After Two Meetings, CB 6 Still Hasn’t Decided on QBB Bike Access Plan

At the end of its second meeting on a DOT proposal to improve bike safety on the Manhattan approaches to the Queensboro Bridge, the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 6 reached a conclusion. The committee needed more time to make up its mind.

The highlight of the plan is a two-way protected bike lane on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. Image: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-04-01-queensboro-connection-mn-cb6.pdf##DOT##

“We will have a decision by June,” chair Fred Arcaro said.

North of 59th Street, Community Board 8’s transportation committee decided last week that two meetings was enough, and voted to support the plan with modifications. It’s scheduled to go before the full board on May 22.

Last night, Robert Cohen, who is not an appointed board member but sits on the CB 6 committee, said that DOT’s presentation, with diagrams, maps, and photo simulations, wasn’t enough. He needed a walk-through with DOT to fully comprehend the proposal. Other committee members said that they had already done a walk-through, but Arcaro went ahead and asked DOT to do a site visit with committee members.

DOT had tweaked the proposal [PDF] since it first presented the plan last month. It now includes a traffic signal for southbound cyclists using the proposed two-way protected bike lane between 59th and 60th Streets. In addition, signal timings at the intersection of 59th Street and First Avenue have been changed so that pedestrians and cyclists will cross the intersection at different times than drivers turning from First Avenue to 59th Street on their way to the Queensboro Bridge.

DOT also explained how cyclists traveling north would navigate the double left-turn lanes on First Avenue. Between 55th and 56th Streets, the shared lane stencils would begin migrating right. Between 56th and 57th Street, the markings would be in the third lane from the left, with the two left-most lanes dedicated for drivers turning onto 57th and then 59th Streets.

Of the roughly two dozen people in attendance last night, many were skeptical of putting a shared lane near the middle of the street, saying it would not be an easy maneuver for cyclists trying to bridge the Midtown and Upper East Side sections of the First Avenue protected bike lane.

Steve Vaccaro suggested DOT install flexible posts, like the ones separating turn lanes from through lanes on Third Avenue at the turn-off onto the Queensboro, to prevent drivers from skipping the queue and cutting across the path of cyclists in the shared lane. DOT’s Alan Ma replied that First Avenue is 70 feet wide, and with seven lanes of traffic, there isn’t space for anything other than a double-white line. “We’ll work with our engineers to see if we can squeeze it in, but it’s tough to find that room,” he said.

With so many left-turning drivers at 57th and 59th Streets, DOT said it can't do much for cyclists or pedestrians on that part of First Aveune. Image: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-04-01-queensboro-connection-mn-cb8.pdf##DOT##

Near the end of the meeting, vice chair Molly Hollister asked if the committee would be moving ahead on a resolution, but Arcaro said it would not, before checking with Ma to see if it would affect DOT’s implementation timeline.

“We’d like to get it done this year,” Ma said.

  • For those wondering what the hold up is, just search “Arcaro” on Streetsblog…

  • The committee put “Reso.” on the agenda and then did not actually have any resolution prepared whatsoever, and never even intended of presenting a resolution. Activists showed up just to watch everyone on the board punt the issue because they were too tired to deliberate anything (or even attempt to understand the DOT’s modifications to the plan) because of an earlier fracas over a water main that went on for more than half the allotted meeting time. They were ill-prepared for the public discussion on that earlier matter, and not at all prepared for anything on the agenda that followed it.

    The DOT plan wasn’t all that clear, and the presentation was not ideal, but CB6 didn’t even try to understand it, and made zero effort to put it to a vote. If DOT can’t get the approvals they need in-time for 2013 installation because board members were too tired and cranky to review DOT proposals in a timely and competent manner, then we need new leadership and stronger minds on that committee.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    At the end of the day, I doubt anyone will raise problems with this. No parking removed, no essential travel lanes removed, and this will improve safety for all street users. Better sharrows than nothing at all, I was surprised, more often than not, motorists actually respect the No Passing rule.

  • Anonymous

    They respect the sharrows on 2nd avenue too. It’s all about conditioning behavior. If you’re used to zooming and frenetically changing lanes then yah, not safe for bikes. But if you see solid white lines and signs every block in big letters stating SHARED BIKE LANE with stenticls of bikes every 20 feet . . . . what’d you know, drivers know to avoid that lane if they want to move and only use it when turning left.

    Sharrows, while not as nice as protected lanes, can work in areas where protected lanes are impracticable, if implemented appropriately like 2nd ave in midtown.

  • KillMoto

    “DOT’s Alan Ma replied that First Avenue is 70 feet wide, and with seven lanes of traffic…”

    Ah! So, if there were only say six lanes of traffic, 70 feet would be plenty wide, amiright?

    Bueller?

  • Daphna

    Manhattan Community Board 6’s area is only from the middle of 59th Street and south. So the part of the plan that they need to decide on is just the enhanced shared lane on First Avenue from East 56th to 59th Street, the sharrows on the south side of 59th Street and the enhanced shared lane for one block on Second Avenue from 58th to 59th Street. These changes do not remove parking or a traffic lane. They just encompass sharrows, a solid line instead of a dashed line and a few “cars do not pass bikes in shared lane” signs. That’s it! Very mild changes. It should not take a third meeting to be able to say “yes”. The chair, Fred Arcaro, is doing the community an injustice.

  • guestnyc

    How about those exiting from the East River Greenway north of the 59th Street Bridge?

    I assume the “correct” exit onto the bridge or is to travel one street down/south on York (unprotected), a right/west onto E 59th St (Again unprotected) and another right on 1st Ave (unprotected/heavy traffic) with a dangerous/fast merge across to the on ramp of the Queensboro? Not sure about the easiest safest way around there to 2nd Ave from the Greenway.

    A lot of cyclists just ride the sidewalk across E 60th to 1st Ave or the bridge. How about a shared 2 way ped/bike sidewalk from the 59th St Bridge path to the greenway entrance?

    What’s the correct directions both ways between the Greenway and 2nd Ave?

    This area has a lot of bicyclists and 4 main options for travel (1st Ave, 2nd, 59th St Bridge, East River Green way. A major crossroads.

  • Daphna

    One block you describe riding will be better because it will become a protected lane.

    There will be a two-way protected bike lane (with concrete jersey barriers) on 1st Avenue from 59th to 60th Street, and a parking protected bike lane on 1st Avenue from 60th to 61st Street (where is will connect with the existing protected bike lane that goes up to 125th Street).

    I did not mention this aspect of the plan in my other post because above 59th Street is Manhattan Community Board 8 not CB6.

  • guestnyc

    Thanks for the info. This area just seems so complicated to traffic calm.

    Still, a shared pedestrian/bicycle 2-way bike path along the south sidewalk along E 60th St between York and 1st Aves would be welcomed.

    I don’t know if it’s feasible though. There is a lot of traffic in that area of all types.

  • Nick Ober

    I agree that drivers remarkably do yield to bikes in the sharrow lane. I wouldn’t have bet money on it when they were first installed on Second Avenue but I’ve been proven wrong. During rush hour even, most drivers avoid using the lane.

    But for me that begs the question: If drivers are already avoiding the sharrow lane and giving it over to bikes, why isn’t a protected bike lane practical on Second Avenue south of the Queensboro Bridge?

  • 10 ft lanes are pretty tight. ..give them credit where credit’s due. Instead picture NYSDOT with 14 ft lanes.

  • The missing connection to the ER Greenway terminus at 60th St. is clearly an important gap. The uphill climb and heavy traffic at York/Sutton in this location makes a shared roadway lane inadequate for all but the strongest climbers. But there are some very wide and underused sidewalks in this area that might be further widened and/or reconfigured to accommodate bike traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Btw Steve, thanks for all your efforts!

  • Anonymous

    To be honest, individual drivers seem to be really decent about bikes for the most part, as far as I can tell.

    The issues are largely institutional. At the individual level it is often just a lack of knowledge on the driver’s part.

  • Andrew

    @c44dc01f8107c1b33104b538f33b734d:disqus is suggesting eliminating a lane, not narrowing each of seven. This is a city street, not a superhighway. Seven lanes is absurd.

  • Until congestion pricing removes single-occupancy cars from Midtown, the traffic volumes do warrant seven lanes.

  • Andrew

    If your #1 priority is processing automobile traffic, then I agree.

    Personally, I can think of countless better ways to use valuable Manhattan real estate than for processing automobile traffic.

    As I said: “This is a city street, not a superhighway. Seven lanes is absurd.”

  • Not speaking professionally, It is my personal view that it is nearly impossible for me to convince a Community Board, local business owners, Transit Agencies, as well as our operating agencies to go any lower than 5 traffic lanes without adversely affecting response times or general operations.

    It WILL be done piecemeal and the next mayor will largely determine what direction that takes – but as of now, commercial, transit, taxi and municipal vehicles take up an enormous amount of room on the streets.

    Perhaps we should simply deck over every street with a 25′ high deck and have the vehicle level become the defacto basement, with LRT/BRT and pedestrians on the raised “ground” level.

  • Joe R.

    “Perhaps we should simply deck over every street with a 25′ high deck and have the vehicle level become the defacto basement, with LRT/BRT and pedestrians on the raised “ground” level.”

    Even though that would be expensive, it would solve a whole host of problems in one fell swoop. We could do it fairly cheaply if we just put pedestrians and cyclists on the raised deck. With both out of the way on the lower level, you could use part of what used to be the sidewalk for BRT or LRT (just save a 5′ strip so people can walk to the nearest stair or escalator to reach the raised deck). I actually love the concept. It would make the city infinitely more livable with pedestrians and cyclists in a sunny area free of motor vehicles. It could be sort of like the Highline park, but encompassing the entire city.

  • It would allow us to also capture the emissions using the same type of filters power plants and factories use on a metropolitan scale.

    If high-rise development continues its current pace, I think it is inevitable, especially after we learn construction lessons for the current decking of Atlantic and Hudson yards.

    Our agency has done a study that explored this idea on transit properties: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/transportation/td_decking_opport.shtml

  • It would allow us to also capture the emissions using the same type of filters power plants and factories use on a metropolitan scale.

    If high-rise development continues its current pace, I think it is inevitable, especially after we learn construction lessons for the current decking of Atlantic and Hudson yards.

    Our agency has done a study that explored this idea on transit properties: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/transportation/td_decking_opport.shtml

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately he is working with a “given”. The people designing bike facilities are not given carte blanche to remove traffic lanes.

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