CB 12 Committee Backs Road Diet, Bike Lanes on St. Nicholas Ave

A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Photo: Stephen Miller
A road diet and bike lanes could come to St. Nicholas Avenue next spring. Image: DOT [PDF]
A DOT proposal for a road diet and bike lanes St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights got a vote of support last night from the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee. The project could get striped next spring.

The bike lanes will connect with newly-installed bike lanes near the High Bridge in Washington Heights, and to a two-way protected bike lane on Fort George Hill, which has survived attacks from nearby co-op residents.

The proposal, which would cover a little more than a mile of St. Nicholas between 169th and 193rd streets, would bring the avenue from two car lanes in each direction to one, with bike lanes, center turn lanes and, in a potential second phase, pedestrian islands [PDF].

The rate of people killed or seriously injured on this stretch of St. Nicholas is more dangerous than two-thirds of Manhattan streets, according to DOT. There were 25 severe injuries, including 18 pedestrians and 2 bicyclists, between 2009 and 2013, and a total 404 of injuries during the same period.

Intersections at 175th, 177th, 178th, 181st and 185th streets rank in the most dangerous ten percent of Manhattan intersections. These are also intersections with high foot traffic — people outnumber motor vehicles during rush hours.

Brad Conover, co-founder of Bike Upper Manhattan, would prefer bike lanes on Broadway and Amsterdam, but welcomed the change for St. Nicholas. He also worries that high car volumes near the entrance to Interstate 95 will pose a threat to bicyclists.

Today, drivers often double-park in one of the two car lanes on St. Nicholas. According to Conover, committee members were concerned that by removing one of these lanes, it would congest traffic when a driver decided to double-park. They were especially concerned about providing space for loading near a supermarket at 191st Street.

“My take on it is, people are going to double park in the bike lane,” Conover said. “If anyone’s going to suffer, it’s going to be the bikers.”

DOT also said last night that it will be adding long-missing bike markings back to Seaman Avenue, which it repaved last year. Previously, Seaman had four-foot bike lanes in each direction. DOT’s standards require five-foot bike lanes, so the agency will be putting a bike lane in one direction and sharrows in the other.

The plan was initially presented to the committee in May, and DOT took board members on a site visit recently. The committee voted 6-1 to support the St. Nicholas proposal, including a positive vote from perennial bike lane skeptic Jim Berlin. The committee also asked DOT to come back with a plan to address loading zones and double parking problems. Next up: The plan heads to the general board meeting on September 29.

  • BBnet3000

    Am I the only person (though Conover seems like he may be getting at this) who thinks we have reached a reasonable saturation point with low quality bike facilities in much of the city? It’s time to start upgrading our highest use, heavily double-parked facilities to high-quality protected curbside lanes that are at least 6 feet wide (ie the original JSK-spec, not the compromised second draft).

    Our current strategy (if you can even call it that) has gone over the curve of diminishing returns. We are just throwing paint on the road that will not enable meaningful additional cycling trips.

  • ahwr

    There were 25 severe injuries, including 18 pedestrians and 5 bicyclists,

    PDF says 18 pedestrians, 2 bicyclists, 5 motorists

  • ahwr

    Over five years there were no fatalities, but 25 severe injuries, 18 of them pedestrians, 2 of them cyclists, the remaining 5 were motorists. Top third most dangerous corridors in Manhattan, five intersections in the top 10% most dangerous. Lots of people walking around, peak hour pedestrian volumes at 178th st were listed at 984 NB, 746 SB. Similar road diets in Brooklyn reduced crashes with injuries 15-44%. DOT says they’ll talk with businesses and try to put in loading zones to cut down on double parking. It’s not perfect, but this is a good project. Get rid of the bike lanes, put in a painted buffer between the travel and parking lanes and it would still be a good project. Because there are a lot of benefits in this proposal, but most won’t accrue to cyclists. This isn’t just about cyclists, but if it was maybe you’d be right, and the money, time, and effort being spent on this project would yield more improving high use bike facilities elsewhere,

  • mattkime

    most of my cycling commute is on non-separated bike lanes. the paint lines are often worn away from cars driving over them. its extremely frustrating. any long term / large scale political battle is.

  • BBnet3000

    The problem is that those lanes are viewed as victories and building more like them in similar locations where they will perform just as badly is viewed as a win. What exactly are we fighting for? The whole city to be a non-functional nightmare like Jay Street?

  • Sean Kelliher

    You’re not alone. I often wonder the same thing. Why does NYC DOT continue to build junk bicycle infrastructure that doesn’t work well and never will.

    In this case – I frequently walk across Saint Nicolas on blocks were DOT has already installed Class II bike lanes. The lanes are generally full of parked vehicles. I think one day I counted 12 illegally parked cars on one block – ironically, near a police station.

    Anyone who believes this kind of infrastructure is going to transform NYC into a bicycling mecca is delusional.

  • mrtuffguy

    “Why does NYC DOT continue to build junk bicycle infrastructure that doesn’t work well and never will.”

    Because it saves lives?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    because trottenberg & Bratton want cyclists to go away and die

  • BBnet3000

    High quality cycling infrastructure can save more lives, and make the city a much more pleasant place to be.

  • J

    Herein lies the quandry. How do we push for good projects to be better? Why can’t we make streets safe for walking AND cycling? DOT has a model of projects that are big wins for walking but only modest improvements for cycling. The space exists to do better, but it would require much more work on the part of the DOT and more political support from elected officials. At the moment they simply don’t think safe cycling is a priority, so they continue to throw bones at the cycling community, to keep us satisfied as they continue to neglect building real cycling infrastructure, save for a few places, which they do mostly grudgingly, with a continued car-centric perspective and no plan for a network.

  • Joe R.

    My opinion is unless we get rid of large numbers of motor vehicles NYC really isn’t suitable for cycling in most places, and during much of the day. I’m forced to ride between 10PM and 6AM simply because cycling any other time is a slow, dangerous, tedious chore. And it still would be with most types of cycling infrastructure, including protected bike lanes. Those don’t help much when you have crowded intersection after crowded intersection, along with a gazillion stop signs and traffic signals.

    No arguing we have mostly junk cycling infrastructure. Frankly though, given the layout of the city, there are few places where we could do much better without spending really serious sums of money. Protected bike lanes are fine on streets running against natural barriers where you have infrequent intersections but they don’t improve things much on other streets. Completed separated greenways are way better but where to fit them in without building either viaducts or tunnels? That’s the quandary. It’s really difficult to do things well when you have three types of users (bikes, peds, motor vehicles) on the same level with disparate needs. When you have large numbers of all three it’s impossible. What you end up with is a compromise, usually one which favors motor vehicles at the expense of everyone else. Arguably NYC really hasn’t been able to effectively accommodate large numbers of pedestrians and motor vehicles in the same space, much less add a third user.

    I really wish it were politically feasible to reduce motor traffic in NYC by something like 90%. We wouldn’t even need bike infrastructure in most places if we could do that.

  • Bernard Finucane

    If NYC DOT was seriously interested in saving lives there would be stone bollards on sidewalks everywhere and thousands of additional pedestrian bulbouts at intersections all across the city.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    price driving correctly and you’d see a 75% decrease in city

  • Jonathan R

    I went to the meeting and I live a block away from the project area. The benefits of this project to people like me and my family, who cross St Nicholas regularly, are very large. As I said at the meeting, there are many group family day cares west of St Nick that use Highbridge Park playgrounds for outside time; anything that makes it easier to cross St Nick will help these organizations’ kids spend more time outside. That’s a win for me. Having a concrete median on at least one side of the intersection would also be a win while crossing the street with small children.

    That the plan reduces the number of auto travel lanes to 1 from 2 in both directions is also a win, as a single travel lane in each direction would keep hyper drivers from weaving from lane to lane.

    Having marked bike lanes (though unprotected) would also be a (small) benefit as it would increase the visibility of bicycle lanes and open people’s eyes to the possibility of bicycling.

    The hand-wringing by my fellow Streetsblog commenters over DOT’s not seizing this opportunity to build some kind of super-special bikeway is kind of troubling as my family and I are very certainly looking forward to the safety improvements the proposed plan promises. For how long are we supposed to forego these simple straightforward fixes while authorities plan how to whisk bicyclists from one place to another without being hindered by motor vehicles or pedestrians?

  • jimmyd

    The hand-wringing by my fellow Streetsblog commenters over DOT’s not seizing this opportunity to build some kind of super-special bikeway is kind of troubling as my family and I are very certainly looking forward to the safety improvements the proposed plan promises. For how long are we supposed to forego these simple straightforward fixes while authorities plan how to whisk bicyclists from one place to another without being hindered by motor vehicles or pedestrians?

    It’s a typical response. Streetsblog is a cyclist community more than anything else.

  • millerstephen

    Thanks. It’s been corrected.

  • BBnet3000

    I never said they shouldn’t do this project. I simply suggested that cycling projects (which this really is not) should be planned more strategically.

    while authorities plan how to whisk bicyclists from one place to another without being hindered by motor vehicles or pedestrians?

    It seems like you think it would be a problem if cycling were made a convenient mode of transportation in New York.

  • BBnet3000

    There are plenty of people here to praise pedestrian safety projects. The problem is that there are few people to call attention to the low quality of cycling projects, which this purports to be as well.

  • Br’er Rabbit

    Unfortunately, there’s too much money in the auto and oil industries for a 90% reduction to happen. However, NYC could set an example and make an effort to become a biking mecca anyway. There are many more progressive things that NYS can do – to make the City and State more livable – such as build more protected bike lanes.

  • Matthias

    “most pedestrians wouldn’t see sidewalks as useful if they had to go around chairs every 20 feet, or had to stop and wait 45 seconds after walking only 30 seconds”

    Pedestrians often have to dodge piles of garbage, illegally-parked vehicles, and numerous other obstacles. Depending on the street and time of day, the walking/waiting ratio can be close to your 30/45 example.

  • Joe R.

    Well then that just proves my main point even more, namely that catering to motor vehicles makes things horribly inefficient for anyone getting around under their own power, be it on two feet or two wheels.

  • Jonathan R

    If it’s not “convenient” for you to cycle on St Nicholas Avenue, then go back to your Brooklyn and stop whining about a bike lane being created somewhere you’ve never been.

    Every time Streetsblog puts up a post about bike lanes planned for Upper Manhattan, commenters chorus about how the city should be focusing on upgrading the existing bike lane network (i.e. downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn) instead of merely adding more on-street lanes.

    I finally realized this is code for “screw Upper Manhattan and its bicycle infrastructure; I never go there.” So no, I don’t care about convenient, when convenience apparently means “within 1 1/2 miles of the Manhattan Bridge.”

  • qrt145

    And when the pedestrians find themselves having too dodge one too many an obstacle, what do they do? They start walking on the road. So why are people surprised when cyclists break the rules too when faced with nearly unusable infrastructure?

  • BBnet3000

    Go ahead and celebrate getting the same shitty lanes full of double parked cars that we have in Brooklyn. Enjoy them while you can, because they’ll be worn off the road more often than not.

    My own neighborhood in Brooklyn doesn’t have nearly the level of cycling infrastructure that northern Manhattan has, AND has more car traffic, but I still think we should build better infrastructure where it will do the most good. You realize that the Avenues don’t have ANY bike lanes through most of Midtown right? Or is that too far from where you live to care about?

  • Jonathan R

    Consider the impossibility of ranking poor bicycling conditions across a
    vast city like New York, especially since truly poor-quality bicycling
    repels bicyclists, including well-meaning bicycle advocates.


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