend of only putting high quality bicycle connections in the places where traffic and parking are only impacted slightly. The result is a disjointed bicycle network that isn’t very effective at getting many people to bike.

    I get that this is the first step, but im already looking for more. Bravo for the win! Let’s take it to the next step.

  • Jonathan

    Yes, I too am all for next step. The same stretch of Amsterdam is the interchange between the East Coast’s busiest stretch of highway and Manhattan’s major north-south truck route, viz:

    Amsterdam x 175, offramp from I-95 eastbound.

    Amsterdam x 178, on- and offramps to the Harlem River Drive downtown (and shortcut downtown to 155th St and the Macombs Dam Bridge).

    Amsterdam x 180, onramp to I-95 westbound

    Amsterdam x 181, intersection with the Washington Bridge (functionally onramp to I-95 eastbound and offramp from I-95 westbound).

    I humbly suggest that any realistic next step would have to involve some kind of reduction in motor vehicle volumes along any of these routes.

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