Attn DOT: Amsterdam Avenue Is Begging for a Protected Bike Lane

Amsterdam_Ave

DOT is in the process of repaving Amsterdam Avenue from 79th Street to 93rd Street. Here’s the scene at 84th Street yesterday afternoon, courtesy of Community Board 7 member Ken Coughlin. Think there’s enough space for a protected bike lane? Nine feet is all you need.

Amsterdam is one of the big voids in the Manhattan bike network. Since 2010 there’s been a southbound protected bike lane on the Upper West Side (Columbus Avenue), but no protected route for cyclists heading uptown. With four lanes of one-way motor vehicle traffic, Amsterdam also has a higher rate of traffic injuries than other northbound streets in the neighborhood.

Local Council Member Helen Rosenthal endorsed a protected lane for Amsterdam this spring, and earlier this month Community Board 7 voted 34-5 in favor of a resolution asking DOT to “immediately” outfit Amsterdam with “pedestrian refuges, curb extensions, signal timing, and a protected northbound bike lane.” That was the third time in the last six years that CB 7 had formally requested action on Amsterdam, but DOT said only that it would continue to study the street.

Unless DOT stuns the world and restripes the freshly paved Amsterdam with a protected lane, it’s already too late to get one in the ground before bike-share expands to the Upper West Side this fall. A lot of new cyclists will have no safe, comfortable northbound option in the neighborhood.

Time is also running short to get a project in the pipeline for 2016. DOT will have to commit to a redesign in the next few months to be in a position to implement an Amsterdam Avenue protected bike lane next year.

  • thomas040

    So what’s the word? “we are studying the street”?…. have they responded at all?

  • roguebagel

    This is going to be a disaster. All those casual Citi bikers riding up Amsterdam? Something will happen.

  • Aaron M. Renn

    And the Columbus bike lane doesn’t even go through yet, etc.

  • Jeff

    Unfortunately, a lot of them will end up riding up Columbus. And then angry people will use that as proof that cyclists don’t deserve better infrastructure (e.g. a protected lane on Amsterdam).

  • I see room for not one, but TWO extra-wide parking lanes. Hashtag vision zero.

  • roguebagel

    Here’s where you can vent your frustration at De Blasio’s impotence: ttp://www.nyc.gov/html/static/pages/officeofthemayor/contact.shtml

  • Mark Walker

    Amsterdam Ave. needs a road diet not only to accommodate cyclists (though that would be reason enough) but to protect pedestrians. The existing speedway is deadly. Every day I walk over two spots in the nineties where pedestrians have been killed. How many more lives must be lost before DOT takes action to fix this major Vision Zero omission?

  • “Amsterdam Ave. needs a road diet not only to accommodate cyclists (though that would be reason enough) but to protect pedestrians.”

    Hugely important point. Trottenberg’s DOT has done a terrible job at explaining how “bike projects” are really “street safety projects” that benefit all users. Under Sadik-Khan, the department used to repeat over and over again that the bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenue, for example, caused injuries to *all users* to drop dramatically. Indeed, that was often the best way to silence the critics who though she was some sort of bike nut.

    I’m not sure what happened in the last two years to cause this idea – holistic safety for all New Yorkers through innovative street designs – to fall out of fashion. It’s a big problem with, as you say, deadly consequences.

  • BBnet3000

    The bike people must just have that set as an email auto-reply.

  • J

    CB7 first asked DOT to study a protected bike lane on Amsterdam in 2009!!!!!!! It’s been nearly SIX years. WTF?!? http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/10/08/cb-7-approves-reso-favoring-protected-uws-bike-lanes/

  • BBnet3000

    The bike program basically ended in 2010. Don’t blame Trottenberg, she hasn’t been here that long. The problem must lie with the bike unit itself. Is it a funding shortage? Could be, but that wouldn’t explain the double parking lanes.

  • The Shitter

    Just imagine for a moment if we had the Number One ranking of a bike city in the U.S.A. in a magazine like Bicycling Magazine? That’d mean without a doubt the reason we were selected was a project like this repaving would certainly include a new protected bike lane.

    What?! Wait?!!! We ARE the Number One ranked bike city in the USA? Oh that’s shitty!

  • Jesse

    I wouldn’t be surprised. If something has to be cut bikes would be the first to go. The thing is, the infrastructure is so cheap. Bloomberg wanted to expand the bike lane network because it was basically the most cost-effective way to get more capacity out of the transportation network. Now we are seeing the hell that the subway has become and summer would be the perfect time to give people an alternative. By not keeping up with demand for cycling infrastructure, the DOT is also making the subways worse.

  • There were plenty of great bicycle projects from 2011 on:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/past-bike-projects.shtml#2011

    There are even some great bicycle projects happening right now! Queens Blvd, to name one huge example.

    The problem is that this DOT isn’t a) building on the momentum of the last administration and b) seizing upon the urgency of Vision Zero. The pace of installation should be two or three times what it was in 2010 or even 2013. I mean, here you have a notoriously hostile, anti-bike, parking-obsessed community board repeatedly asking for a redesign that includes a protected bike lane and DOT is still just dragging its feet. Why? If they’re not going to act immediately under these circumstances, when will they act?

  • I’m not sure what happened in the last two years to cause this idea – holistic safety for all New Yorkers through innovative street designs – to fall out of fashion.

    What happened was the end of the Bloomberg administration.

    Furthermore, that idea was never really “in fashion”; it, however, was well understood by Bloomberg, and also by Sadik-Khan, whom Bloomberg gave staunch support.

    The current mayor doesn’t care one bit about this concept; therefore, it plays no part in his DOT’s presentations of bike lanes.

  • J

    There is also no plan of action for creating a bicycling network in NYC. Each bicycle project is planned ad hoc and sold as a stand alone thing. There is no goal for bicycling, other than mileage goals, which are routinely ignored. There has been no public dialogue to create a vision of what the future of bicycling in NYC should be, except at a few CBs, with fairly limited interest in cycling.

    This makes is MUCH harder to get things done. Now, DOT basically doesn’t even mention the word bicycle unless it’s a guaranteed win. Needless to say, this is not a good way to build a low-stress bicycle network.

  • J

    Naw, they started dramatically cutting back on bike lanes in 2010 during the whole bikelash. See the chart I made from DOT data, which can be found here:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bikeroutedetailsfy07-fy14.pdf

    The DOT data shows that the recent uptick in bicycle facilities has almost exclusively been in the form of sharrows, which are literally pictures of people on bikes repeatedly being run over by automobiles.

  • Andrew

    But think of all the traffic congestion it would cause for those poor motorists! Just look at that picture! Clearly no room whatsoever for a bike lane.

  • BBnet3000

    Thank you for this graph. Everyone on this site needs to see this graph, as does Bicycling Magazine.

    The regular cycling lanes also have very high diminishing returns given how frequently they are blocked by double parked cars.

  • BBnet3000

    I see bicycle projects from 2011 on, but most of them aren’t great. Lafayette Street is OK but it’s a walking-increment distance of protected bike lane and even that’s interrupted at Astor Place, right at the curve where people cycling need protection the most.

    The rest are at best small fill-ins of the still-unfinished protected lanes on the Avenues. 2nd/8th/9th still force people cycling into a shared lane in completely inappropriate circumstances after 5 years.

  • walks bikes drives

    They have put traffic counters out on Amsterdam at least three times in as many years. How many times do they have to count traffic before they know that there is plenty of room for a bike lane EXCEPT when they have one of those super annoying street fairs that cause Amsterdam to back up for a mile before the blockage. Which, since they actually DO cause traffic insanity, why isn’t there streetfairlash?

  • I entirely, entirely agree that the big problem is the failure to plan for a network: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-barging-garbage-truck-slippery.html

  • thomas040

    that’s a great chart, hope you don’t mind that i share it on http://www.reddit.com/r/nycbike

  • thomas040

    at least there’s a small upward slope in the miles of protected bike lane miles installed. Hopefully that could be a trend, but we’ll see with next years graph.

  • thomas040
  • qrt145

    Those “casual Citi bikers” have taken close to 20 million trips, many on roads just as bad as Amsterdam Avenue, and pretty much nothing bad has happened.

  • lagattamontral

    Does no one see the irony of a street named for Amsterdam (NYC’s old namesake) NOT having proper provision for cyclists and pedestrians? Not only would “Amsterdamizing” Amsterdam Avenue be a great boost for public health and safety, it would also be a great tourist draw.

    Amsterdamize Amsterdam!

  • qrt145

    Amsterdam is not Amsterdam! What works in Amsterdam won’t work on Amsterdam! 🙂

  • J

    Given the way DOT installs regular bike lanes (aka double parking lanes), the utter uselessness of sharrows, and the complete lack of bike boulevards, the blue section is the only one that really makes any difference to cycling in NYC.

  • Jonathan R

    My suggestion is to blame the Vision Zero initiative, which does not mention or promote bicycle use. Vision Zero looks at streets from an engineering perspective, as safety hazards to be mitigated, and we bicycle advocates have bought in to this wholeheartedly because we are sensibly concerned about finishing our daily rides in a box.

    However, if you go back to the halcyon days of Janette Sadik
    Khan’s Department of Transportation, you can read in their materials that the authorities were more concerned about street life and treating streets as places to be, not deathtraps to escape from. Here is an excerpt from the 2008 Sustainable Streets report, printed next to a picture of the 9th Avenue bike lane as it crosses West 14th Street.

    The best cities in the world today approach streets as vital public places that foster social and economic activity, in addition to their more traditional role as corridors for travel. In New York, with some of the densest development in the world, the streets are literally our front yards. Walking in New York need not be simply a utilitarian matter of getting from subway station to office building—our streets have great recreational, social and economic potential as well. NYCDOT is the steward of 6,000 miles of streets and some of the most valuable, in-demand public space in the nation. We are committed to creating more varied and lively streetscapes to make our streets great
    destinations.

    Sadik-Khan’s DOT was marketing street space as the thing that drew people—residents and tourists—to New York City. It made sense to build bike lanes, because those were ways that more people could enjoy those streets.

    Today, the only thing that matters is safety (from the VZ
    action plan page): “The City will use every tool at its disposal to improve the safety of our streets. With this [Vision Zero] action plan, the City is making a bold new commitment to improve street safety in every neighborhood and in every borough…” I see no more language from DOT about varied and lively streetscapes.

  • Robert Jarman

    Like a huge mass of cars near Amsterdam Centraal Station. Yes I am spelling that correctly.

  • c2check

    Is Trottenberg not in charge of DOT then? They could at least propose a real, robust plan or a bike network if funding for construction is low this year.

  • lagattamontral

    Why not? Because NYC is a much larger city? Berlin has good cycling infrastructure (though not up to the Dutch standard everywhere) and it is a large city. But “Amsterdamize” is branding, promoting these much-needed changes.

  • qrt145

    I was making a parody of the “NY is not Amsterdam” pseudo-argument that opponents to urban cycling trot out every time.

  • Simon Phearson

    This is a thoughtful and nuanced take on the difference between JSK’s DOT and Trottenberg’s DOT. It really snaps the latter’s lack of vision into sharp relief.

  • stairbob

    I suspect, based on gut feelings and fairy dust, that the lack of vision is coming from the top down. That is, I believe the subtle surge of carhead vision is coming from de Blasio, who makes his priorities and expectatations clear to his commissioner.

  • Andrew

    Cute.

  • Joe R.

    Unfortunately, due to the bikelash in 2010, JSK couldn’t come close to finishing what she started. She did parts of what would have been a much more complete network. That’s what we have today. NYC DOT is now doing just small, nearly useless segments with no thought of a comprehensive network. Try doing nearly any bike trip on Google Maps and you end up with a disjointed route requiring a mind boggling number of turns. That’s not how an effective bike network should work. It should be local streets to trunk bike network for most of the trip, then back to local streets to the final destination. We don’t even have trunk bike networks beyond a few greenways. Ironically, even under JSK not a single mile of new greenways were built. Protected lanes, door zone lanes, even sharrows can function well as the last mile network but they can rarely form a good trunk network. Exceptions to that might be a protected bike lane running for a good stretch along a natural barrier like a shore or a railway but this is generally the exception, not the rule.

    Street life is a vital part of the equation here but it’s only a small part. It will get people to want to take bikes but without an efficient, stress-free bike network with routes that make sense most people still won’t ride.

  • Liz Patek

    This was the state of Amsterdam Ave through most of this past winter and the previous. Clearly enough room for a protected bike lane. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizpatek/12529953425/

  • Alexander Vucelic

    a profound insight.

    sadly true

  • walks bikes drives

    It’s so exciting! I just, today, saw ANOTHER traffic counter on Amsterdam at 96th street. Yay!

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