DOT Commits to Sixth Ave Protected Bike Lane From 14th to 33rd Streets

What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]
What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

DOT says it will begin planning and outreach later this year for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd Streets in Manhattan.

The announcement comes after years of advocacy by the Transportation Alternatives Manhattan activist committee, which called for protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands on Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The effort garnered support from local community boards, business improvement districts, and City Council members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick. Now, DOT is officially on board.

Currently, there are northbound protected bike lanes on the east side (First Avenue) and west side (Eighth Avenue) of Midtown, but not in between. Nevertheless, there’s a huge appetite for cycling along the spine of Manhattan, and many people on bikes have to mix it up with car traffic on some of the city’s widest and most chaotic streets. In May, DOT added buffers to the existing bike lane on Sixth Avenue between Christopher and 14th streets.

DOT hasn’t committed to a southbound protected bike lane on Fifth Avenue. The agency instead views the Sixth Avenue project as a pair with the southbound protected bike lane on Broadway in Midtown. There is also a buffered bike lane on Fifth Avenue south of 23rd Street.

Will the Sixth Avenue bike lane extend north of 33rd Street, where cyclists face the most intense car traffic? “One step at a time,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “The goal is, we’ll continue to work our way north, as we have on a lot of these projects.”

Transportation Alternatives has an online petition to thank City Hall for the Sixth Avenue project and urge the city to bring protected bike lanes to more Midtown avenues.

Sixth Avenue was one of the first NYC streets to get a dedicated bike lane. Striped bike lanes were first installed from 8th Street to 59th Street in 1977, though the bike lane north of 42nd Street was later removed to make way for a wider sidewalk.

There was a brief period when Sixth Avenue had protected bike lanes. In 1980, Mayor Ed Koch installed protected bike lanes on north-south routes through Midtown, including Sixth Avenue. The path on Sixth Avenue attracted 3,000 cyclists a day, according to a DOT report. A lawsuit to stop the bike lanes was dismissed that September, but the protected bike lanes were nevertheless torn out in November, doomed when Governor Hugh Carey disparaged them to President Jimmy Carter.

Things have changed quite a bit since 1980. Protected bike lanes are fixtures on major Manhattan avenues, and soon, Sixth Avenue will be one of them.

The announcement came at a press conference this morning to mark some DOT bike lane mileage milestones. We’ll have more coverage of the press conference later this afternoon.

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