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CB 6 Panel Unanimously Backs Plan to Fill Gap in 1st Ave Protected Bike Lane

2:31 PM EDT on May 5, 2015

Image: DOT
A shared lane will be replaced by a protected bike lane on 10 blocks of First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]
Image: DOT

DOT is set to fill a key 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane this summer, but cyclists might have to wait until the fall for the final piece of the missing link.

The Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted 12-0 last night to support the plan [PDF], which replaces sharrows with a dedicated protected bike lane. It also includes major curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic at the intersection of First Avenue and 49th Street.

The changes cover one of the most dangerous sections of First Avenue: There have been five traffic fatalities between 49th and 59th streets -- all pedestrians -- since 2009, according to DOT. Three of those deaths were at 56th and 57th streets. In contrast, on the rest of First Avenue, between First and 125th streets, six people, including five pedestrians, were killed over the same period on its 115 blocks -- a much lower fatality rate per mile.

The project extends the protected bike lane to 59th Street, where it would connect to the Queensboro Bridge bike path. DOT is proposing to do it in two phases, with a brief pause for a couple of weeks after adding protection up to 56th Street, so the agency can assess the traffic impacts of going from five car lanes to four. The second phase would extend the protected bikeway the remaining three blocks.

Last night, CB 6 asked DOT to stop a block early, at 55th Street, before coming back in September or October with a plan for the final few blocks, parts of which are undergoing utility construction.

In the plan, 57th and 59th streets would retain double left turn lanes and get dedicated signals to separate bike traffic from turning drivers, while intersections with left-turning drivers at 51st, 53rd and 55th streets would get mixing zones. It's possible that later on, DOT will opt for turn lanes with a delayed flashing yellow arrow at those locations (this treatment lets drivers turn across the bike lane and crosswalk if they are empty, and is in place at Second Avenue and 26th Street), but those changes would be considered after the bike lane is installed.

Image: DOT
The plan includes curb extensions and pedestrian islands at 49th Street. Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Concrete pedestrian islands will be added along the protected bike lane in areas without left-turning cars. The plan also removes approximately 52 parking spaces, mostly to create space for turn lanes and mixing zones.

The number of cyclists on these 10 blocks has increased 38 percent since 2012 to 1,477 cyclists over a 12-hour period, according to DOT's summertime counts. Car and truck traffic ranges between 1,720 and 2,604 vehicles per hour during peak times.

Residents and board members at last night's meeting asked DOT for design or signage changes at First Avenue and 48th Street, where eastbound drivers often run a stop sign as they turn across the bike lane onto First Avenue. Just north of there, drivers often double-park in the unprotected curbside bike lane between 48th and 49th streets. DOT was also asked about replacing shared lanes on Second Avenue with protected lanes.

DOT said it would look at changes for those locations but made no promises last night.

When the First Avenue project is complete, it will create a nearly unbroken seven-mile corridor of protected bike lanes from Pike Street to the Willis Avenue Bridge.

This post has been corrected with accurate fatality statistics from DOT.

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