Quick, Someone Get Me a Shovel

Last week, we saw the sorry condition of the new on-street bike route in Times Square and thought to ourselves how much better things would be if only bikes had some truly protected turf in the Crossroads of the World. Alas, just a half-mile south, our idealistic thoughts were quashed by this depressing visage:


Here in Herald Square, across from Macy’s, there’s a bollard-protected bike lane for one measly block. Peds are supposed to stay to the left (east) of the planters, and bikes get a few feet between the planters and the bollards. Except when it snows, apparently, in which case someone has the thoughtfulness and foresight to lay out caution tape and cones rather than actually clearing the path.

The ped walkway is partly clear, and the street has been plowed, but bikes are given the freeze. Does the plow not fit? Did the design not take into account the possibility of snow? Do the street cleaners just not care? (Or is it all of the above?) Whether it’s a class I, II, or III bike route, or not a bike route at all, it’s not going to be a good place to ride unless the planners, the builders, the enforcers, and the maintainers really want it to be.

  • I rode to work today for the first time since the snowfall. I figured the streets were clear enough that I could safely ride. Was I wrong:

    More cars than ever parked in the bike lanes because of curbside snow taking up their free parking. Also, the Harlem River Bike Path along the Greenway was totally covered in ice, even though there were truck’s tire tracks left behind (if a truck can get through, they could have plowed the greenway).

    But with a little caution and not a lot of speed (plus a little walking) I managed to pedal the iced over greenway for about 50 blocks without falling.

  • Charlie D.

    In the Boston area, pretty most bike facilities were rendered completely useless by the storm and poor plowing that followed (mainly because of the immediate freeze that occurred). The bike paths and bike lanes were full of snow and ice, and many bike lanes were full of parked cars due to snow and ice in the parking lane.

    I simply biked further towards the middle of the road. Motorists were remarkably patient, as my positioning now forced them to wait for oncoming traffic to clear in order to pass me in many cases.

  • ddartley

    Another similar thing–

    I meant to keep a more careful eye out and make notes, but didn’t: am I correct that the street snow plows just push all the snow to the side of the road, including around corners, and that’s why intersections after snowfalls are crap for pedestrians? Shouldn’t there be some city-sponsored digging/plowing around crosswalks? If they can expend amazing amounts of money and effort making the streets clear for cars, can’t they do something for peds, who as we’ve read about here, drive the economy more than motorists?

  • keri

    I have been thinking about this very thing! I used to live in Montreal and the city plows sidewalks in commercial areas and around metro stations. It was a dream. They are so cute, little sidewalk (and bike lane) sized plows/sanders. Aaron suggested perhaps BIDs would put up funds for plows?

  • P

    Or the city could expand the property owner’s responsibility of clearing snow from the sidewalk all the way to the corner.

    Now that I think about it- I bet this is already the law but it’s simply not enforced.

  • ddartley

    The thing is that the street plowing makes the corners worse than mere snowfall (according to my un-thorough observation, that is). So that’s the City’s doing, and then it seems the City does nothing to alleviate the hazard/inconvenience it creates.

  • The cities efforts during this “storm” were borderline pathetic. I started cycling again last Friday and it was pretty bad, with most bike lanes being completely covered by snow from the plows. I expected it to be better today, but it really was not much better at all. I just took a lane as that was the only safe alternative.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Last winter I walked across three unforgiveably large patches of ice on sidewalks in my neighborhood. I called 311 and got a call-back from a friendly and informative Sanitation engineer.

    He said that they can ticket property owners who don’t keep their sidewalks sufficiently clear. The one property that was a private house wouldn’t be a problem, but he felt that the church (corner of 39th and Woodside Avenues) and the Long Island Rail Road (under their bridges) would probably just ignore the tickets. This fall, the LIRR replaced the sidewalks under all its bridges, which has helped considerably with the drainage, and the ice hasn’t been as much of a problem.

    In the case of Herald Square, it seems clear that the bike lanes aren’t a priority for the sanitation managers. This kind of thing could be taken up with the DOS directly, but it might be good to have the 34th Street Pardnership mediate things. Someone here has contacts with them, right?


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

This Block Now Has a Protected Bike Lane *and* a Wider Sidewalk

Midtown Manhattan avenues have a problem: The sidewalks aren't wide enough for all the people walking on them. People have to walk in the roadbed to get where they're going. On avenues with protected bike lanes, this means people on foot spill over into bikeways, rendering them all but impassable for cyclists. Now there's a single Midtown block with a protected bike lane that also has a wider sidewalk.