New “Shared Lane” Bike Route Design Spotted in Manhattan

New York City’s Department of Transportation is quietly experimenting with a new design for Class III bike routes on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Streetsblog tipster Jason Varone photographed the new, not-yet-finished bike stencils on Clinton Street between Grand and Delancey this morning.

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Often referred to as "shared lanes," Class III routes are put down in places where bicycles and motor vehicles are supposed to ride together as equals in the middle of street. Varone reports that there are three half-finished stencils between Grand and Broome and one more closer to Delancey. In size, the stencils are roughly the length of a bicycle not including the unpainted chevrons above the stencil. The new markings continue onto Delancey Street leading to the bicycle/pedestrian overpass above the FDR Drive.

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There are three new things about these bike lane designs. First off, the bicycle stencil is in the middle of the street. Second, the stencils are being marked on a relatively narrow side street. Third, it looks like a couple of chevrons will be painted atop the little bike man. This particular bike lane design has never before been used in New York City.

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The only other example of shared lane markings that I know of in New York City can be found on University Avenue in the Bronx. These were installed in the Spring of 2003.

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The markings in the Bronx don’t have the little chevrons up top and, more importantly, they are on one lane of a much wider, busier street than the new markings. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a cyclist who feels that these particular shared-lane markings do much good for Bronx cyclists. The new stencils appear to be a much more thoughtful design and implementation.

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While shared lane markings may be new for New York City, they are well-established and well-tested in other parts of the country. Berkeley, California’s Bicycle Boulevards use much larger stencils than the ones currently being painted on Clinton Street.

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On a neighborhood advocate’s note: While I am happy to see DOT experimenting with a new bicycle lane design, I am now more baffled than ever about the agency’s failure to follow through on its commitment to install shared-lane markings on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, pictured above. More on this issue in a forthcoming posting.

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