DOT to Replace Seaman Ave. Bike Lanes With Wider Bike Lane and Sharrows

DOT says Seaman Avenue isn’t wide enough for bike lanes. Photo: @SheRidesABike
DOT says Seaman Avenue in Inwood isn’t wide enough for bike lanes in both directions. Photo: @SheRidesABike

Last week DOT told Community Board 12 that bike lanes on Seaman Avenue in Inwood, which were wiped out when most of the street was resurfaced in 2014, won’t be coming back on both sides of the street because the old 4-foot wide lanes didn’t comply with agency guidelines. DOT told Streetsblog yesterday that a 5-foot lane will be striped on northbound Seaman while the southbound side will get sharrows.

While the DOT plan isn’t necessarily a downgrade — riding outside the door zone is next to impossible in a 4-foot bike lane — it’s telling that the agency didn’t go with a more ambitious solution. A safer design like protected bike lanes would have to subtract parking or car lanes. With the bike lane-plus-sharrows configuration, the agency can meet its design standards without really changing the status quo on the street.

Seaman Avenue is the only north-south through street in Inwood west of Broadway, making it an important corridor for biking. A marked DOT bike route, Seaman connects the Hudson River Greenway and the Bronx. It’s also a cut-through for toll-shopping drivers avoiding the Henry Hudson Bridge.

A residential street that borders Inwood Hill Park for much of its length, Seaman is within the Inwood Slow Zone. But despite Slow Zone signage, speed humps, and the near-constant presence of children, speeding motorists are common on Seaman. Those who adhere to the 20 mph speed limit can expect to be passed by other drivers. With just 136 summonses issued this year through August, the 34th Precinct doesn’t enforce the speed limit in any meaningful way.

DOT told Streetsblog a wider northbound bike lane will help cyclists traveling uphill from Dyckman Street, at Seaman’s southern end, and that the agency expects the southbound lane to work well with sharrows. A spokesperson said DOT will monitor the new configuration to see if changes are needed.

Double-parked drivers make Seaman an obstacle course for cyclists. Image: Google Maps
Double-parked drivers make Seaman an obstacle course for cyclists. Image: Google Maps

When DOT announced in 2013 that it would refurbish the Seaman bike lanes as part of a package of Upper Manhattan bike projects, it also “recommended for future study” a bike route on Broadway between W. 218th Street and W. 168th Street.

I asked DOT about Broadway. A spokesperson said the agency is looking into whether north-south streets other than Seaman may work with a protected bike lane, but did not specify street names.

Due to constant double-parking, Seaman is an obstacle course for cyclists. Changing thermoplast markings won’t fix that, and it won’t do much to slow speeding drivers. With the Parks Department improving Inwood greenway access, streets that get people to and from the greenway need better infrastructure for biking and walking too.

  • Jonathan R

    It’s all about the toll shopping. If the street wasn’t crowded with drivers saving $2.54 per trip, DOT wouldn’t need lane markings.

  • Zero Vision

    A milquetoast DOT commissioner, a self-proclaimed “motorist” mayor, and a police commissioner who hates pedestrians and bikes. It’s all a recipe for garbage like this.

  • BBnet3000

    Can they put the sharrows in the center of the lane like NACTO recommends? I’m quite tired of these markings implying that bikes belong only at the edge of the road. They also wear off a lot faster if they’re in the tire tread zone.

  • com63

    How wide are the vehicle lanes currently? They seem pretty wide in sections.

  • The real WTF is that it was resurfaced in 2014 and hasn’t been striped. Honestly, they’re not even trying at this point.

  • MatthewEH

    This strikes me as, well, not terrible? The old lanes were always a little too narrow for comfort.

    What would be really better would be to designate the street a bike boulevard, and put in some diagonal diverters that would force cars to make a right turn at certain strategic intersections while leaving enough space for bikes to pass straight through. Keep the through auto traffic on Broadway (which I don’t think, in my lifetime, will ever be tamed enough to make for a good designated cycle route.)

  • BBnet3000

    Sorry, these are not part of “the toolkit” in New York. You’re going to have to wait another decade before we figure out this innovation that many American cities have had for decades.

  • Bobberooni

    I ride Seaman Ave every day on my commute. I use an e-bike, which is admittedly somewhat different from a manual bike. But from my perspective, would say there is not much of a problem here. Multiple speed humps keep traffic so slow, I have to slow down for cars in front of me (my bike is pretty immune to speed humps, meaning I can go over them at my full 20mph without slowing down). Traffic is really not so bad, it’s a small fraction of what’s on Broadway. Nor is double parking a big problem (or to put it more correctly: double parking is equally a problem for bikes and cars traveling along Seaman).

    The big fix I’d recommend is a contra-flow bike lane on Payson Ave from Dyckman to Beak St. This allows bikes to avoid the dangerous intersection at Seaman and Dyckman when getting on/off the bikeway. A contra-flow bike lane here would be no problem, since there’s already no parking on the left side of Payson on that block (and illegal parking there is rare).

    An on-Broadway solution to 168 St would be interesting. But not useful for those biking to points south, for which the Hudson River is really a superior route.

    Now ask me about ways to improve biking in the Bronx… so many as-yet-unrealized opportunities there.

  • Jonathan R

    Again, it’s the toll shopping. So long as Seaman Avenue is used as a convenient way to save $2.54 per trip, there will be too much traffic on Seaman and at the meeting to discuss your bike-boulevard plan, attendees will say, “This plan would make traffic worse on Broadway.”

  • crazytrainmatt

    The new pavement is probably worth the loss of the painted bike lanes, as it used to be awful. With both Manhattan greenways nearby and with all the bridges and hills, lots of bike traffic funnels through here, but this corridor, the Broadway Bridge, and the connection to the rest of the Bronx is often unpleasant and appallingly dangerous. Heading north, the Henry Hudson is an alternative, but it involves a steep stairs and hills and a narrow path. Protected bike lanes along Seaman (or a level route through the park) would made a huge difference.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    trottenberg wants more New Yorkers to die

    it doesn’t have to be this Way

  • Jonathan R

    The Broadway lane is important because of the bottleneck at the southeast corner of Fort Tryon Park. If you are heading past that point in any direction, you must take either the Henry Hudson, the Harlem River Drive, Fort George Hill, or go through the intersection of Broadway, Hillside, Nagle, and Bennett. Since FGH is super steep, and the paths alongside the river don’t connect to the street grid, that leaves Broadway as the only reasonable, direct way to get between Washington Heights and Inwood.

  • Critical critic

    That any part of even a dedicated bike lane is within reach of an opening car door is absurd.

    Obvious solution: Eliminate parking on one side of Seaman Av. and make it a 2 way bike lane.

  • So there used to be 8 feet of dedicated bike space. Now just 5. Where did the extra 3 feet go? Why not give the uphill bike lane a buffer?

  • SheRidesABike

    I happen to still have that picture I took of Seaman on my iPhone; I took it on August 1, 2014, just before resurfacing. IIRC the resurfacing was done a day or two later but my mid-September there were still no bike lanes, and then an early cold snap in October gave DOT the excuse that it was too cold to re-stripe.

    If DOT was planning on changing the configurations, it is messed up that DOT reps could not communicate that to Bike Up or other community members around the time of the resurfacing. And there are still no lanes, correct? (I left NYC early this year.)

    So basically, it’s OK to forgo consulting the community when DOT arguably scales back bike infrastructure, something they would never dream of doing if they were planning to remove even a single parking space.

    When I was still living there, I had started to take the route through Inwood Hill Park, which takes about 5-10 minutes longer and involves a stair climb (albeit with runnels). It’s a fine option in summer but who wants to be riding on a fairly desolate trail during nighttime hours in the darker months? Not many people I know, especially women.

  • Jonathan R

    Also many of our neighbors are virulently against bicycles using the paths in Inwood Hill Park, so those who engage in that bicycling option risk confrontation and ticketing from zealous PEPs.

  • neroden

    Riiiiiight.

    The obvious thing to do is to paint protected bike lanes and *narrow the car lanes*. If people are speeding, visibly narrowed lanes is the best way to get them to stop — repeatedly documented by studies.

  • neroden

    Too bad you don’t have a Department of DIY like in Los Angeles, to paint the stripes which DOT won’t…

  • neroden

    Obviously too wide if speeding is common.

  • Ook a Dook

    the big enemy is toll evasion using seaman as a parallel route to the bronx. reverse the direction of henshaw st and lengthen the wall on riverside to prevent wrong way turns and make west 218th a one way eastbound and cut through traffic is thereby forced onto broadway. the resulting changes would make enough room for bike paths and increase public safety. the speeding problems and the running of top signs would disappear. this idea is too simple and effective to run past the vision zero folks or the city council transportation chairman.

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