One City, By Bike: Citi Bike Beyond the Central Business District

This is part two of a five-part series by former NYC DOT policy director Jon Orcutt about the de Blasio administration’s opportunities to expand and improve cycling in New York. Read part one here.

citi_bike_9th_ave

The pending expansion of Citi Bike to at least 12,000 bikes is an obvious reference point for further bike network development (if the city and other parties can show the urgency and leadership to close the deal — they have been said to be “close” since June).

The initial Citi Bike launch provided an impetus for substantial cycling improvements in Midtown during 2012 and 2013, as well as projects that anticipated expansion of the bike-share system, like the two-way bike lane on the 72nd Street route across Central Park. These plans sailed through their respective community boards because the bike-share/bike lane dynamic seemed so obvious it went virtually undebated.

Citi Bike would not have been adopted so abruptly by so many New Yorkers without extensive development of the bike lane network within the Manhattan central business district and nearby parts of Brooklyn from 2007 to 2012.  A recent observational study of Manhattan cyclists concluded that “bike-share riders display a greater tendency to ride on more ‘secure’ street or avenue environments than their general cycling counterparts” (Bike Lanes + Bike Share Program = Bike Safety, Hunter College Sociology and Planning Departments, 2013).

citi_bike_proximity

The new Citi Bike plan will extend the station network north to mid-Harlem in the vicinity of 140th Street, encompassing the entire Upper East Side and Upper West Side as well, and expand both south into Brooklyn and north from the Williamsburg Bridge to the North Side of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City, and Astoria.

While some of these areas, mainly in Brooklyn, already enjoy dense parts of the cycling network, the coming of Citi Bike should spur creation of more protected bike lane capacity on the Upper East and West Sides. In particular, the city should implement a protected lane between 60th and 100th Streets on Second Avenue as soon as subway construction wraps up, connect the Columbus Avenue lane to Ninth Avenue, and develop northbound protected routes on the Upper West Side. Additional east/west bike capacity could be linked to the cross-park routes like 72nd and 102nd Streets, likely to be heavily used by Citi Bike riders.

In Harlem, the bike network is missing links between the West Side path and the 125th Street area, and it lacks east-west routes north of 120th Street. St. Nicholas Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard provide good spines for developing denser networks, though the Columbia University area is disconnected from these topographically and thus far represents a void in the bike network.

astoria_bike_map
Astoria lacks east/west bike connections north of 34th Avenue. Map: NYC DOT

Long Island City’s bike network is still developing, and Citi Bike expansion will push it to mature. Astoria, meanwhile, needs east/west bike routes north of 34th Avenue, especially to help with Citi Bike access to and from N/Q subway stations and the waterfront, Steinway Street and blocks to the east. Another north/south set of routes east of Steinway would improve bike circulation and routing throughout the district.

A capacity problem is already developing on the Queensboro Bridge bike and pedestrian path — the bridge’s north outer roadway. Unlike the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, which clearly separate people on foot from people on bikes, the increasingly busy Queensboro path is shared between pedestrians and cyclists who have to use a too-narrow two-way bike path. West-bound cyclists continually pass one another because of the long climb from Queens Plaza, making it an even tighter fit. Citi Bike, bike network expansion, and demographic change in western Queens will exacerbate the problem and lead to more collisions. The answer is to convert the bridge’s south outer roadway, which has served as the bike/foot path in the past, to non-motorized use so walkers and cyclists get a full lane each.

Coming up in part three tomorrow: A look at how the areas of New York most ripe for bike network development overlap with Bill de Blasio’s campaign themes.

  • Richard Garey

    The fact that the Bronx is not included in this discussion is beyond disappointing. Why is so much DOT human capital being exerted toward a program that Bronxites do not have the privilege to be part of? I live and work in the Bronx and my tax dollars are just fluttering away to improve the quality of life in other boroughs.

  • anon

    “…the city should implement a protected lane between 60th and 100th Streets on Second Avenue as soon as subway construction wraps up…”

    This is a major one (actually, up to 103rd), but has the city ever expressed any interest in extending the protected lane onto this stretch? I just don’t believe they will ever do it, and not just because subway construction is crawling. I fear I’ll be carrying my bike down the steps in Bobby Wagner Park until the day I die.

  • J

    The city has been planning to do this for years (since at least 2011):
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/201109_1st_2nd_aves_bicycle_paths_cb8.pdf (see slide 8)

  • J

    Jon Orcutt did some great stuff while at DOT. However, he no longer works for the city and is writing for a rabidly pro-bike publication, and yet this is his vision for the future of NYC bike infrastructure??? A few already-planned protected lanes in the UES and UWS and some “cycling improvements” in an expanded bike share zone? Seriously? That’s the vision!?! The “cycling improvements” in Midtown are a joke. (http://goo.gl/maps/tvWeX) I love many of the improvements that Orcutt was able to achieve in his tenure, but NYC needs to have more vision than this.

    We need NETWORKS of protected lanes, not networks of sharrows and glorified double-parking lanes. We need high quality (8-80) bike infrastructure in all 5 boroughs, not just in inner Manhattan. We need to embrace other tools, like neighborhood greenways and commercial greenways to link areas where there is not enough space to create protected lanes. And we need a VISION for how it all comes together so that people can see how each project is part of a larger plan that benefits everyone.

  • It’s a five-part series. This is part two.

  • Alison

    The caption on the photo should read “north of 34th Ave”, not 34th St. (We’re opposite of Manhattan out here, Aves go E-W, Streets go N-S 🙂

    Also, if anyone is reading, even though they don’t have bike paths, both 21st Ave and 31st Ave are nice to ride E-W in Astoria. Stay away from Aves with subway stops, they’re busy and congested and annoying.

  • My mistake, thanks for catching

  • Reader

    We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today without Jon Orcutt. So perhaps the biggest problem with today’s DOT is that it doesn’t have someone like Jon Orcutt on its payroll.

    Looking forward to the rest.

  • mrtuffguy

    I agree that there should be safe streets in all five boroughs yet I suspect that Bronx receives much more city revenue than it contributes.

  • carma

    im still waiting on citibike in queens. but i wouldnt hold my breath for it. especially needed in eastern queens. even if it does not connect to the rest of the network in brooklyn or manhattan.

  • Parts three and four have a lot of ideas for the Bronx bike network.

    As for Citi Bike, this expansion will make it more usable for Bronx residents who do travel between destinations inside the zone (I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood with no Citi Bike and this will be the case for me). And one has to assume that the 12,000-bike network is one phase on the way to an even larger system.

  • J

    Fair enough. Let’s hope the rest are more inspirational than this, though, cause I expected more from Orcutt.

  • Joe R.

    Totally agree. One of the biggest issues out here in eastern Queens working against utility cycling is lack of safe bike parking. Citibike makes that moot, even if it may mean I can’t bike door-to-door. That’s a tradeoff I’m more than willing to make in exchange for avoiding the hassle of chaining up my bike, then worrying the entire time if it’ll still be there with all parts attached when I’m done.

  • I can’t speak for Jon, but I don’t think what he’s attempting to do here is outline a 10- or 15-year vision for the bike network. He’s outlining some of the major current deficiencies in the bike network with an eye toward who’s in office right now and how they can direct their bike policy energy in the next 2-3 years.

    Having read the whole thing, I think it works really well as a description of problems and opportunities (esp parts 3 and 4), even if it doesn’t contain all my hopes and dreams for bikeable streets in NYC.

  • BBnet3000

    I’m just as concerned about 30th-60th, which I really think is never coming.

  • JK

    Who was the genius who named the roads in Astoria? What kind of a place has an intersection of 30th Road and 30th Street, and a block away 30th Drive and 30th Street etc etc? Was it designed to confuse invading barbarians, er hipsters?

  • J

    Sure, I just think that in 3 years, an administration can (and should) do much more than build sharrows and bike-lanes that are clogged with double-parked cars in the CitiBike coverage area, which is mostly what Orcutt appears to call for, (along with some already-planned protected lanes).

  • lop

    PlaNYC offers something of a future vision for the city.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/downloads/pdf/publications/planyc_2011_planyc_full_report.pdf

    Annual progress report for 2014.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/downloads/pdf/publications/140422_PlaNYCP-Report_FINAL_Web.pdf

    Very little specifics about bikes though just generalities like ‘double bike commuting’, and often thrown in with park/public space, not as transportation.

  • Kevin Love

    And the city will continue to be planning to do this for many, many years to come.

    More seriously, what are we to make of “Anticipated 2014-2015”? As if the city has no control over it.

  • AnoNYC

    I just want to add that biking in the Bronx is way up.

    It’s definitely gone mainstream out here.

    Even simple fixes like repainted lane lines would go a long way. Traffic calming needs to be a priority up here.

    Real bike infrastructure like parking protected lanes makes so much sense in so many places (Grand Concourse, Southern Blvd, University Ave, E 163rd, etc).

  • Guest

    Here’s a typical midtown cycling improvement in action. That’s a “sharrow” partially underneath the wheels of that massive truck. How do you get to Vision Zero and a greater than 1% bicycle modal share with infrastructure like this? You don’t.

    Jon Orcutt is a smart guy. I’m sure he realizes this. What I’m curious to know and hope he addresses in a future article is what are the politics at DOT that make our city’s bike network overall quality so appallingly bad? What happens in conference rooms and behind closed doors that makes us end up with junk like this?

  • Anon

    Yeah, well, Staten Island is not mentioned either and there is a ton of growing interest in cycling there (with community support) despite still-meager infrastructure. I’m sure Jon is a nice guy and good at what he does but it always killed me when he/JSK gave a golden ticket ro the brain-dead BP Molinaro to remove bike lanes and granted the SI Ferry permission and funding to perform mandatory bomb screenings on cyclists. Give me someone with a legit 5-boro vision for a cycling infrastructure network and they’ll have my support.

  • Richard Garey

    It’s the same story with everything. Manhattan south of 96th Street, Downtown Brooklyn and Astoria/LIC get all the attention. The rest of the city is an after thought. One could make the argument that portions of the outer boroughs are outside of the urban core so therefore lower priority. However, places like Washington Heights and the Grand Concourse are more densely populated than manner parts of Lower Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn. It’s clearly more of a class issue. Middle & Lower income New Yorkers are a lower priority. I expect that Hell will freeze over before Staten Island or the Bronx gets a significant density of Citi Bike stands or protected bike lanes. I challenge the DOT to prove me wrong.

  • JamesR

    I don’t think that’s an argument you want to take up. Talk about playing right into the hands of the NY Post demographic who is all too quick to paint the cycling community as ‘elite gentrifiers’ or what have you

    I think this issue of who gets what in this city as far as amenities and infrastructure has been around ever since 1898, and I doubt it’s going to change now. It’s what led to four underdeveloped boroughs relative to the Manhattan core, each of which would probably be Philly or even Detroit (maybe not Brooklyn, though) without access to the Manhattan golden revenue goose.

  • Bolwerk

    Contributes how? Bronx people work often work in Manhattan, so presumably their labor disproportionately contributes to “city revenue” from companies in Manhattan.

    The Bronx is treated as the doormat of New York City for suburbanites driving in from the north. Fix that and it might very well be able to contribute more on a household income tax basis, which I presume is what you are referring to do.

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