Eyes on the Street: Lower Manhattan Bikeways Get More Rideable

Cyclists can now use bike lanes on the Pike Street median while construction continues on the pedestrian space and landscaping. Photo: ##Jacob-uptown http://www.flickr.com/photos/7995989@N03/5986200570/##via Flickr##

Last week we highlighted the construction underway on the upgraded bike lane and pedestrian space along Allen Street. Just a bit further south, the bikeway portion of the project is already open along Pike Street south of Madison Street. Streetsblog reader Jacob-uptown snapped some great pics of the new lanes and the ongoing work. As his shots show, the new design provides lots of space for cyclists and pedestrians alike and will bring a line of greenery through the neighborhood.

In mid-July, the lack of physical separation between this bike lane and the street led to constant blockage by parked cars. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/7995989@N03/5986200052/##Jacob-uptown via Flickr##

Jacob also found some welcome improvements at the new two-way bike lane along South Street. When Streetsblog attended the opening of the new East River Waterfront Esplanade, the on-street bike lane was blocked by cars, buses, and NYPD vehicles. Now, however, orange barrels keep motor vehicles from intruding where they’re not supposed to be.

If you have some photos you want to share, tag them “Streetsblog” on Flickr to get our attention. More pics after the jump.

As Pike Street hits the East River under the Manhattan Bridge, separate bike and pedestrian spaces will merge into a shared-use path in the center of the street. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/7995989@N03/5985640761/##Jacob-uptown via Flickr##
Another view of the open but still incomplete bike lane along Pike Street. The bike lane curves away from the traffic lane at intersections to give pedestrians space to wait before crossing traffic. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/7995989@N03/5986200570/##Jacob-uptown via Flickr.##
  • Jeff

    The Allen/Pike street improvement is a great pedestrian project, but I have a feeling most experienced cyclists will opt to ride in traffic with the new design.  The current layout (lanes adjacent to the median with generous buffers and bollards) represents some of the best on-street bike infrastructure in the city.  I do, however, favor the reconstruction overall, as I’m a firm believer that the needs of pedestrians trump the needs of private vehicles (be they bicycles, automobiles, wheelbarrows, etc.).

  • I tend to agree with Jeff. I occasionally use the Pike Street bike lanes to get to Pathmark and then haul groceries back to the West Side. Given the choice of a slightly closer straight route up a mild incline, or zig zagging along the median perhaps sharing the space with pedestrians and possibly small children, I’ll probably opt to ride in traffic.

    This will be nice greenspace in the community but not much of a solution for those of us who just want to get from A to B.

  • Severin

    I’m not a New Yorker, but those bike paths look very pleasant to ride on and remind me of some of the great, fluid infrastructure I encountered in my visit to Malmo, Sweden. My guess is the time difference is negligible and the pleasantness of the bike paths outweigh any time saved.

  • Sean in Brooklyn

    I’m commenting on comments below me.  For context, my bike is my primary form of transportation, I’m a TA member and a Streetsblog regular.  

    But I can’t stand the phrase “experienced cyclist” as euphemism for “cyclist who wants to get somewhere fast and/or without having to deal with pedestrians.”  You hear folks all time bemoaning the Herald Sq design, Broadway south of Times Square, and now this.  A cyclist who won’t slow down and happily commingle with pedestrians during their bike trip is no better than a motorist refusing to do the same with cyclists.  This “experienced cyclist” euphemism is actually windshield perspective as mapped to cycling.  Perhaps, “handlebar perspective”?  
    If, while cycling, you find yourself suffering from Handlebar Perspective, slow down for a minute, sit a bit more upright, and nod to let a pedestrian by.  Wave hi to your neighbor or the UPS guy.  Laugh at something cute that kid just did.  Admire up into that brownstone  parlor window.  And enjoy the fact you’re using the greatest form of transportation on  the nation’s greatest infrastructure for said transportation, knowing that the more tolerable you are to plaza-goers, the more this city will slowly see things your way.

    It might take a whole extra 3 minutes out of your trip.

  • JMB

    Those are nice and scenic and all, but so bumpy and wavy, like they didn’t use the good steamroller on them.

  • This is good, but I’m wondering why I haven’t read anything on Streets Blog about the crazy switcharoo on the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, where suddenly the pedestrian lane is now the bike lane and the bike lane now the pedestrian lane. Was there coverage of this and I missed it?

    This past weekend I was in for quite a surprise, as the Manhattan side bike entryway had no signage, just barricades. When I exited on the Brooklyn side I figured out what was going on. So over the course of the last few days I’ve crossed both directions using the new “detour” configuration and I’ve gotten to experience both the majesty of the southern view while crossing, as well as the incredibly dangerous hassle of trying to get to or from the Allen St. bike lane to the new bike entrance/exit at the intersection of Canal and Bowery Streets. It’s a bit of a nightmare. I certainly hope this is only a temporary (if confusing) thing!

  • Joe R.

    @sean_in_brooklyn:disqus – What you call “handlebar perspective” is a very valid viewpoint which must be taken into consideration if we’re to grow cycling as anything beyond a niche form of transportation, especially in the outer boroughs.  Sure, it’s nice sometimes to smell the roses, look at pretty girls, wave hello to the UPS guy, and I’ve done those things on occasion.  That’s actually one of the nice things about being on a bike-the ability to interact with people around you-both pedestrians and fellow cyclists.  However, there are other times I’ve just wanted to make good time, particularly when I’m far from home, with 10 or 20 miles of riding in front of me.  And I can tell you when that’s the case, bike infrastructure as in the pictures above wouldn’t be all that appealing.  It’s not just the frequent interactions with crossing pedestrians which are an issue.  In fact, that’s probably less of an issue than the geometry of the bike path itself.  And I see stuff like this when looking at pictures of many bike paths in many cities-namely an abundance of very tight turns which pretty much preclude maintaining any kind of cruising speed I would consider reasonable for those times I’m going a good distance.

    The term “experienced cyclist” is kind of loaded, but in general anyone who has been cycling for a few years will eventually have the physically ability to ride at speeds incompatible with infrastructure full of tight turns.  End result then is they will ride in the streets, people will complain they’re not using the “nice”, costly paths the city built just for them.  I find the way many bike paths are designed strange in light of the fact that design speed is a very basic parameter when designing roads for cars.  It should be taken into consideration for bicycles as well, with curves designed for at least the speeds the strongest cyclists would be likely to reach ( ~25 mph, perhaps higher on downgrades).  As a bonus, sweeping curves allow greater visibility of crossing pedestrians.  If the intention of using sharp curves is to “slow down” bikes, then in the end it’s only going to end up marginalizing cyclists-basically giving them the choice of streets full of cars where they can ride at their ability, or curvy paths where they end up averaging walking speed (and if I’m going to average walking speed, or not much over, I’ll just walk instead of bike).

    You need to look at the reason bikes exist in the first place.  The primary advantage of a bicycle is to extend the range/speed under which a human can travel under his/her own power.  In general, a good bike will allow you to go 3 to 5 times faster than you can walk.  This seems to be a rule of thumb across the board.  An average 3 mph walker might be able to do 12-15 mph on a bike.  A fast 4.5 mph walker like me can do 18 to 23 mph.  There’s not much point being on a bike, at least as a mode of transportation, if infrastructure, laws, or other factors prevent you from using the mechanical advantage a bicycle gives you to its fullest extent.  The great cycling countries realize this.  The Netherlands is building up a system of bicycle highways where one can go miles without stopping at whatever speed they’re comfortable at ( including 50+ km/h on velomobiles).  As a result, the bicycle is being used for both short and longer commutes, in some cases commutes of over 20 miles each way.  A lot of what we have in NYC by contrast is either full of tight turns, or full of lights forcing you to stop every 3 blocks.  If that’s all we continue to do, then I doubt we’ll see bikes being used as transport for anything other than 1 to 3 mile trips in Manhattan.  In the outer boroughs you’ll only have the few brave souls like me unafraid to ride along arterials full of fast motor traffic.  We need to look at what works well elsewhere and emulate it.

  • Wow.  Again those one-way bike paths look way too narrow.  There is no place to pass!  Someone towing a trailer behind their bike would seem to take up 80% of the pathway shown in two of the pictures above!

    I also liked the “experienced cyclist” discussion.  I too like to cruise on my 3-speed at 10mph and haul on my Italian racer at 20mph.  I feel that maybe NYCDoT has been going too far in the direction of the Danish bike facility model, forgetting that NYC is much bigger than Copenhagen and many of those cycling already in NYC want to be able to ride faster then the typical European cyclist and are using their bike as an alternative to public transportation for fairly long commutes of 5 miles and more (nice run-on sentence).

    And if you drive a car, there are freeways that drivers can use to get around the city at higher speeds.  Why shouldn’t cyclists have similar options if they want to get across town quickly and efficiently?

  • Wow.  Again those one-way bike paths look way too narrow.  There is no place to pass!  Someone towing a trailer behind their bike would seem to take up 80% of the pathway shown in two of the pictures above!

    I also liked the “experienced cyclist” discussion.  I too like to cruise on my 3-speed at 10mph and haul on my Italian racer at 20mph.  I feel that maybe NYCDoT has been going too far in the direction of the Danish bike facility model, forgetting that NYC is much bigger than Copenhagen and many of those cycling already in NYC want to be able to ride faster then the typical European cyclist and are using their bike as an alternative to public transportation for fairly long commutes of 5 miles and more (nice run-on sentence).

    And if you drive a car, there are freeways that drivers can use to get around the city at higher speeds.  Why shouldn’t cyclists have similar options if they want to get across town quickly and efficiently?

  • @facebook-502609120:disqus Haven’t tried it (I have just been taking Baxter to Canal), but someone suggested Allen/Pike to East Broadway to Bowery as a pretty good route.

    Also, here’s some SB MB coverage I found:
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/07/18/wanted-better-protection-for-thousands-of-cyclists-dumped-onto-the-bowery/comment-page-1/
    (also see link there to 2010 article).

  • Joe R.

    “And if you drive a car, there are freeways that drivers can use to get around the city at higher speeds.  Why shouldn’t cyclists have similar options if they want to get across town quickly and efficiently?”

    I’ve been saying this for YEARS.  Cars never would have become even remotely as popular as they are if highways didn’t exist.  We shouldn’t expect any differently with bicycles.  If anything, the burden of continually starting/stopping or changing speeds caused by riding on local streets is far more onerous for a human-powered vehicle than it is for a motor vehicle.  It effectively makes commutes beyond maybe 5 miles in a place like Manhattan impossible for most cyclists.  There were even studies done which show stopping and starting once at a stop sign or red light uses as much energy as riding 200 yards (over 2 blocks).  Moreover, this continual stopping makes use of more efficient velomobiles impractical as they would never have enough room to reach the speeds where their aerodynamic advantage comes into play on local streets.

    The next logical step is to build out a series of bike highways where one can ride from the fringes of the outer boroughs all the way into midtown without encountering a traffic light or a stop sign.  We can leverage a lot of existing infrastructure, such as els and railroad/highway viaducts, to do this, and build brand new above-street lanes where we can’t.  No need for one on every street.  A grid of these, spaced perhaps a mile apart, would be sufficient.  On average you would only need to ride 10 blocks on local streets before you can just cruise most of the way to your destination.  NYC is huge, ~20 miles wide.  It’s not Copenhagen.  We need to stop thinking like it is.

  • Nice one. Though we don’t any crashing scenes in this. But look good the tiny way.

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