Take a Ride on New York City’s Bike Lanes — in 2002

herald_square_bike_lane

New York still has a lot of work to do to create an all-ages, low-stress citywide bike network, but let’s pause for a moment to appreciate how far the city has come.

Before he made Streetfilms, Clarence Eckerson Jr. made BikeTV, a cable access show. In this BikeTV clip that Clarence recently unearthed, you’ll get a tour of the bike network in northwest Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan in the winter of 2002:

Contrary to popular belief, New York did have bike lanes 15 years ago, but the network was sparse and the city clearly didn’t place a high priority on maintaining it. Five more years would pass before Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan arrived on the scene and put in the city’s first protected bike lane.

Here are some before-and-after comparisons of the streets shown in the video.

Broadway:

Broadway. Image: Google Maps
Broadway at 19th Street today. Image: Google Maps
Broadway in 2002
Broadway in 2002.

Sixth Avenue:

Sixth Avenue. Photo: David Meyer
Sixth Avenue today. Photo: David Meyer
Sixth Avenue in 2002
Sixth Avenue in 2002

Lafayette:

Lafayette Street. Image: Google Maps
Lafayette Street today. Image: Google Maps
Lafayette in 2002
Lafayette in 2002.

Of course, some problems haven’t gone away:

Adams_St_-_Google_Maps
Adams Street — better, but still work to do. Image: Google Maps
  • J

    Basically, the places where the city has switched to more robust self-enforcing designs (protected bike lanes), things got significantly better and many more people are biking as a result. This is great and should be celebrated.

    The problem is that the city is STILL implementing unprotected designs in MOST places. These designs still result in the EXACT SAME problems they did 15 years ago. Here’s a shot of the brand new Amsterdam Ave bike lane (installed in 2015). If you just looked at this, you’d think the city hasn’t learned anything about bike design since 2002.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/aa5d809c8c1376aea3b9f0c6c1eddefa030580ea009dfaf7e6ea6c5b1dca4718.png

  • Some people have asked what grades I would give now versus the 2002 “C” for experienced riders and the “F” for beginning or encouraging new riders.

    I think NYCDOT is doing a very good job and if they had more funds they would do even more. Some neighborhoods are in much better shape than others, but for experienced riders I would go with a “B+” and beginners, probably a “C”, though, if say you lived in Williamsburg or Brooklyn Heights or LIC, Queens or parts of lower Manhattan or along the Hudson River Greenway, that could certainly be better than a “C”. What we really need to make those grades go higher is NYPD enforcement and until that happens we are gonna be stuck near those grades for a while unless we start fully pedestrianizing networks of streets.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think it needs to be remembered that, like him or not, the effort to make it easier for New Yorkers to bike started in the Giuliani Administration. There were, for example, bike maps and some bike lanes in 2002. But not in 1993 or, after Koch gave up on them, 1989.

    I recall being sent to a meeting on behalf of City Planning early in the Giuliani Administration, with a newly appointed representative of his DOT. I, of course, brought up money, and the low level of transportation expenditures by NYC relative to debt and relative to other things. Handed out a chart. Not what they wanted to hear, given the city was broke.

    Someone else I didn’t know — one of the TA people, perhaps? — brought up bicycle transportation. The Giuliani guy said he’d love to see the bike mode share at 2 or 3 percent if that’s possible, but he didn’t know how to do that. So perhaps they listened. But I do know that things started getting better before 2002.

  • Vooch

    Dude,

    wish you had been filming in 1985. Sixth Avenue during rush hour was quite the experience.

  • mengi

    DOT has done barely anything in Eastern Queens. I seems all they want to do build in Brooklyn or Manhattan

  • JK

    Taking nothing away from JSK —let’s not forget that the hugely important bike paths on the East River Bridges and Hudson River Greenway came before her, Bloomberg or 2002. Likewise, many parts of the citywide greenway network were built and most of it planned and funded before 2002. So great work JSK, but kind of bullshit to use these on street examples as the barometer of cycling in NYC and ignoring some fundamental infrastructure that was already fueling big upticks in cycling.

  • AnoNYC

    The Bronx has a lot of lanes too now. East Queens NIMBYs and a lack of official requests? That area needs much more than bike lanes though to make it safer and more convenient to get around on one.

  • AnoNYC
  • AnoNYC

    Those areas have seen dramatic changes in the number and configuration of bike lanes but much of the city has not.

    Where the city has made the biggest impact is with reconfiguring the number of lanes on arteries. Switching from two to one lane in each direction has calmed traffic to the point where a bicyclist can actually feel as though they won’t get rear ended on many of those streets.

  • I remember riding my first bike home thru midtown traffic in 1991 when I first moved here, I was only in NYC for a few weeks. That was truly insane! I was gonna bring it home via subway but they were packed so I rode all the way home from a bike shop on 9th Avenue and 50th Street. I took Broadway most of the way since I knew that would eventually lead to the Brooklyn Bridge. I went very slowly. No helmet. It was an amazing rush!

  • 111th Street is coming. That is a game changer as it will open up the possibility of better bike lanes further east.

  • Vooch

    an amazing “rush” that thanks to JSK & people like you; I will never need to experience ever again.

    Thank you for your efforts big time

  • RyanMcShane

    Who here remembers the old bike maps? I think I grabbed one back during Giuliani time (v1.0) only to find that it didn’t cover the whole city. Mine, as I barely, barely recall showed only Manhattan on one side and Queens (or was it the Bronx?) on the flip. I guess there was another map that covered the remaining boroughs. Does anyone recall the split maps, and what the groupings were?

    I didn’t pick up another map until late in Rudy v2.0 or maybe even Bloomberg’s first. There was some minor infrastructure build-out ramping up and I wanted to see what was out there that I hadn’t randomly bumped into while cycling. Much improved! Not sad!

    I’ve got at least one copy (somewhere) of each map for, say, the last fifteen years. I know one of the earlier ones announces on it’s cover in mock advertising speak approx. “One Map, Five Boroughs!” I think in a sort of affectionate gibe at its earlier format. Does this — any of it — ring bells with anyone?

    And, based on recent vids, our man Clarence doesn’t look like he’s aged a single day since the pice up top. *winkyemoticon* Cycling — and fighting the good fight — keeps a body youthful.

  • Kevin Love

    In your film of Groningen, I saw zero police enforcement. Nor was any needed. Concrete and steel did the enforcing.

    If we rely upon NYPD, then New York City will not be getting any better for a long, long time. I suggest that we largely give up on NYPD and use the Dutch approach for infrastructure that is self-enforcing.

    Let’s face it, even if NYPD cared about our lives, they can’t be everywhere all the time. Concrete and steel can.

  • You can find the old maps on the archive.org site if you look carefully enough.

  • The Manhattan Bridge pedestrian/bike lanes opened around 2000 and the Williamsburg Bridge renovation, which removed the stairs from both ends, opened around 2002. The Queensboro Bridge opened fulltime to bikes (it had been closed during evening rush) around the same time. Without those changes, it’s hard to imagine any kind of sustained improvements on either side of the East River.

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