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.

  • I wish the hatched area behind the one tree was replaced with more planting room for more trees. Hatches asphalt is a huge waste. Manhattan needs more trees.

  • r

    Good news. It would be nice if DOT could experiment with some new designs for 6th Ave: a wider bike lane or something that would keep it flat so it doesn’t round down toward the curb, for example. They’re still using the same toolkit, even though bike traffic has exploded since 2008 when the first protected bike lanes were installed in Manhattan. The city needs to start building bike lanes that will still function 10 years from now. This is a great opportunity for Trottenberg to show some leadership and innovation for a change.

  • Bob

    This is good news, as you would expect it will continue north over the next few years. However, the apparent decision to turn down one for 5th ave makes is unfortunate and I do not see how DOT/the city will change their minds during this administration/commissioner. also, its absurd not to start this bike lane at (at least) Canal street (and to have a dedicated bus lane from Canal to CP). good, tiny first step, here’s hoping complete streets are fully implemented over the coming years.

  • Assuming that a general traffic lane will be repurposed for this, there should also be room to expand the sidewalk on the same side of the street as the bike lane. It would add time and money to the project to rebuild the curb on one side of the street, but with all that foot traffic it will be worth it.

  • BBnet3000

    Its actually not the same toolkit. The first protected lanes were wider and better than the current and proposed ones. We have gone backward.

  • MatthewEH

    So, 5th Ave from the 24th-street-ish bowtie with Broadway down to Washington Square North does have a bike lane, buffered for almost all that length (the buffer disappears below 9th street, but traffic also slows significantly around there too.) Also needs repainting, as drivers often end up on the buffer, but the space is there. A protected treatment would be better still, but what’s already there, for where it’s there, isn’t so bad. Just needs to be extended further north. The 6th Avenue lane, in contrast, is a super-narrow door zone lane — narrower than current DOT specs will even build, afaict — that’s really harrowing to use. This is the place where the improvements will really matter most.

    Good find on the 6th Avenue lane being eliminated above 42nd Street, btw. I used to use that segment sometimes, but then it somehow seemed to disappear when I wasn’t looking, and I could never figure out why.

  • BBnet3000

    Are the UES/UWS protected lanes EVER going to connect to the ones in Chelsea and the East Village? Now we are talking about adding yet another protected lane that doesn’t form part of a cohesive comfortable network. Eventually the empty lanes attack will rear its ugly head.

  • Any photos of the 1980s Ed Koch protected lanes?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    well done TA !

    let’s hold DOT accountable to create more than 5 miles of protected bike lanes per year

  • Joe R.

    The older version has room for slower cyclists to pass faster ones (granted, a big plus) but otherwise it still fails to solve the major problems associated with trying to cycle in NYC. You’ll still get pedestrians spilling over from the sidewalks, you have those obnoxious mixing zones every other block, and you still have a gazillion traffic signals. In short, cycling on those is a slow, tedious, stressful ordeal, just like it is nearly anywhere in NYC except well after dark. This Sunday I decided to go for a ride earlier than usual, around 7 PM. The f-ing traffic everywhere was unbelievable, plus everyone drove like a bunch of animals. I came to the conclusion nothing short of putting me on a viaduct over these streets, or a tunnel under them would make cycling remotely pleasant during much of the day. Or at least bypass major intersections that way. NYC absolutely refuses to do anything about motor traffic. It’s sheer insanity to think protected lanes like those are going to significantly enhance anyone’s cycling experience. Maybe they’ll make it marginally better in between intersections, but the intersections are really the problem, or perhaps a symptom of the even larger problem, which is just too damned much motor traffic.

    That said, a protected lane along the LIE service road, with either overpasses or underpasses at the major intersections, would be quite appropriate. Along streets with few intersections is where protected lanes really come into their own.

  • BBnet3000

    I don’t find the signals on the one portion of protected lanes that has them to be much of a problem. They favor the Avenue very heavily so you can catch very long runs of lights. Unfortunately this is why going crosstown seems to take forever despite only hitting a few intersections.

  • ohnonononono

    Great! Now get it north of 33rd.

  • Joe R.

    It’s highly dependent on your riding speed. I recall going from 125th to W. 4th Street in 1981 as a bike messenger without catching any signals. I forgot which avenue it was but I had to hold 25 to 27 mph to do it. It was a good workout even for me. I couldn’t imagine most cyclists being able to do that.

    Going crosstown is just slow no matter the mode. You really can’t sync the signals crosstown without screwing up the timing on the avenues. The avenues obviously have greater priority.

  • c2check

    I was really surprised to see how often I can stand in the middle of streets like 6th or 7th Avenue during a red phase, and see a negligible number of active cars for blocks at a time. This suggests there’s more than enough room to have some generous bike and pedestrian improvements, and reducing general traffic lanes should help lower speeds (because of the low congestions, I often see cars going 40+ MPH), and reduce the bottleneck effect at pinchpoints like Herald Sq (the chief culprit being tunnel traffic, in addition to huge ped volumes

    If DOT can get it done south of 33rd, north should be cake. They should 100% commit to installing PBLs north of 33, pending funding.

  • Alexander Vucelic



  • Geck

    I have found you have to take a pretty quick pace to make it about 8 blocks before hitting a light. An OK pace for an open path but a bit too fast for the stuff you typical encounter in the protected lanes in Manhattan.

  • Joe R.

    What you’re seeing (and I’ve noted this same thing myself out here in eastern Queens) is the fact traffic signals essentially do two bad things. One, they cut capacity by about half. Two, they tend to make vehicles platoon together which in turn leads to more collisions, and more frayed nerves.

    What you saw also illustrates the sheer insanity of requiring bikes to stop at reds. By letting them go through, they’ll often have the street all to themselves for many blocks. When the cars finally do catch up, they’ll have already sorted things out. Cyclists then avoid needing to be in a pack of cars starting out at the light, all jockeying around.

  • IBikeNYC

    And maybe to the OTHER (get ready) four boroughs, too!

  • ohnonononono

    If you have access to the NY Times archive, there’s a grainy photo in the article “Koch Says He’s Prepared to Get Rid of Bicycle Lanes,” November 12, 1980. The photo’s caption notes that “Some cars, in the background, were illegally parked on the sidewalk, partially blocking the bike lane.”

    Lack of NYPD traffic and parking enforcement to make the physical infrastructure actually usable? Some things never change!

  • Joe R.

    Not to mention even stopping only every eight blocks gives you a pretty big hit in terms of average speed. If you do, say, 18 mph between stops then you’re covering those 8 blocks in 80 seconds. If we assume the red light cycle is 45 seconds then it takes you 135 seconds total for every 8 blocks. That’s only 10.7 mph, or worse than an average cyclist riding a heavy bike would manage without stopping. Now put your average cyclist in the same lane, probably stopping every 3 blocks, averaging 12 mph while in motion. You end up with 90 seconds to cover three blocks once you add in the red light cycle. That’s a 6 mph average—half their cruising speed, not much faster than fast walking.

  • J
  • Nathan Rosenquist

    This should be the default routine when building out protected lanes. The 8th Ave lane around 34th St is a huge source of complaints for both pedestrians and cyclists, all simply because pedestrians don’t get enough space and end up walking in the lane.

  • J

    There’s no bike master plan, so who knows. Each project is a one-off, with no bigger vision or goal.

    It’s truly a terrible way to build a bike network.

  • scofflaw_cyclist

    My office is a little south of Canal on 6th. Nearly everyday I have to ride up 6th Ave. The bike lane starts as a full bike lane in front of my office, then becomes sharrows a block north. Then disappears for roughly a dozen blocks then begins again as a full lane on the other side of the street. This continues up until 42nd St where it disappears again. Why are they improving the bike lane in the only part of that ride that actually has a fucking bike lane? The 6th Ave bike lane (between W. 9th and 42nd St.) sucks and its in the door zone, but at least its there. Why not put some type of bike lane in the areas that don’t have one prior to improving the ones that do?

  • c2check

    Indeed. And with little traffic around these platoons, they move fast! Capacity being halved is fine (we don’t need more cars in manhattan), but the streets have not been adjusted, and have way more space dedicated to cars than necessary. That space could be used is much better ways: seating, trees, food trucks, dumpsters, basically anything. I’ll even accept Elmos and desnudas over speeding traffic.

    Those PBLs should help keep bikes and cars separate too!
    (I’d also really like to see more attention paid to deliveries and loading)

  • Joe R.

    I had to laugh at the sign with “BICYCLES” and “VEHICLES”. I always thought bicycles ARE vehicles.

  • Vanderlyn

    I use this bike lane frequently, and while it’s unprotected, I can think of so many better uses of bike lane resources and goodwill than protecting this one.

    One would be to create any sort of bike lane on 6th Avenue from 42nd to 59th. Central Park is a crucial piece of bike infrastructure, and having safer access from Bryant Park to Central Park would be very helpful.

    Another would be to run any kind of bike lane down 2nd Avenue above 34th Street. I’ve proposed 59th Street to 34th Street as a starting point, but ideally it would extend to East Harlem. Even an unprotected lane would go a long way here. 2nd Avenue should be a crucial East Side bike corridor for southbound riders, but it’s incredibly dangerous – it crosses both the Queensboro Bridge entrance and the Midtown Tunnel entrance, and offers no marked lane.

  • c2check

    It seems the whole city has no real guiding vision.

    So it’s easy for many to just say “NYC is the greatest city in the world!” or “Support the NYPD”, full stop, no further thought required about what that actually means.

  • Alex

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. I would love to see DOT consider designing protected lanes in the right lane, with the possibility of also physically protecting the bus lanes and/or putting BRT stops in a pedestrian island (electricity could be tricky). We have interesting options for the 6th avenue bus lanes now that Cuomo picked up his pen over the weekend.
    Why not consider a protected bike lane on the right side of the street?

  • BBnet3000

    Its just as important to connect it to Prince St so the thousands of people coming from the bridges to the west side can actually use it.

    14th to 33rd is a joke. It’s not a cycling distance, its a walking distance.

  • qrt145

    I ride on 6th Ave all the time and strongly prefer the part without the bike lane. The reason is that that the existing bike lane is patently unsafe: it is what should be the buffer between the cars and the bike lane! It doesn’t just touch upon the door zone; it IS the door zone. It’s about the width of a car door, and starts right next to the cars. So I try to avoid using it, but of course nothing pisses off motorists more than a cyclist who is not using a bike lane that is sitting right there, so I do feel some pressure to at least pretend that I’m using it (but if you ride on the outer edge of the bike lane, to at least be safe from partially open doors, you find cars passing you too close). In contrast, north of 42th St, I just take a lane and no one complains, because there are plenty of lanes for everyone. Also, not being confined to the bike lane makes going around the queue of cars every other block much easier.

    Therefore, I think fixing the positively harmful bike lane that currently exists should have a higher priority than creating a new one.

  • HamTech87

    Even then, pedestrians were walking in the bike lanes.

  • Alex

    This is a great point. I generally fall into the biking at 12mph category, but find that I have to significantly speed up to get anywhere. It’s worse where they have those ill-conceived split phases for bikes and left turns that cut the green in half. I will usually go through one of those to advance a block. But I most often just go out of my way to go to the greenway for a quicker (if not faster) and safer commute.

  • r

    Bicycles are vehicles when people want cyclists to obey laws meant for cars. They’re not vehicles when drivers want them off of streets they think are meant just for cars.

  • scofflaw_cyclist

    Fair point. I rarely use the bike lane myself as I’m very comfortable mixing with car traffic. It just drives me crazy that I’ll get some asshole yelling at me to get in the bike lane after 42nd or before 9th. At least when cars are in the horrible bike lane every other block and I’m riding wherever I want I don’t feel like I get honked at as much. YMMV.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The question is, will it be used by people walking like Broadway? And therefore will it be safer in reality than riding up Park with no bike lane at all?

  • MatthewEH

    I think this’ll be okay for now. Ped encroachment on the 8th and 9th lanes is really limited south of 31st Street. Even later, 6th Ave doesn’t pass right by Penn Station or PABT.

  • MatthewEH

    I’ve been there when there’s plenty of sidewalk space available and there are still yutzes walking in the bike late. 🙁

  • BBnet3000

    That’s better than anything they are building today.

  • Tax Man


  • Tax Man

    Did they build the bike lane where an HOV lane used to be? Is that perspective or an incredibly narrow land to the right of the bike/car curb?

  • J

    “One step at a time” is the best articulation of DOT’s vision for a bike network to date. Where or when the next step will be taken is anyone’s guess, since there is no bike plan.

  • neroden

    Well, the sidewalks aren’t wide enough — there are a LOT of pedestrians in NYC and the sidewalks need to be widened.

  • neroden

    The NYPD needs to be eliminated with extreme prejudice. Liquidate the whole thing. Fire everyone.

    The good cops can be re-hired by a new police department. But right now, the NYPD has a reputation for:
    (1) ignoring crimes
    (2) committing crimes
    (3) framing innocent people
    (4) attacking anyone who points any of this out

    What’s the point? A police department with that reputation is quite literally worse than no police department at all.

  • neroden

    Before building the bike lanes, the sidewalks should be widened. If pedestrians are “spilling over from the sidewalks”… you don’t have enough sidewalks.

  • jimmydj

    Before building the bike lanes, the sidewalks should be widened.

    Can’t support that here. This is a bike blog. Cyclists are more important than lowly pedestrians.

  • Andrew

    Is it? I’m no cyclist myself, and some of the stories here are of little interest to me, but I’ve found that the pedestrian and transit coverage here is top-notch.


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