Eyes on the Street: Breathing Room for Pedestrians on Eighth Avenue in Midtown

DOT used planters to expand the sidewalk on one block near the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Photo: CHEKPEDS
Photo: CHEKPEDS

There’s more room to walk near the Port Authority Bus Terminal after DOT implemented a quick sidewalk expansion.

According to CHEKPEDS, the city added nine feet of walking space (a 40 percent increase) to the west side of Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets, north of the bus terminal. Planters line what used to be a parking lane next to a buffered bike lane, which remains intact:

The pedestrian barricade [a metal sidewalk fence] has been removed, the Times Square Alliance maintains the planters and there is no reason for pedestrians to use the bike lane.

The plan includes flex posts to separate the bike lane from motor vehicle traffic on this block.

In May, Mayor de Blasio signed a bill requiring DOT to identify and improve six locations with heavy foot traffic. Eight blocks of Seventh Avenue in Midtown are in line for a sidewalk widening using the same materials.

On Eighth Avenue, several more blocks would benefit from similar fixes. Heavy foot traffic on inadequate sidewalks regularly spills over into the protected bike lane. The block between 42nd and 43rd didn’t have a protected bike lane to begin with (it could still use some physical separation from traffic), but the same basic approach of expanding pedestrian space so people walking and biking have room to maneuver should apply throughout Eighth Avenue in Midtown.

  • Vooch

    the sinister war on cars claims more victims. When will these totalitarians stop begriming our best neighborhoods ?

  • Good to see common sense. Shame it’s 20 years overdue

  • EcoAdvocate

    war on cars. Ha! This guy. We need to put an end to automobubble entitlement. Drivers just expect abundant, cheap space reserved for them. Sorry. The street is better used for movement of people than as storage space for motor vehicles.

  • Vooch
  • redbike

    > On Eighth Avenue, several more blocks would benefit from similar fixes. Heavy
    > foot traffic on inadequate sidewalks regularly spills over into the protected bike lane.

    Thanks for finally acknowledging this. “several more blocks”: 8th Av – 33rd St to the mid-50’s, and 9th Av – 59th St to 34th St.

  • Ken Dodd

    I’m not seeing exactly what the new situation for cyclists is from that photo. Are they being pushed further into traffic? Because there was no protected bike lane on that block anyway. So before you had a barricade to stop pedestrians from walking into the path of cyclists, and now they’ve taken that down, given the pedestrians more breathing space but nudged cyclists closer to the traffic on a stretch of road that is already hair raising for us. I can’t help thinking it’s just going to cause more tension between motorists and cyclists and lead to an accident.

    Drivers seem to me to be getting more and more psychotic and murderous, especially when they have to share avenue space with cyclists. Case in point – there is a stretch of 1st Avenue around 4th/5th streets where the bike lane is closed off to construction and so you have to cycle into the avenue until it opens up again. On TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS last week, I had drivers honk behind me on that stretch (even though I was right at the edge and they had plenty of room to pass), drive up alongside me, yell “stay in the bike lane asshole” and a bunch of other abuse, and when I pointed out that the bike lane was closed for construction, they yelled more abuse and then suddenly veered toward me and back again quickly to try and make me lose balance. The first guy who did it, I yelled at him so loudly he accelerated up 1st Avenue like a rocket, weaving in and out of traffic to get away like he knew he’d done wrong. The second guy accelerated forward and pulled the same stunt on the cyclist ahead of me, like he enjoyed side swiping me so much he had to do it again to the next guy. I couldn’t believe I had two drivers pull the same murderous maneuver on me twice in a row on that same stretch. I can see more of this happening on 8th Avenue now.

  • redbike

    The simple answer: There is no “new situation for cyclists”.

    The more complicated answer: It’s complicated.

    Along some of NYC’s most intensely-used streets, sidewalks are hopelessly narrow. Okay, widen these sidewalks. And do it by taking away one or more lanes used by motor vehicles. As I understand it, that’s what’s proposed for 7th Av between Times Sq and Penn Station. Good!

    But your question about the situation for those of us trying to ride bicycles on NYC’s streets is fair. For NYC’s most-intensely-used streets, this question remains unanswered by either advocates or NYC’s DOT. We know: shoehorning a “protected” bicycle lane next to overburdened sidewalks is a plan designed to fail. We need to explore alternative approaches.

  • Begrimed always.

  • Brad Aaron

    Update: Flex posts to separate the bike lane are part of the plan but have not yet been installed.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    The previous situation was complicated, here’s how it worked:

    The new sidewalk extension was actually still a “sidewalk”, it was painted brown and all, but it was on the other side of a pedestrian fence. People probably would’ve used it, except the NYPD used it as a parking lot. The planters in this case forced them out, so now it’s a real sidewalk.

    The bike lane has stayed in exactly the same space, except instead of being in the door zone of nypd cruisers, it’s next to a bunch of planters. Flex posts will definitely be an improvement.

  • If we have our way it would go form 31st to 47th .. We did walk through with DOT and hope they will tackle some of it .

  • Daphna

    Does anyone know why this was removed? On 7/12 the tan pigment had been sanded off and all the planters removed. The markings for the bike lane had also been sanded off. All that is left is the thermoplast for the buffer next to what had been the bike lane.

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The wider pedestrian zone is separated from the bike lane by planters, and the bike lane is separated from motor vehicle traffic by inexpensive bollards and low-profile barriers. Photo: NYCFreeParking/Twitter

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