What’s Next for 6th Ave Protected Bike Lane and Crosstown Routes on UES

At the request of community advocates, DOT wants to install three new crosstown dedicated bike routes on the Upper East Side. Image: DOT
DOT’s plan calls for three painted crosstown bike lane pairs on the Upper East Side [PDF]. Image: DOT
Two Manhattan bike projects went before community boards last night. The CB 8 transportation committee heard from DOT about the agency’s plan for crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side, and CB 4 endorsed the protected lane on Sixth Avenue, which DOT plans to install in the fall.

The crosstown painted lanes would span the width of the Upper East Side, providing safer east-west access for a neighborhood that currently has only one bike lane pair — 90th and 91st streets. The new bike lane pairs are East 67th and 68th streets between Fifth and York, 77th and 78th Streets between Fifth and John Jay Park, and 84th and 85th Streets between Fifth and East End. After the eastern termini at Cherokee Place and East End Avenue, shared lanes will guide cyclists to parks and the East River Esplanade greenway.

On the western side, all three routes terminate at Central Park. A 72nd Street bike lane could feed into the only major on-street bike path that cuts directly across the park, but DOT is not pursuing that.

Last night’s presentation to CB 8 was met with the typical NIMBY response, which NY1 previewed a few weeks ago. According to bike lane supporters who attended, opponents’ arguments focused on reasons why one street or another would not work for the lanes. But Council Member Ben Kallos spoke out in favor of the proposal and vehemently defended the need to ensure cyclists’ safety in the neighborhood. No vote was held, and DOT will present again next month.

Meanwhile, in Midtown, CB 4 endorsed DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane from 8th Street to 33rd Street [PDF]. The transportation committee had initially declined to support DOT’s proposal, because it did not include enough dedicated signal phases for cyclists and pedestrians or raised concrete pedestrian islands. Last month, the committee reluctantly endorsed an updated proposal that includes pedestrian islands but not more exclusive signal time.

CB 2 and CB 5, which the bike lane will also pass through, have already voted for it.

  • BBnet3000

    Wait, they’re going near the transverses, but not Terrace Drive?

    These lanes are rather poor to begin with (door zone bike lanes that will be blocked by double parked cars all too regularly), but at least connect them to the only real bike route across the park!

    I’m still hoping for bike boulevards. Tucson can do it and we can’t?

  • J

    Indeed, bike boulevards seem like a more realistic solution for NYC, especially given DOT’s reluctance to actually address double parking and other curb usage issues. Even with some much needed curb management, there may still be too much demand for curb space to eliminate parking on an entire side of a street in high density areas in Manhattan. Perhaps a bike boulevard, though, with strategic diverters and serious traffic calming could actually create a Low Speed & Low Volume facility that works for All Ages and Abilities (AAA).

  • Alexander Vucelic

    If a 2 Phase plan

    Phase one – immediate painted lanes

    Phase two – protected hike lanes Crosstown p

  • Brian Howald

    That point that 72nd Street should present the best opportunity for a road diet and safe crosstown connectivity was made last night by one of the co-chairs of the committee and a few others.

    I must add that although there were the usual NIMBY responses, I was encouraged by the aforementioned chair’s comments in response to residents and other committee members’ comments. Many people said that their narrow streets were congested, somehow full of both speeders and double-parkers, and difficult to live on. His response was that these were problems to tackle, not to throw up our hands in defeat, and since bike lanes have seen significant injury reductions, perhaps they are the solution.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Coming from Queens, I’m always looking for a better route to Central Park as I have to ride up 1st Av to the 90s. This is a no-brainer proposal, regardless. DOT, don’t waste your time with the CB, the people will just find more baseless excuses to avoid implementation, even if it has no negative impacts.

  • Painted bike lanes that do not physically change street geometry – the UES lanes would not have affected the number of car lanes or parking spaces – should not have to go before community board for approval. In the Vision Zero age, City Hall needs to work with the City Council to change this process.

    It is simply a waste of people-power to have DOT come back to meeting after meeting to get something as basic as paint on the ground.

  • BBnet3000

    Should bike lanes that are 1/2 to 2/3 in the door zone be painted at all?

  • Dr. Bones

    At 85th and 84th I see lanes that cross the East Side and then empty into the transverse across the park, which is designed for cars and yet is the only legal way for bikes to cross the park.
    On one hand, at least that’s better than the lanes on the West Side that require you to travel several blocks south, with no lane, in heavy traffic, and then a dangerous, crazy turn left among all kinds of competing tonnage, into the east-going transverse, while every fiber in your being is telling you, no, you should not be required to do this unless you enjoy risking your life for the sake of a commute.
    The transverses are not and will NEVER be a safe way for bikes to cross the park.
    And yet, bikes do need to cross the park.
    Bikes deserve safe and legal ways to cross the park. Not just one, at 72nd. We need a number of ways to cross the park,
    These crosstown routes are only partial.
    When will we have a way to do this?
    Just today, I was nearly run down by a tourist bus as I entered the transverse on 86th on the West Side. The driver sped by me and came within 5 inches of me, front to back of the bus as he passed me. I was able to catch up with him at the other end, knock on his window, yell at him, and then pull my bike in front of him while I explained to him that he had almost run over me and that he needed to watch for bike riders. There was a cop car right in front of him.
    He remained calm and just kept making the motion of pointing his two fingers to his eyes and then to me—I guess meaning “you have to look out.” And I kept making the motion of holding my hands five inches apart, meaning “that;s how close you came to killing me.”
    In a way, he’s right, in the sense that bikes do not really belong on those transverses, and of course we have to watch out.
    I just hope it doesn’t take another bicyclist death on these lanes before something gets done.

  • Dr. Bones

    Bike lanes that are 2/3rds in the door zone should have those 2/3rds painted bright orange, with the words “door zone” every 15 feet. That way perhaps door openers would start to get the idea that they need to look before opening, and clueless bike riders that hug the parked cars out of fear of the moving traffic would get the idea that this is not actually the safer option.

  • BBnet3000

    The transverses are not and will NEVER be a safe way for bikes to cross the park.

    Never say never. While not an ideal solution, they most certainly have room for a 5′ jersey barrier protected bike/ped path on each side. They could probably go to 7′ if they narrow the lanes.

    It should have been done years ago and should most certainly be done now that Citibike is coming to the UES and UWS.

  • AnoNYC

    I wish the traverses were bus only with two-way physically separated bicycle lanes.

    A taste of BRT.

  • BrandonWC

    Do they really have that much room? Using the tape measure on google maps, it looks to me like the 79th and 85th St transverses get down to 25′ in places. A 5′ lane plus 2′ barrier on each side would leave 11′ for two-way car traffic. A narrow two-way barrier-protected path on one side would still take minimum 10′. I think you’d need to rip out the mostly useless sidewalks on both sides, which wouldn’t be the end of the world since they’re mostly useless, but it would take a capital project.

  • Dr. Bones

    I’m not convinced. There’s no shoulder. And there are multiple gratings that munch up the road and bicycle spokes, three feet out from the curb …in other words they double as self perpetuating pothole/bicycle deathtraps as they get bigger and deeper the longer time passes. But if someone did manage to pull this off, and create a semi protected bike lane on each side, I’d be for that, but STILL…parks are also for bikes. We deserve to have a way to cross the park INSIDE the park, and enjoy the park just like everyone else. They are created for everyone’s enjoyment, especially such a big park as Central Park with so much space and so many miles of pedestrian pathways.

  • BBnet3000

    I may have spoke too soon about the width and configuration, though I still think having 10 feet to work with would be a typical configuration.

    As for the narrowest bits: if they can do a section of 5′ bidirectional multi-use path on the East River Esplanade, I don’t see why they couldn’t do it here. That’s paralleled by usable streets, but this provides basic connectivity across a huge barrier.

  • BBnet3000

    When I say bike/ped path, I mean it. I’m talking about taking all available sidewalk and buffer space and combining it into a path shared by bikes and peds, similar perhaps to the narrowest part of the Budnick Bikeway on Sands Street in Brooklyn.

    Given the potential narrowness, a better comparison might be to the bikeway leading from Prospect Park to Ft. Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn (which ironically is next to a single 15+ foot auto lane):

  • djx

    I’ve ridden the 84/86 tranverse perhaps several dozen times in my life on a bike averaging around 20mph. Not fun. Riding slower would be terrifying.

    I don’t think you’re right about the width.

  • djx

    Plus, if a cyclist gets doored, NYPD can look at the rider on lying on the ground, say “You were in the door zone. What do you you want us to do about it?” then shrug..

  • JudenChino

    The Transverses are soooo unsafe.

  • Joe Enoch

    Speak for yourself. The transverses — especially 86th — are incredibly dangerous. It’s a consequence-free speedway for drivers with blind turns and narrow shoulders. I do it only in extreme scenarios (maybe a dozen times in five years of biking in NYC).

    Also, there are three bike-approved crosstown paths through the park excluding the north/south perimeter — 72nd, 96th (north of the transverse) and 102nd. I hope for your sake you try those before the transverses.

  • You call the 86th Street Transverse “the only legal way for bikes to cross the park”. But this is wrong, as you implicitly acknowlege later with your mention of 72nd Street, which is the actual only legal way for bikes to cross the park.

  • Dr. Bones

    I unfortunately live on the West side and teach part time on the East Side, and my commute, three days a week, is such that none of those other “bike-approved” paths are convenient..they mean going either two miles out of my way through the one way hilly loop of central park or nearly a mile south on 5th avenue with crowded traffic and no bike paths.
    Plus, the so-called crosstown paths at 96th are only partial—there are portions where you have to walk your bike or risk a ticket, even if no-one is on the path (and does anyone know how much that ticket would be and if it’s enforced by summons?)
    It didn’t used to be this way. They didn’t used to have signs everywhere warning bikers to walk their bikes on all paths. I guess it bothered some people, and those are the ones that won out. And while I get it that there is a small risk to pedestrians in shared paths with bicycle riders, that risk is small compared to the risk they expect us to take whenever we want or need to cross Central Park safely and legally. They are basically throwing us to the wolves.
    While we’re on it, that one way loop drive is pretty strange too…making it two ways for bikes would go a long way towards solving some of these logistical problems in getting across the park and in designing legal paths for bikes through the park. But one thing at a time, I guess.

  • Dr. Bones

    I guess I was reading your mind. What I want to emphasize is that Central park is 2 and a half miles long. One legal and safe way to cross the park is an insult and a travesty that I feel every time I make commute and have to make the choice between going miles out of my way or risking my life.

  • Bobberooni

    Crosstown bike lanes have never gotten me too excited. I suppose their biggest benefit is they (sometimes) make it easier to pass all the cars queued up at the light.

    As for new bike routes across Central Park… that’s badly needed.

  • Bobberooni

    With a little bit of design and $$, they could re-do the surface paths in Central Park to accomodate bikes safely. There’s no shortage of space, after all…

  • Dr. Bones

    What I’m hoping for is not the kind of splitting hairs here about details, but just to make the simple point that Central Park is a big obstacle for bicycle riders who want to go from East to West and back again. It has a number of good ways for cars to get across, and is a paradise for walkers wanting to get across, but for bicyclists it forces us to make some really tough choices between safety, convenience and risking a ticket. Crosstown lanes are helpful, but what’s the point of them if when you hit Central Park, you are forced into this conundrum?

  • Dr. Bones

    Exactly. And the political will, which seems to be the missing part.

  • It is true that crosstown lanes above 59th Street are of limited value if they take you only to Central Park’s edge.

    And, while I would love to have as many crossings of the park as possible, the need to use 72nd Street has never struck me as all that onerous. If I may hazard a guess, I think that your perception that a detour from 86th Street to 72nd Street constitutes a long way might indicate that you spend a majority of your time in Manhattan. To someone who lives in Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx, that one-mile distance is nothing; it’s the equivalent of the distance between Jamaica Avenue and Union Tpke. on Woodhaven Boulevard.

    Still, as I said, none of this should be taken as a lack of support for a good crossing in the 86th Street Transverse. We certainly should have a lane there; and it could happen if the political will existed to do so.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    you can also cross at approx 91st. there is a paved link Between the park drives

  • Dr. Bones

    You are right….I have to admit I am a spoiled Manhattanite!

  • Joe R.

    Funny but I was thinking the same thing. I will go out of my way by a mile or two or three for a route which is better or safer. When you bike around Queens, the miles just have a way of adding up. I guess it makes us somewhat jaded when people might complain about going 1/2 a mile out of their way. Then when I hear about things like crosstown buses in Manhattan, I think to myself why? A worst case crosstown trip is about two miles—easy walking distance for me. Most trips are far less.

    I do agree though if we want more people to bike, then we can’t have these types of detours. Really, any part of Central Park which can be traversed by cars should also have parallel, safe bike lanes.

  • Jonathan R

    The park itself is the problem. Who decided it would be a good idea to separate the East and West Sides with an imitation landscape? As Dr. Bones points out, crossing the darn thing on bicycle involves long detours or inconvenient walking or both.

    Even on foot, there are really only seven transverse routes: W 63 to E 60, along the north side of Hecksher PG and south of the zoo; W 67 to E 69, along the north side of Sheep Meadow and crossing south of Rumsey Playfield; 72d St; W 81 to E 79, past the Delacorte, along the south side of the Great Lawn, and out south of the Met; W 85 to E 84, along the north side of the Great Lawn, and north of the Met; 96th along the path marked for bikes, or 97th by the tennis courts and bathrooms (on opposite sides of the transverse road); and 102d via the shortcut road.

    The four routes south of the reservoir are usually very crowded with people on foot, and are kind of windy and poorly marked as crosspark routes. I did use to go around the north end of the Great Lawn after dark back 10 years ago and that was never a problem, but perhaps it has gotten busier now.

    The notion that the transverses could be made tolerable for bicycling is seductive, but who wants to ride in a jersey-barriered lane in a ditch? It lacks appeal as anything more than an expedient shortcut.

  • Joe R.

    In the context of the time it was built, the location of the park probably made sense. Not all that many people lived north of where the park began. Nobody could have anticipated the tremendous growth of upper Manhattan in the years which followed, or the tremendous increases in traffic. Probably even as late as the 1950s, the traverses would have been fine for biking across the park given the relatively low traffic levels. I’ll bet at the time the park was built, the main traffic the traverses saw was sightseers on horse-drawn carriages.

    Times change. It might be nice if we could just move the entire park to border on one of the rivers but that wouldn’t even be remotely feasible. For what it’s worth the park isn’t the only thing which seems a bit out of place in the modern context. The grid layout in Manhattan is also. At the time it was laid out, the average speed of travel was by horse carriage at 5 or 6 mph. That meant roughly 30 seconds to go one block. In the world of 30 or 40 mph motor vehicles it makes no sense to have a grid this fine. Arguably we need to make the grid for motor traffic with 1/4 to 1/3 mile spacing. The spacing of the avenues mostly fits that bill. We should probably close off most of the minor cross streets to motor traffic. They’re just not needed from a transportation perspective. Doing that would make Manhattan an infinite more pleasant place to walk or bike.

  • Dr. Bones

    “I do agree though if we want more people to bike, then we can’t have these types of detours. Really, any part of Central Park which can be traversed by cars should also have parallel, safe bike lanes.”
    Yes! This is key. Also, the extra mile or two in the case of Central Park will include some pretty hefty hillage, which is great for exercisers, but for commuting, especially in the summer, sweat-inducing. And because of the one way loop, the safe routes in either direction are very different.
    As for walking crosstown, Central Park slows you down in a lot of places because of its meandering, hilly design, and that’s why despite the nastiness and danger of those sidewalks in the transverses, I still see people walking on them all the time…it’s the fastest way to cross by foot too. To me this is another argument against trying to smoosh in a bike lane there by getting rid of the sidewalk, as well as an argument for creating bicycle crossing paths in the park for each of these transverses— because it is a great way to enjoy the park while getting across it much more quickly than walking.

  • Joe R.

    Even though I ride almost 100% for exercise, I totally understand the issue of hills making a route unfeasible. In fact, I’ll go out of my way quite a bit to avoid really nasty hills. For example, when I ride out past city limits, I take Union Turnpike going east. There’s a really nasty, long hill right under the Grand Central Parkway. Lot’s of fun going down (i.e. I’ve gone as fast as 57 mph with a tailwind) but miserable going up. Actually, even going east you’re going uphill on Union Turnpike from Francis Lewis Boulevard to Springfield Boulevard, but you’re climbing the same number of feet over a longer distance, so the grade is bearable. Springfield Boulevard and Union Turnpike is ~185 feet above sea level. For some perspective Union Turnpike and Utopia Parkway, about 2 miles west, is ~45 feet above sea level. So that’s 140 feet of climbing, most of it from Francis Lewis on. But as I said, the climb is much worse going west. Coming back then, I typically take either Hillside Avenue or Jamaica Avenue. And there’s another nasty hill I try to avoid—the one by Hillside Avenue. Outside of going north at Midland Parkway, everywhere else is a really nasty climb, like an 8% or more gradient for a few blocks. So yes, I agree on the hills. Unfortunately, I’ve noted quite a few so-called bike routes here in Queens end up going through hilly areas when there’s a relatively flat detour not far away. I guess nobody at DOT actually bothers riding these routes.

    Anyway, yes, we need more direct (and fairly flat) ways to get across Central Park. With cycling being 3 to 5 times faster than walking, it is indeed a great way to get across the park while also enjoying it.

  • Dr. Bones

    I don’t think I’ve ever been on any of those routes—maybe I need to go on some biking adventures one of these days. 57 miles per hour? Damn!

  • Joe R.

    To be sure that was exceptional even for me. Most of the time the pavement on that hill is in lousy shape and I’m afraid to go much over 30 mph. Anyway, I’m sure riding here would be a change of pace from Manhattan. I rode in Manhattan as a bike messenger in 1981. Honestly, I hated it. You had to have eyes on the back of your head to keep from getting side-swiped by cabs swinging over 4 lanes to pick up a fare. And then there was always heavy traffic and air pollution. I was happy to get back to riding in Queens.

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