Residents Call for Better Crosstown Bike Routes on the Upper East Side

About 30 Upper East Side residents hit the streets last Saturday to evaluate potential routes for crosstown bike lanes in their neighborhood.

There’s only one crosstown bike route on the Upper East Side. These volunteers want to change that. Photo: Tom DeVito/Transportation Alternatives

For the “street scan” organized by Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York, the volunteers split up evenly between people on foot and people on bikes. Both groups surveyed three possible east-west routes to document current conditions for biking.

Currently, the Upper East Side has only one crosstown bike route, painted lanes along E. 90th and E. 91st streets. “And that’s woefully insufficient,” said Joe Enoch, a neighborhood resident who participated in the street scan. “We’re long overdue to get a second crosstown bike lane to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.”

The three routes surveyed were E. 61st Street/E. 62nd Street, E. 67th Street/E. 68th Street, and E. 72nd Street, which is a two-way street.

All three routes have heavy motor vehicle traffic and potentially high demand for bike travel. E. 61st Street and E. 62nd Street, for instance, are local streets that connect to the Queensboro Bridge.

Since 2012, there have been 19 traffic fatalities and 2,129 injuries on the Upper East Side, according to city data compiled by Transportation Alternatives. Five of those deaths occurred on the streets leading to or from the bridge.

With Citi Bike expanding from 59th Street to 86th Street on the Upper East Side this year, and more growth planned for next year, the need for safer bike connections is growing more urgent. More people are biking on the neighborhood’s streets, but there is scant infrastructure to protect them.

On Saturday, street scan participants flagged turning drivers failing to yield at intersections as a major problem on the east-west streets. Transportation Alternatives organizer Tom DeVito also noted that double-parked cars and the threat of dooring created poor conditions for cycling.

Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York are compiling the results of the street scan to send to local City Council members and DOT to get the city to move faster on installing bike lanes. TA plans to send the report to the city by the end of next month.

  • Jeff

    Holy crap yes E 61st / E 62nd St Please! I always take E 61st St from the Queensboro Bridge to Central Park.

  • BBnet3000

    Thus would be an ideal application for New York’s first bicycle boulevards. Putting a regular bike lane on the street does not change the geometry of the street and is not an approach suitable for Vision Zero on a high traffic street.

    The heavy auto traffic identified by these advocates is not going to magically disappear if bike lanes are striped, but it can be eliminated by design.

  • Zero Vision

    “Sorry, but these people aren’t residents or community members. We only listen to a handful of unelected people on community boards. We’ll install wide parking lanes for now, if we get around to it.” – Polly Trottenberg, probably.

  • HamTech87

    Not sure whether bike boulevards work well on streets with high traffic volumes. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the term ‘bike boulevards’ as this is what I picture (see below). Not sure the car traffic volumes would make this a comfortable ride. Wouldn’t taking the on-street parking lane on these streets suffice for a protected lane?

  • BBnet3000

    Bike boulevards have low traffic volume by design by diverting through-traffic off of the route.

  • J

    In the Netherlands they do this in city centers by maintaining local access for motor vehicles (deliveries and drop-offs), but restricting through access, except for bicycles. This is coupled with traffic calming design, to ensure that vehicle speeds are low. Here is a great example:

    More information about the concept:

    In Portland, they adopted the name Commercial Greenway, to relate it to Neighborhood Greenway (aka Bike Boulevard), although the Dutch designs appear to be much more effective (read: strict) at limiting motor vehicle through access than what Portland was proposing.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    I believe they mean protected bike lanes

  • Alexander Vucelic

    72nd is a obvious candidate for protected bike lanes in both directions.

    Under utilized roadway, right lane is mainly used for double parking
    massively wide lanes
    cross town connection through Central Park at 72nd
    connects on both Hudson and East River to Protected Bike Paths

  • Jane

    On a related note, when will we see safe and legal ways to cross central park by bicycle, besides the one at 72nd street? I commute by the 86th street transverse several days a week and it never ceases to feel dangerous. A truck or a bus always honks at me as if to notify me that I’m not really supposed to be there. There’s no shoulder, and there’s one grating that is large enough even to catch my fairly wide wheel. People speed around the corners, and during the day a biker with no lights disappears for a second or two into the shadows while going under the tunnels (which are not lighted during the day.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    there is a surface cross park route at approximately 101nd or so. It’s a little obscure, but works.

    There is also bridle path crossing around 95th but the few times I’ve used its been disorienting.

    The traverses are only for a subset of the strong and fearless. I spend a few extra minutes crossing the park at 72nd or ‘101st’ and doubling back rather than using a traverse. There was a listed bike path at 96th in the park unt last Spring and they shut that down.,

  • Jane

    I’m glad you agree with me and back up my assertion that the transverse lanes are not really safe for Bicycles.

    With the advent of Citibike, don’t you think that there is going to be more demand for bicyclist’s ability to cross from the east to the west side? I personally do not think it’s reasonable to ask bicycle riders to always go to 72nd to cross the park. If you’re at 86th and you want to go to 86th on the other side, the entire trip on google maps is more than 2 miles. if you do it in the park you traverse a lot of hills, Which it’s good exercise but it’s not a practical commute… It’s an extra 15 minutes and a lot of sweat. If you go outside of the park you’ll have to travel on Madison , a busy dangerous avenue to get back north to your destination.

    A simple shared bike pedestrian path within the park is really for each place where cars are allowed to cross underneath the park

    As far as I know the Bicycle “path”at 96 still exists because I’ve used it in the past week or so. It’s hard to find and it’s not directly linked to the road on either side of the park… It just gets you across the center of the park And yes you can cross at around 101 via the two-way road that passes through. But both of those are not really fully ways to cross the park, because if you’re actually following the law in either case, you’ll have to walk your bike for a third or a fourth of the way or more depending on direction.
    As for the bridle paths, it’s still illegal for bicycles to ride on those, even though quite often they are fairly empty and it’s rare for horses anymore. I used to cross partially on at 86 using the bridlewhich is clogged with police cars parking there. The police have stopped me several times and warned me that I’m not supposed ride there

    Because I actually across the park for work and wrankles me all the time either I have to break the law and risk a ticket, or follow the law and put myself in danger if I want to get to work on time

  • Alexander Vucelic

    I agree it should Be straightforward to designate one Of the existing Bridge/walking paths around 96th for croos park cyclists. It wouldn’t Be the perfect solution but it would Be a Vast improvement over the current situation.

    this adition would mean safe cross park routes would exist

    62nd (one way)
    110th (one way)

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Cross town biking in the Manhattan core has become increasingly difficult, in my opinion, over the past 3 years. I attribute this increasing difficulty to MORE CONSTRUCTION, MORE UBER, MORE TOUR BUSES. My strategy has become keep going up and down an avenue until you find a cross town hole and take it.

  • Miles Bader

    Around here, there are some places where in a large-scale reconstruction they replaced formerly small mostly-pedestrian streets with wide two-way “obviously for autos” streets.

    I was pretty depressed at this… However what actually happened is sort of interesting. The (many) pedestrians in the area simply ignored the sidewalk/street boundary and walked on the new wide streets, meaning anybody attempting to drive down them has a miserable time, can’t drive faster than walking speed, and has to stop ever 3m.

    The result is that although there initially seemed to be attempts by drivers to use the new streets as normal streets, that’s largely died away, and the only cars you really see now are those using it as a meeting place to pick up people (so they’ll drive a small distance, park and wait in their car, and then leave when their passenger arrives), and trucks loading and unloading in front of stores.


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