Eyes on the Street: A Better Bikeway Linking the High Bridge to Highbridge

This parking-protected contraflow bike lane on 170th Street in Highbridge is ready for some green paint. Photo: Ben Fried

Ten days ago, DOT broke ground on a nice set of new bike lanes linking Upper Manhattan to the reopened High Bridge. Meanwhile, bike access improvements on the Bronx side are already pretty far along.

This is the new contraflow bike lane on 170th Street, leading east from the High Bridge. It’s part of a package of bike lanes (and sharrows) linking the High Bridge viaduct to the neighborhood of Highbridge and the waterfront parks to the north.

As built, this short, two-block contraflow bike lane is a step up from the proposal DOT showed the local community board last year [PDF]. It’s protected from traffic by parked cars instead of putting cyclists between the parking lane and moving vehicles.

The rest of the project includes no protected segments but makes good use of contraflow bike lanes to create coherent routes — mostly on low-traffic streets — tying the High Bridge to the existing bike network.

Update: An anonymous tipster sends a more recent photo. Here’s the view looking toward the High Bridge (looks like the stencils went down too soon):


  • Jesse

    I love contraflow bike lanes. There’s something so grown up about them. It’s like there’s some totally sensible and levelheaded person at DOT who said “Of course it should be this way. Why try to scold cyclists into doing something they will resist doing when we can just accommodate them? After all, why should bikes and cars have the same rules? They are plainly not the same thing.”

  • AnoNYC

    Gonna check it out this weekend via bike from the Bronx. I hope most of those bike lanes are set up now, would be nice.

  • I like contraflow lanes too and agree they should be installed in most places where there is a strong desire for contraflow bike traffic but don’t agree with the sentiment of that statement. To me it just shows a lack of maturity that I find sadly accepted by many bicyclists and advocates. What other rules should we just throw out for cyclists? This thinking just becomes a slippery slope.

  • It’s not that you “throw out” rules for cyclists, it’s that you adapt and change rules so that they make sense for people who aren’t in cars. Contraflow lanes are a nice example of the city taking a more nuanced, rational approach to “the rules.”

  • Matthias

    We need more of these! Instead of forcing cyclists to take circuitous routes or punishing them for riding against traffic, make contraflow lanes. It improves local access so much. There is plenty of room on almost every street for two-way bike traffic.

  • Jesse

    It’s not as if the rules and infrastructure currently in place are completely neutral with respect to cyclists. Consider why the street is one way to begin with and consider who actually benefits from that.

    It’s not as if the street weren’t wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic. However, it’s not wide enough to accommodate two travel lanes and two parking lanes and allow drivers to feel comfortable speeding on it. Someone at DOT, many years ago, decided that, for the sake of “improving traffic flow” — or whatever euphemism they use that means “allowing drivers to speed while still providing as much on-street parking as possible” — they would convert it to one-way. And a one-way street isn’t a huge imposition on drivers because they can make three right turns in a row without sacrificing too much time or working very hard. But for a cyclist who is traveling at a modest comfortable speed, and who may not even be in great shape, you’re talking about tacking on another 3/4 of a mile to their trip. And what if it’s raining?

    So contraflow lanes like this are not so much about creating a special exception for cyclists as they are about acknowledging that different street users have different needs and one design and set of rules simply don’t work that well for everyone. It’s about returning the street to a more equitable state where it meets the needs of more citizens. It is, after all, a public good so it’s only right that it benefits all of us.

  • BBnet3000

    I think I actually prefer the way the stencils ended up on this lane. They stand out more than when they are white on top of light green.

    Why doesn’t New York use the brighter shade of green that most other cities use again?

  • Matthias

    One-way streets aren’t even great for all drivers–they speed up travel over longer distances while impeding local access. They also likely increase miles driven on neighborhood streets.

  • True, but at a certain point geometry and physics outweigh these problems. A street, especially one with parking on both sides, may simply not be wide enough for two-way motor vehicle traffic.

  • qrt145

    One-way streets can suck for drivers when configured in certain ways, so some cities do it on purpose as a traffic calming measure. For example, to discourage through traffic (in which drivers more likely to speed, I suspect), the direction of the street can be changed every block. Then the street is only attractive for drivers who begin or end their trip on that block.

    Cities that use such traffic calming measures often let cyclists go against motor traffic on these local streets.

    But in places like Manhattan, almost every street is a through street. This is great for throughput and redundancy of motor traffic, but not so great for people in general.


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