CB 5 Committee to DOT: You Oughta Take a Traffic Lane Outta Sixth Avenue

The DOT proposal for Sixth Avenue adds a protected bike lane but doesn’t remove any motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

Like their counterparts at Community Board 4, members of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee think DOT’s proposed redesign of Sixth Avenue isn’t bold enough. Unlike CB 4, the committee voted for the plan anyway in a unanimous decision last night.

The proposal would add a protected bike lane from 14th Street to 33rd Street, narrowing the avenue’s four motor vehicle lanes without eliminating any [PDF]. Committee members were concerned that the plan won’t slow traffic and lacks various treatments that would better protect pedestrians, like wider sidewalks and raised concrete islands.

“This seems to me to prioritize traffic over pedestrians,” said committee chair Alan Miles.

DOT’s Ted Wright said other community boards are not as eager for more drastic changes. “I wish more community boards were asking for radical things,” he said.

“We ask every time you come here,” Miles quipped. “You’re always concerned about parking spaces.”

Despite wanting more from the redesign, the committee expressed a commitment to move forward with any and all improvements DOT proposes. The project now moves to the full board. Meanwhile, CB 4, which covers the west side of the project area south of 26th Street, is expected to reconsider the proposal in January.

Sixth Avenue has a high injury rate, and a Transportation Alternatives study released in September found that cyclists account for 10 percent of all traffic on the street. “We think it’s critical,” Janet Liff, who lives in the neighborhood and helped lead TA’s volunteer campaign for a safer Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, told the CB 5 committee. “As you said, if it’s not perfect it can be improved incrementally over time.”

While Liff said she would like to see a dedicated bus lane added as well, she agreed with the committee members’ assessment that “the perfect should not be the enemy of good.”

  • Jeff

    Does anyone have the dimensions of the Second Ave protected lane (from 23rd St to Houston St) handy? Because I find it downright unusable and seek alternate routes (without any kind of bike infrastructure) whenever possible, yet am reasonably satisfied with 1st Ave.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    The biggest concern expressed by the committee members was that this bike lane would turn out just like 8th avenue north of 42nd, where the volume of pedestrians spills out into the bike lane.

    The DOT’s concern with taking away a lane was that there was a significant volume of car traffic “that has to get where it’s going”.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    I think the reason for this has more to do with the “flush islands”. They don’t feel safe enough to pedestrians, so they wait for the light in the bike lanes instead of the pedestrian refuges. Pedestrians in the bike lanes forces cyclists to ride over the flush islands, thus reinforcing the feeling they have. On first avenue, there’s a reassuring amount of concrete that encourages pedestrians to cross the bike lane completely.

    The dimensions of the 6th avenue bike lane will be the same as with second avenue, 6 ft + 3 ft buffer: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-09-03-bicycle-path-data-analysis.pdf (slide 27)

  • 34th to 14th on Second Ave is not bad.
    South of 14th, it requires some patience, but if you’re on a Citibike then it’s really not a problem (the speeds are slower, the brakes are good, and maneuvering around sudden pedestrians in the roadway is easy enough). If I’m on a dedicated road bike, I take a traffic lane, as my 25mph sprint speed is about as fast as the traffic anyway. And it’s legal to do this, no matter what cranky people say

  • Jeff

    Just curious, what makes you say it’s legal? I was reading about a proposed protected bike lane in Baltimore, and the city’s DOT quelled backlash from vehicular cyclists by saying that protected bike lanes are considered “bike _paths_”, and therefore the Maryland law which states that cyclists must use a bike _lane_ when available does not apply.

    Is it a similar situation here, or is there another interpretation of the law that makes it so?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    peak motor volume according to DOT happens at 23rd and Is a mere 1,970 per hour – easily handled by 3 Car lanes and a dedicated bus lane ( exclude parking/loading during Rush Hour to accomodate bus lane)

    10′ of erstwhile lane becomes

    4′ wider sidewalk
    3′ wider bus lane
    2′ wider Parking buffer
    1′ wider bike Lane

    done

  • Alex

    I applaud these challenges to the DOT protected lane template. Hopefully this mile long stretch 6th Av can be the beginning of a new solution that stops favoring traffic flow at the expense of other users.

  • Mark Walker

    The M5 and M7 buses (which I ride regularly) really could use a dedicated lane. And those are not the only buses that slow to a painful crawl on Sixth Ave.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    I’m pretty sure it’s legal to take the right-most lane, since it’s a >40 foot roadway. But I don’t think it’s legal to take the left car lane.

  • http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/VAT/VII/34/1234

    The law is essentially, “You shall ride in a usable bike path or along the right side of a roadway unless you have any reason at all not-to”. For practical purposes, there isn’t much enforcement that can be done with this on NYC streets. There’s always traffic in the right lane, and that’s always a reason to not-use-it; similarly, if you’re entering a one-way road from the left, there’s always a reason to keep to the left side.

    The same flimsy law allows any cyclist to disregard a bicycle lane and take a traffic lane, anywhere in the state.

    In NYC, local laws go further. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclerules_english.pdf
    RCNY § 4-12(p) extends use of bicycles on one-way 40-foot-wide+ roadways to either the right or the left. This applies to pretty much every avenue in the city.

  • See other post in this thread, but clear interpretations of NYS VAT VII-34 § 1234 and RCNY § 4-12(p) are that pretty much any “taking the lane” is legal, given the laws’ stated “exceptions” and the perpetual conditions of NYC streets

  • Nick Ober

    Second Avenue south of 23rd street only has a 9 foot combined bike lane (buffer + lane) which is why it’s less usable and also why it doesn’t have concrete islands.

  • Nick Ober

    That’s a really good point. Do the buses on 6th and 5th Avenues get less love since there’s a subway line underneath for much of their routes or is there another reason? There are bus lanes on other avenues — most conspicuously on 1st and 2nd obviously.

  • No longer can Trottenberg and de Blasio hide behind the fig leaf of “community opposition.” Because of their refusal to follow (let alone lead) on this issue—whether due to incompetence, political miscalculation, or simple lack of interest—innocent people will die.

  • AnoNYC

    How about EXTENDING THE SIDEWALK!

  • BBnet3000

    At least they paint them as islands, as opposed to Allen/Pike Street where you’re expected to ride over a painted bulbout, or in some locations a painted or paved pedestrian plaza.

  • BBnet3000

    I like to think of it as returning the sidewalk to its pre-car obsessed configuration.

  • J

    Seriously, if DOT won’t reduce car lanes and parking where the CBs are asking for it, what hope is there for the areas with car centric CBs. Vision zero doesn’t apply to them?

  • M to the I

    I don’t blame peds for not wanting to stand on the painted refuges on 2nd Avenue. I’m amazed by the amount of car/truck tire tracks that go right over those refuges? If there were some sort of protection like a planter I think some peds would stand there. But there are not even flexiposts on the corners of intersections with WB streets. Its like DOT wants drivers to cut the corner and drive over the painted ped island when making a turn onto 2nd.

  • Matthias

    If there are too many pedestrians, deal with that first by giving them some sidewalk space. Nearly all the avenues need wider sidewalks.

  • Matthias

    Don’t forget Madison with a DOUBLE bus lane!

  • iSkyscraper

    This is such a different world that what goes on in Upper Manhattan, it’s hard to believe I live on the same island. Could some CB4 and CB5 people please run for CB12?

  • East Villager

    This is good news. The new design will slow down car traffic considerably on Sixth.

    But we need to take out an entire traffic lane. The six-foot lane on Sixth won’t work any better than the narrow lanes on Eighth and Second that are a hazard to ride in. I’ve had countless near-collisions with oblivious pedestrians and wrong-way riders.

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