East River Greenway Links, Third Ave Bus Lane Upgrades Go Before CB 6

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Dotted blue lines show new shared lane markings, the dotted purple line indicates a new two-way bikeway, and the dotted green line shows improvements to the existing greenway route. Map: NYC DOT

From sudden collapses to botched repairs, the current condition of the East River Greenway is a far cry from the vision of a continuous path on Manhattan’s eastern shore. While filling in the greenway’s gaps could take at least a decade, there are some small, short-term gains on the table. On Monday, Community Board 6’s transportation committee backed a slate of bike improvement that aim to make accessing the greenway from Murray Hill a little bit easier.

The East River Greenway could get some upgrades in Murray Hill. Image: DOT
The East River Greenway could get some upgrades and better connections in Murray Hill. Image: DOT

The plan, first reported by DNAinfo, aims to improve access to Glick Park, a Citi Bike station on the greenway, and the 34th Street landing for the East River Ferry. After presenting the plan to the committee on May 5, DOT held a walk-through of the project with committee members on May 19.

The proposal [PDF] would improve the greenway surface and markings between 34th and 37th Streets, and add a short, two-way bikeway on the north side of 37th Street between the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue. It also adds shared lane markings on a pair of crosstown streets and converts one block of the First Avenue protected bike lane to a two-way path.

Southbound cyclists looking to avoid the chaotic Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance at Second Avenue and 37th Street would be able to turn right at 38th Street, which would have shared lane markings for one block until First Avenue. From there, they could turn right onto the two-way block of the First Avenue protected bike lane before making a left onto the new two-way path on 37th Street to connect to the greenway.

Shared lane markings would also be added to 35th Street from the greenway to Second Avenue to route westbound bicyclists. In addition, cyclists could connect with the existing crosstown bike routes on 39th and 40th Streets, which start at First Avenue.

The new protected bike lane on 37th Street will be between the Manhattan Place and Horizon condominium towers, which use the area for pick-up and drop-offs. The bikeway, which would cross garage entrances on the north side of the street, would stripe two travel lanes and a loading zone on the southern side of the street, but would remove a loading zone on the north side of 37th Street. The street surface is currently smooth brick pavers, but could be paved with asphalt in the future.

The resolution in support of the project is headed to CB 6’s general board meeting on June 11. Pending support from full board, DOT said it plans to implement the project this summer.

A new pedestrian island in the middle of Third Avenue at 57th Street would double as a bus stop. Image: DOT
A new pedestrian island in the middle of Third Avenue at 57th Street would double as a bus stop. Image: DOT

CB 6 is also considering a proposal from DOT to make adjustments to the Third Avenue bus lane [PDF]. The lane was established in 1982, and today it handles 59,000 daily riders on three local bus routes and more riders on 12 express routes. It would be converted from a curbside lane to an offset lane, creating room for a new loading zone on the east side of the avenue. In its presentation, DOT noted that the curbside bus lane is frequently blocked by parked trucks and that Third Avenue has more car lanes than needed to handle the amount of traffic on the street.

At 57th Street, DOT is proposing a new pedestrian island in the middle of Third Avenue to separate right-turning traffic from the bus lane and other northbound traffic. The island would extend south for most of the block between 56th and 57th, providing space for passengers to board buses stopped at 57th Street. The island also shortens distances for pedestrians crossing Third Avenue at 57th Street, where there were 39 non-fatal pedestrian injuries and one pedestrian fatality from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT.

If supported by CB 6, DOT says it will implement this project in September.

  • BBnet3000

    Second Avenue is a joke and putting it as an orange line on the map is a prank on anyone who ends up biking on the UES because of it. When is that gap going to be closed?

    Its nice to see the beginning of a protected crosstown link.

  • Clarke

    So the plan to avoid the meatgrinder is to go left from Second Ave onto 37th, then right on 1st Ave for a block, then right on 36th to rejoin Second Ave? How circuitous…all to avoid offering a 4-foot protected lane with a dedicated signal phase?

  • Citibiker

    Is this section of 2nd Ave really a “meatgrinder”? 2nd ave as a whole could use a protected lane but I don’t think this section is any worse the the rest of the street.

  • BBnet3000

    The spot on 2nd Ave with 2 left turn lanes for the tunnel is between 36th and 37th.

  • It’s unfortunate that overall support for a good idea like this pales in the face of the criticisms, but here’s my concerns that DON’T involve process (and the process here has been very bad, as it has shortchanged the public on meaningful inputs about things that aren’t related to “which side of 37th Street will the connector lane reside?”):

    * The community board identified that lighting appliances in the area (particularly under the FDR sections) are insufficient or deficient, but the DOT has no specific work plan or timetable for addressing this, and they still don’t know whose area of responsibility this element lies in, so it looks to stay broken.

    * Members of the community identified issues with the FDR underpass and movable barriers being placed in the way of entrances. Again, DOT is not aware of who introduced these barriers and why that might be happening.

    * This proposal does not include traffic calming, and treats speedy traffic off the FDR as a fact taken for granted, not a problem to resolve. They are afraid to take any action that might reduce auto capacity at any intersection in this area, but they’re willing to put cyclists on 35th Street on a sharrow lane with cars barreling behind them at bullet speed. (This is an outstanding complaint by the community, ignored)

    * Treating this plan as a reroute for southbound cyclists trying to avoid the QMT is a joke. It’s a half-mile detour to go three blocks, thus it will not be used as such. The detour could be considerably shorter if they would implement a direct southbound connector between 38th and 35th Street on First Avenue, where reclaimable space for such a facility is copious. This was directly proposed to the project manager and the suggestion was blown off.

    None of this is directed at CB6. They received the proposal and debated it sensibly, for the most part. But DOT’s only flexibility in the plan was siting for the 37th Street two-way connector lane; the lack of options on the other elements, and the lack of input from cyclists who would have urged safer designs, reflects a DOT mandate to stick to flimsy bicycle infrastructure rollouts and dodge most political controversy. I’m sorry, but I really don’t count what they’ve proposed for 35th Street here as a usable bike lane, and the rest of it is no good unless I’m trying to get to the ferry from the north. The majority of my southbound trips down to the protected lane starting at 34th Street will continue to directly cross the mouth of a tunnel that serves 80,000 cars a day.

  • Charles

    It’s much worse than that if you look at the plan. They want you to go all the way east to the FDR, not First Avenue.

  • Charles

    Cyclists are salmoning on First Avenue anyway because conditions are so bad on Second. Would it kill DOT to just make the whole First Avenue protected lane two-way? They’ve already done it for one block under the bridge. Of course, then they’d have to fill in the gap in the 50s.

  • Clarke

    I just realized this. No one will do this. Not even the most timid cyclist. The plan also make no mention, form what I can see, of what the yellow line on the FDR Service Rd is. Sharrows? On a highway exit ramp?

  • 2nd Avenue is a total clusterfuck at the tunneI and needs improvements, but I think you’re misconstruing the purpose of this project, which is to help people access the greenway. It’s not about creating a detour for people who intend to rejoin 2nd Avenue.

  • The rep from DOT suggested exactly that concept – that this is a usable workaround for the QMT section of the Second Ave bike lane – as one of the intentions for this segment. (To correct Clarke: you come eastbound on 38th, south on First, east again on 37th, under the FDR, onto a two-block asphalt greenway path, and then westbound on 3 blocks of 35th Street)

    It’s not their primary access goal, but he absolutely tried to sell that as a reason to implement this plan. The 35th Street sharrow lane is primary intended to enable this routing.

    But it’s like saying, “Well now you have an option to go south on Second Avenue by riding over to Broadway at 39th Street and riding back to Second Avenue on 30th Street.” Sure, that is an option for anyone, but…

  • Andrew

    Why not extend the bus stop median all the way back to 56th, which would allow pedestrians to reach the bus stop from either 56th or 57th?

  • Okay, yeah, that’s not a good selling point.

  • Steven Leslie

    Lots of bikers ride south on the sidewalk along the east side of First Avenue (past the site of the former power plant) just to avoid Second Avenue. There are few pedestrians that far east. Then one can join the Greenway at 37th Street. It’s illegal for adults to ride on sidewalks, of course, but a very understandable safety precaution.

    I believe workers recently strung up new LED lights under the FDR between 34th and 37th. I saw them working during my morning commutes, but haven’t been there in the evenings yet to see the impact.

  • TomG

    Yeah, might as well make first ave 2 way. It’s effectively 2 way anyway b/c it’s the only safe, continuous UES route (except for 50-58)

  • Guest

    Imagine if that center bus lane with medians extended the length of Third Avenue! I bet it would have a calming effect on what is now a speedway.

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