Still No Guarantee That East Side Bike Lanes Will Be Completed Next Year

Earlier today, Kate Hinds at Transportation Nation asked Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan about the status of extending the East Side bike lanes north of 34th Street. She received an open-ended but not-so-encouraging response:

KH: You said in the summer it wouldn’t happen in 2010; is it on the table for 2011?

JSK:  Not at the moment. No. Our plans are our plans and we continue to work with communities about what’s the right set of tools and what works best, tailored to meet community needs.

Read the full exchange here.

I’m not sure Sadik-Khan’s response changes much about what we already know. The commissioner’s answer is discouraging for New Yorkers hoping for a quick commitment to extending the East Side lanes next year, but does not rule out construction in 2011. This has been the state of affairs since June, when completion of the East Side safety improvements entered limbo. The DOT press office confirmed that a final determination about building the rest of the East Side bike lanes in 2011 has not yet been reached.

Last week, a group of East Side electeds joined Transportation Alternatives to deliver 2,500 handwritten letters to the Mayor’s Office asking that the bike lanes be extended up to 125th Street. At the rally, TA director Paul Steely White said the city would have to commit to the project within six weeks to be on track for a 2011 completion date. So, there are still five weeks to go before we should expect a definitive answer.

It’s also worth noting that the commissioner’s answer was given off-the-cuff at a press event about a new DOT safety education program, part of the city’s new campaign to raise awareness of the 30 mph speed limit. We’ll have more about that program later this afternoon.

  • Glenn

    This is the same standard line – nothing new here since late April. It seems JSK / DOT will continue to say that same line until her boss makes up his mind.

    Mr. Goldsmith: please extend the wonderful bike lanes downtown all the way to 125th street to provide more commuting options instead of the overcrowded #6 line!

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    Goldsmith is waiting to see which way the political winds blow. I’m getting an uneasy feeling, though.

  • J

    Taking the long perspective, I’m not so sure this was a bad move by the city. If they did the whole thing all at once, the SBS project would seem more like a bike project. By building a bit at a time, the 1st & 2nd Ave bike lanes have time to build ridership who will then use those lanes when they are extended farther north. Building it all at once might have mobilized more opposition. A bigger project equals more press and more opposition. Building it incrementally will allow small sections time to adjust to the changes. Then, as other sections are added, the initial areas are less likely to care and much less likely to oppose changes elsewhere.

    That said, I do think that this bikeway must (and will) be completed, and I will be very disappointed if a large section isn’t completed in 2011.

  • Doug G.

    The only way to build ridership is to build a more complete network that extends up the East Side. What good is a bike lane that empties into dangerous traffic? This is like building a bridge halfway across the Hudson and waiting to see if cars use it before deciding to build the rest.

  • meb

    The rollout of SBS on the East Side on 1st and 2nd Ave without any accommodations for bikes has made bike travel on the East Side *more dangerous* in midtown and the UES.

    For example, around the Queensboro Bridge on 1st Ave you’re left with the SBS lane you want to keep out of on the right hand side of the road, and the left only lanes for the bridge on the left hand side of the road. If you’re heading north and you try to take Sutton/York instead of 1st you have to contend with the FDR entrance at 63rd and the right only lanes.

    Prior to SBS at least you could ride on the right by the curb, the bus lane restriction was never really enforced.

    It just boils down to the fact that the city did a half-arsed job on the East Side when they rolled out SBS.

  • Ben, As the update/clarification published by TransportationNation yesterday demonstrates, you can’t let a scoop get to your head. As always, thanks for the superior mixture of reporting and judgment we Streetsblog readers have come to rely on!

    Here’s the text of the update from TransportationNation, appended to the original article interpreting JSK as stating definitively that there would be no extension of the East Side Bikeway in in 2011:

    “UPDATE: Now, when we first published this post, we interpreted the answer to the question:

    –Kate Hinds: “Is it on the table for 2011?

    – JSK: “Not at the moment, no,”–

    to mean that there would be no East Side bike lanes in 2011. But Commissioner Sadik-Khan called to tell us that wasn’t the case. In fact, she said on the call, she’s “looking to extend the network, but before we do that we need to take into account how the improvements are working.” The plan for 2011, she said, is still being developed.”

    The callback to Bernstein from JSK tells us not only that the decision on 2011 is still open, but that DoT is working actively to make the decision, and a key input is an analysis of the post-redesign experience on 1st and 2nd south of 34th Street. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough time has passed since the facility was installed–indeed, concrete pedestrian refuge islands are still going in on First Avenue today–to be able to gauge the impact of the facility on safety. The only data demonstrating the functioning of the facility that might be available during the remainder of the year would be traffic flow data. This suggests that the decision to move forward with the extension in 2011 may hinge on whatever evidence is available now as to whether the project has unreasonably slowed motor vehicle traffic.

    One thing that can be said is that unlike certain other protected bike paths, the East Side Bikeway has not generated significant opposition either at the affected Community Boards or in the form of street protest. To the contrary, Community Board 6 is on record proposing a more robust design of Bikeway than that DoT was planning at the time the 34th Street cutoff was announced; Community Board 11’s Transpo Chair expressed outrage at the cutoff, and word on the street is that the co-chairs of CB8 Transpo Committee Co-Chairs feel much the same way, and like CB6 have some ideas of their own for a more robust design. Moreover, the only public demonstration against the Bikeway thus far garnered a total of three cranks–as against more than 2,500 people who took several minutes each to hand-write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg in favor of extending the Bikeway to 125th Street.

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