DOT Exploring Better Crosstown Bike Lanes for Midtown

The bike lane on 39th Street is no match for westbound traffic. Image: Google Street View

DOT is exploring options for better crosstown bike connections in the city’s busiest neighborhood, according to a letter from DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione to Community Board 4.

The letter says DOT is “currently exploring the potential for protected bike lanes in Midtown Manhattan” and that “large vehicle volumes, curbside access needs and network connectivity are challenges faced in designing this type of bicycle facility in this area of the city.”

Forgione’s message came in response to a letter sent more than a year ago by CB 4 Chair Christine Berthet and the co-chairs of the transportation committee, who requested that DOT study the potential for protected bike lanes on crosstown streets ranging from 23rd Street to 42nd Street.

In the Manhattan grid, the wide avenues are a more natural fit for protected bike lanes than the cross streets, with Sixth Avenue set to become the sixth north-south street with a protected bike lane above Houston Street.

Meanwhile, there’s not much quality bike infrastructure for crosstown travel, especially in Midtown, where painted lanes tend to get clogged by the intense motor vehicle traffic. Bike lanes on 29th, 30th, 39th, and 40th Streets give way to sharrows at various points. While crosstown traffic isn’t as intimidating as traffic on the avenues, the current bike lanes clearly don’t provide unobstructed routes.

In the letter to DOT, CB 4 also stressed the growing number of people who live on the West Side and the impact protected lanes would have on pedestrian safety: “It is also important that DOT understands the increased residential (and tourist) nature of the ‘midtown’ areas of CB4 and the pressing need to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle needs along with those of vehicular traffic.”

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