After a unanimous vote of support from Community Board 5, a request for DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan got another boost from the CB 4 transportation committee last Wednesday. After the committee’s unanimous 6-0 vote, a DOT representative said the agency intends to begin studying the potential redesign of the avenues this fall.
“We don’t have any information that we can share with the community board right now, because we are looking at the corridor,” said DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon. “We hope to do some data collection in the late fall.”
While most of Fifth and Sixth Avenues are within the boundaries of Community Board 5, which had already supported the request, advocates are looking for backing from community boards 2 and 4, along the southern sections of the avenues. “You have a constituency who supports making Fifth and Sixth Avenues into public spaces that are safe, efficient, pleasant, and basically serve people better,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim, before presenting a petition signed by more than 10,400 people and letters of support from 118 businesses along the avenues.
The request now heads to CB 4’s full board on May 7. Advocates hope to secure support from CB 2 soon, as well.
Also on Wednesday, DOT presented plans to adjust stop lights along Ninth Avenue. DOT planner Greg Haas said the agency was considering adding a dedicated left-turn signal for drivers going from 43rd Street to Ninth Avenue. While through traffic would keep a green light, the turn signal would be red for the first fifteen seconds, giving pedestrians a head start, before becoming a flashing yellow signal indicating that drivers should proceed with caution.
Some committee members were concerned that drivers would be confused by a flashing yellow arrow. While the exact details of the light at 43rd and Ninth remain to be ironed out, Haas said that, in other locations with similar conditions, DOT will be looking to add flashing yellow arrows instead of the dedicated green arrows it has installed elsewhere in Midtown and nearby areas. Haas noted that when there is a green arrow, many pedestrians continue to cross while some drivers behave more aggressively. (Last year, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was killed in an Upper East Side crosswalk by a truck driver with a dedicated green arrow.)
Finally, the committee received a suggestion from the 10th Precinct to request rumble strips from DOT for cyclists in the Eighth and Ninth Avenue protected bike lanes near senior housing. The precinct has been highly responsive to complaints from seniors about cyclists, even as its enforcement of serious moving violations has fallen this year. The committee sought clarification on what a bike rumble strip might look like and wanted to test them at limited locations before requesting a widespread rollout, but did not have serious opposition to the precinct’s request.