Will 2nd Ave Get Its Protected Bike Lane After Subway Construction Wraps?

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If you look closely, you can see that the Upper East Side segment of the Second Avenue protected bike lane is still in DOT’s renderings. Image: NYC DOT via DNAinfo

As the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway wraps up sometime in the next two years, the largest construction zone in the city will turn back into a functional street. Those 40 blocks of Second Avenue on the Upper East Side won’t be the same as before, though. Back in 2010, the city laid out a plan to add bus lanes and protected bike lanes on that stretch when construction is over.

Seven years is a long time for a plan to sit on a shelf. Will the city follow through on the 2010 redesign?

The bus lane will fill the gap in the exclusive right-of-way for downtown-bound M15 Select Bus Service. It’s a foregone conclusion. But the protected bike lane is a different story.

Under Mayor Bloomberg, City Hall at one time lost enthusiasm for its 2010 pledge to build continuous bike routes on First and Second Avenue from Houston Street to 125th. East Harlem and Upper East Side advocates had to fight pretty hard to compel the city to honor that commitment.

So a protected bike lane between 60th Street and 100th Street on Second Avenue can’t be taken for granted. After DNAinfo ran a story about DOT’s plan to add benches and bike racks to Second Avenue sidewalks when subway construction finishes, Streetsblog emailed DOT to double-check on the bike lane.

A spokesperson said the agency intends to make good on the 2010 plan:

DOT will extend the protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue as the Second Avenue Subway work is being completed and MTA restores the roadway above. However, DOT will need to study the streets near the Queensboro Bridge for traffic issues before implementation of any street redesign. We will consult with the Community Board on our plans.

It should be noted that Manhattan CB 8 voted for the bike lane in 2011, so there’s a design handy that’s already been through the community board process. This part of Second Avenue should be entirely within the bike-share service area by then, making a redesign all the more urgent. DOT’s statement is also vague about how Queensboro Bridge “traffic issues” may affect the extent of the bike lane.

Assuming DOT implements the bike lane north of the Queensboro Bridge, the stretch of Second Avenue between the bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel will then be the one major gap in the East Side’s on-street bikeways. It’s a huge void in the city’s bike network, with torrents of traffic to and from the East River crossings and zero protection for cyclists. Even the 2010 plan called for sharrows on those 30 or so blocks.

The city has already set a precedent for exceeding the standards laid out in the 2010 plan. On First Avenue south of the bridge, DOT is set to replace several blocks of sharrows with beefed-up protection for cyclists. A similar improvement on Second Avenue in Midtown would be a huge step toward a connected, protected bike network in the heart of the city.

The 2010 plan for bus lanes and bikeways on the East Side provides no protection for cyclists on Second Avenue in Midtown. Map: NYC DOT

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