CB 6 Panel Unanimously Backs Plan to Fill Gap in 1st Ave Protected Bike Lane

Image: DOT
A shared lane will be replaced by a protected bike lane on 10 blocks of First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT is set to fill a key 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane this summer, but cyclists might have to wait until the fall for the final piece of the missing link.

The Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted 12-0 last night to support the plan [PDF], which replaces sharrows with a dedicated protected bike lane. It also includes major curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic at the intersection of First Avenue and 49th Street.

The changes cover one of the most dangerous sections of First Avenue: There have been five traffic fatalities between 49th and 59th streets — all pedestrians — since 2009, according to DOT. Three of those deaths were at 56th and 57th streets. In contrast, on the rest of First Avenue, between First and 125th streets, six people, including five pedestrians, were killed over the same period on its 115 blocks — a much lower fatality rate per mile.

The project extends the protected bike lane to 59th Street, where it would connect to the Queensboro Bridge bike path. DOT is proposing to do it in two phases, with a brief pause for a couple of weeks after adding protection up to 56th Street, so the agency can assess the traffic impacts of going from five car lanes to four. The second phase would extend the protected bikeway the remaining three blocks.

Last night, CB 6 asked DOT to stop a block early, at 55th Street, before coming back in September or October with a plan for the final few blocks, parts of which are undergoing utility construction.

In the plan, 57th and 59th streets would retain double left turn lanes and get dedicated signals to separate bike traffic from turning drivers, while intersections with left-turning drivers at 51st, 53rd and 55th streets would get mixing zones. It’s possible that later on, DOT will opt for turn lanes with a delayed flashing yellow arrow at those locations (this treatment lets drivers turn across the bike lane and crosswalk if they are empty, and is in place at Second Avenue and 26th Street), but those changes would be considered after the bike lane is installed.

Image: DOT
The plan includes curb extensions and pedestrian islands at 49th Street. Image: DOT

Concrete pedestrian islands will be added along the protected bike lane in areas without left-turning cars. The plan also removes approximately 52 parking spaces, mostly to create space for turn lanes and mixing zones.

The number of cyclists on these 10 blocks has increased 38 percent since 2012 to 1,477 cyclists over a 12-hour period, according to DOT’s summertime counts. Car and truck traffic ranges between 1,720 and 2,604 vehicles per hour during peak times.

Residents and board members at last night’s meeting asked DOT for design or signage changes at First Avenue and 48th Street, where eastbound drivers often run a stop sign as they turn across the bike lane onto First Avenue. Just north of there, drivers often double-park in the unprotected curbside bike lane between 48th and 49th streets. DOT was also asked about replacing shared lanes on Second Avenue with protected lanes.

DOT said it would look at changes for those locations but made no promises last night.

When the First Avenue project is complete, it will create a nearly unbroken seven-mile corridor of protected bike lanes from Pike Street to the Willis Avenue Bridge.

This post has been corrected with accurate fatality statistics from DOT.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Some believed these gaps might never be filled, but this is very promising news. Many thanks to the stalwarts on the Transportation Committee of CB6 who have led this amazing transformation!

  • Ian Turner

    Wait, nearly 50% of traffic on 1st avenue is cyclists during the summer months? That can’t be right, maybe they meant the traffic count per lane?

  • BBnet3000

    5 years ago this CB endorsed better bike lanes but they were never installed. http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/05/13/cb-6-votes-conditionally-for-east-side-sbs-endorses-better-bike-lanes/

    Human lives were lost and I think Streetsblog readers deserve an explanation.

    I worry that it is going to take another 5 years (ie a decade total) to fix 2nd Ave in Midtown, because DOT is going to wait until the subway construction is done on the UES to do the streetscape all at once. This is way too long given the danger involved. Chrystie is part of this same route too and continues to be ignored.

  • J

    This is fantastic news. Kudos to DOT for tackling a somewhat difficult project, and kudos to CB6 transportation committee for supporting it.

    We need this type of courage on the part of DOT in order to fill gaps in the bicycle network on 2nd Ave, 8th ave, & Columbus/9th as well as to create quality and safe conditions for people walking and riding bicycles in many other parts of the city.

  • BrandonWC

    According to the DOT presentation, the cycling count is for 12 hours.

  • J

    I think you’re reading the figures wrong, ~1,500 people on bike in an average 12-hour period, and ~2,000 cars in the peak hour. So there’s probably about 12x as many cars as bicycles at present. I expect that to jump up a bit with this project, but there still no southbound equivalent, so it won’t be great.

  • millerstephen

    Thanks all. It’s a 12-hour count, and the post has been fixed.

  • Tyson White

    Finally some good news in the DeBlasio era!

  • “The plan also removes approximately 52 parking spaces, mostly to create space for turn lanes and mixing zones.”

    It’s great to see a community board prioritize safe, efficient travel over car storage. Thank you, CB 6!

  • J

    The stretch by the UN (40-49th) is really poorly designed as well, with an awkward/dangerous crossover at 41st, a weird bike lane sandwiched between 2 car lanes approaching 42nd Street, an awkward turn configuration at 47th, and a sudden lane shift at 48th where drivers consistently swerve into the bike lane at speed. A lot of that stretch needs to be redesigned.

  • D’BlahZero

    Agreed. I see a lot about this proposal that falls short of my wishes as a cyclist. However, the removal of car storage is a huge indicator of progress and gives one actual hope for future designs. Thanks all around for that one.

  • JDC

    This is great, don’t get me wrong, but this part bothers me: “DOT is proposing… a brief pause for a couple of weeks after adding protection up to 56th Street, so the agency can assess the traffic impacts of going from five car lanes to four.”

    Seriously? We already know the impact of having 5 car lanes and no bike lanes: people get killed.

  • Joshua Putnam

    Minor nit, but what tool generated those street layouts with the noncompliant shared lane markings in the “before” illustration?

    In a 10-foot lane, sharrows should be centered in the travel lane, and the bike should be shown in the center of the lane — that’s a lane too narrow to share side-by-side, it needs to be shared one after another.

    The photos have it right, but the illustrations show improperly-placed sharrows and hazardous cyclist behavior.

  • Geck

    NYC goes its own way on this apparently. With signs that are ignored that say do not overtake cyclists.

  • BBnet3000

    Its not just the illustration, that is what is actually there today and they continue to paint sharrows this way all over the city. See the recent Bay Ridge plan, where the PROPOSED illustration shows someone cycling between a moving car and a parked car with about 8 inches clearance on each side.

    Last year they removed the bike lane on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel and replaced it with sharrows. The bike lane WAS in the door zone, but so are the sharrows.

  • Bob

    Every avenue in Manhattan should have a protected bike, island, and rush hour bus lane. These are no-brainers and all evidence points in favor of installing them. I dont quite get why this is not being designed and implemented on each avenue.

  • Ian Turner

    Parking, hipsters, etc.

  • Ian Turner

    That’s still >6% mode share, which is pretty great.

  • JudenChino

    awkward/dangerous crossover at 41st

    Yah, I know. I used to commute that way. It’s like, ok, now, let’s just jump into the middle of speeding 1st ave traffic and do it with confidence because there’s a solid white line that says “you can travel here.” Like, yah, no. Also, the mini-bike lane on Houston as you approach West Street — like yah, it’s dark in the tunnel there, and you’re going to have me, wedge myself between all these cars just ready to race on to West Street. Thanks but no thanks. Oh, but don’t bike on the sidewalk there.

  • BBnet3000

    I agree but I’d settle for them finishing the ones they’ve already started. Looks like 1st Avenue will finally be the closest to complete (except the bit by the UN and the godawful “take the lane” on Allen St at Houston that hopefully is temporary). Now there’s only 3 more to go, or 4 if you count Broadway.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Yup. NYC DOT takes sharrows and makes them even lamer.

  • Where the extension of sidewalks?

  • Joe Enoch

    Fortunately there’s usually not much traffic there. It’s an awkward design for all road users, though.

  • Joe Enoch

    Was anyone here at the meeting? Just curious to hear what the tenor was like there. I attend some of the CB7 meetings and although there’s always 2-1 support from the crowd for street improvements, there’s always a peanut gallery of fist shaking nimbys condemning us all for ruining the neighborhood. Sounds like this was productive, though.

  • J

    Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if the engineers that design this crap have ever or would ever ride a bicycle in these places with their friends and family. Could the engineers possibly say it’s working as intended?

    I say this as an engineer myself.

  • Nick Ober

    I attended, and the tenor of the meeting was totally positive with regard to the project. I was gratified to see that the committee and the folks who turned out for the meeting were in agreement on how difficult the current sharrow arrangement is for bikers, and what an improvement the new plan is. The reduction in parking spots didn’t cause anyone to bat an eye either which surprised me.

    There was one lone voice who brought up a concern about getting delayed in the First Avenue tunnel thanks to the lane reduction in the east tube, but the committee didn’t seem to give much weight to his opinion. It probably didn’t help that he followed up with a comment on how he might feel claustrophobic stuck in the tunnel, to which a DOT rep suggested he take the upper First Avenue route instead.

  • Nick Ober

    Yes, I wish the pause wasn’t part of the plan, but the DOT reps who were at the meeting made it sound like the northern part of the plan wasn’t at all in jeopardy. That intersection at 57th street with a heavy double left turn setup is downright scary for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

  • Andrea Phillips

    I live and work on the corner of 1st ave and 56th street I understand the need for all these changes but I have to say, my home rumbles with the shake of traffic…buses, trucks and ambulances. I can’t open a window due to the honking. This has been progressively getting worse over the last year. Over the past few weeks it is really intoralable. I’m in favor of minimizing accidents and certainly fatalities. But I hope there is a plan to minimize the noice or improve the traffic flow. By the way, there are still many accidants on the corner of 1st and 56th street. Is there any chance of a “no honking” law/fine?

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