The Queensboro Meat Grinder

Classic Scene near Queensboro Bridge on Second Avenue (note red light!)

Every morning I walk past scenes like this near the Queensboro Bridge (QBB) on Second Avenue. Traffic blocks up on Second Avenue north of the two major crosstown exit routes at 60th and 57th Streets all the way to 70th Street and beyond. The problem is that the QBB creates a natural choke point for south bound traffic on Second Avenue as hundreds of cars and trucks enter Manhattan at every change of the light. But instead of trying to discourage drivers from using Second Avenue in that area or deter drivers from taking the QBB, the only attempt to manage this is to place some traffic agents at a few intersections, but it remains a state of perpetual gridlock and lawlessness. It is also one of the most dangerous areas in the city to bike, as shown in the recent health study of cyclist fatality clusters.

In the scene above, cars heading down Second Avenue in the 60s blocked the box (60th and Second was the worst intersection for blocked box in the Borough President’s analysis) for vehicles heading eastward. Instead of patiently waiting for the obstruction to clear, the London Meat Truck (212-255-2153) drove up onto the pedestrian crosswalk, but still couldn’t make it’s way to the next block until people on the sidewalk backed up to allow it space to squeeze through. But then other cars were following the truck, even after the light turned, forcing pedestrians back on the curb, even though they had the signal.

Pedestrians pinned on the Corner As Cars and Trucks Run Red Lights

And so the cycle of frustrated motorists clashing with each other as well as pedestrians and cyclists continue. How much longer must the Queensboro meat grinder churn?

  • I should add that this is a perfect example of a place where the DOT could work with local community organizations like Upper Green Side and the East Sixties Neighborhood Association to craft a new plan to safely manage and reduce traffic in that area.

  • colin

    It looks like the car driving on the crosswalk is a US Government vehicle.

  • Hannah

    I find that the traffic moves noticeably better without traffic cops. (I think the New Yorker had an article a few years ago about how machines and computer models are better than humans at traffic management.) I can tell from way up Second whether there are traffic cops on the job, based on how backed up things are.

    Another problem with the cops is that they tend to wave cars through without looking for pedestrian traffic, and they’re usually far away from the peds in jeopardy. For example, if you’re crossing east from the southwest side of an intersection and the cop is at the northeast corner, there’s a good change s/he’ll wave southbound traffic through without checking to see whether you’re crossing with the walk signal. As a ped behind a stream of SUVs and trucks, you’ll have a hard time seeing the traffic cop even if you know to look.


  • brent

    Speaking of the QB Bridge, I cycle across every day. Since a couple weeks ago, pedestrian/ cycle entrance near 2nd ave has had the gate closed and locked. That means anyone who crosses the bridge (over a half mile) ends at 2nd ave but then has to backtrack to 1st ave. If she is heading west into the city, they now have to find some awkward means to head back to 2nd ave. What is especially frustrating is that this is all done so that the motorists unloading from the bridge will not have to bother with the hastle of slowing down or yielding to pedestrians. Why do we put up with this crap?

  • J:Lai

    brent , I too have noticed this new gate closing. It removes a potentially dangerous merge between the bike/pedestrian lane and cars, but it does so (as you said) by inconveniencing the bikers and pedestrians while leaving cars unhindered.

    Little things like that say a lot more about the priorities of the DOT and the city than empty public statements about encouraging biking, etc.

    Another issue I have noticed that is particularly bad on the QBB is the frequent presence of construction vehicles and police vehicles on the bike/ped path. The path is relatively narrow, so parking a vehicle on it creates a difficult, low-visibility passing zone.

  • Note too that 2nd Avenue is the major south-bound truck route on the E. Side of Manhattan, which contributes mightily to the chaos and gridlock around the QBB.


QBB Bike Access Improvements Advance to CB 6 Full Board With 13-1 Vote

A DOT proposal that would extend protected bike lanes and add shared lane markings to First Avenue and 59th Street received a 13-1 supportive vote from Manhattan Community Board 6’s transportation committee last night, moving improved bike access at the Queensboro Bridge one step closer to reality after three committee meetings on the topic. The project will […]