What Protected Bike Lanes on Midtown Cross Streets Might Look Like

The 1st Street bike lane by Union Station in Washington, DC, via Streetfilms

We reported yesterday that DOT is exploring the potential for crosstown protected bike lanes in Midtown. Currently, the painted crosstown bike lanes on Midtown cross streets tend to get blocked by cars. Here’s how one reader put it:

My main complaint as a crosstown cyclist in midtown during the workday are streets that are so calm that nothing moves, but are also so packed that you can’t even filter through. There are two types of (one-way) streets in midtown: those with two traffic lanes, and those with one; both with two parking lanes… The result is that it’s impossible to filter through stopped vehicles in the two-lane streets and it is faster to walk on the sidewalk (I wouldn’t bike on it!).

So how might a protected bike lane work on streets that are narrower than the wide avenues where most of the protected bike infrastructure in NYC has been added? In Manhattan, the main example is the parking-protected bike lane on Grand Street, first installed in 2008. But you don’t need a whole parking lane of street width to protect a bike lane.

Readers pointed out that a concrete curb can do the trick just fine. There’s a great example of this treatment on 1st Street by Union Station in DC, which Clarence Eckerson recently highlighted with a short Streetfilm.

Another reader shared this example from Vancouver:

Streetsblog readers are thrilled at the prospect of protected lanes like this running across Midtown Manhattan. Image: Dylan Passmore
Photo: Dylan Passmore

And here’s a reader-submitted example from Buenos Aires:

Image: Google Maps
A bike lane protected with what looks like parking stops at the corner of Arenales and Suipacha in Buenos Aires. Image: Google Maps

(For more about how Buenos Aires is changing its streets, check out Clarence’s Streetfilm from last year.)

Making these designs work in Midtown will require repurposing some parking spaces and reworking how vehicles access the curb. As you can see, New York would hardly be the first city to pull off changes like that.

  • BBnet3000

    Two way bike paths within a street grid are a disaster. The one in DC runs along a natural boundary (Union Station and a large government complex) for most of its length. They will not be able to safely extend it.

    I’d much rather see something like this, which can have room for overtaking and which has no head-on turning conflicts:


  • J

    One a one-way street, two-way bike paths make more sense, since you have a direct and effective way back the way you came, and cars can easily see oncoming bikes. If the lanes are put on the correct side of the one-way street, I would assume that they are no more dangerous than any two way street, where vehicles make left turns across oncoming traffic.

    I do agree that putting two-way paths along one side of a two-way street, as is done in may parts of Montreal, leads to more collisions, as it requires negotiating too many conflicts.

  • AnoNYC

    Thinking about this reminds me that NYC is long overdue for changes in parking policy as well. I could see opposition from businesses that load along the curb. The obvious solution is to remove parking spaces and provide additional loading zones opposite the bicycle lane. However, removing parking spaces is always one heck of a challenge. We need variable metering at market demand prices.

  • Curb separation is good for a number of reasons. Besides doing a much better job of keeping cars out of the bikeway than paint they will also reduce problems of debris and snow/slush/rain wakes from passing vehicles.

    I think in NYC, given NYPD’s propensity to drive and park anywhere, that some plants in the curb like those in @BBnet3000:disqus’s photo might help reduce violation by NYPD.

  • The primary danger with two-way bikeways is at junctions as drivers will look to their left for oncoming traffic including cars, bikes, disabled on scooters, etc but rarely look for people coming from their right. A two-way works well on a long stretch of road with no junctions but not so well when there are junctions.

  • ahwr

    Approaching a stop sign drivers and cyclists generally ignore the stop bar and don’t stop (if they do) until they are in the crosswalk. If they are making a turn on red you have the same issue. A two way bike facility gets the same treatment. Why would this concern apply to a crosstown path in Manhattan where the intersections will have traffic lights and turn on red will be prohibited? Especially if motor vehicle turns are prohibited (possible at some avenues) or given a separate cycle from pedestrians and cyclists moving in the conflicting direction.

    I would expect any crosstown protected bike lane to see a fair amount of salmoning anyway. Painting it as a two way path might defuse tensions between the salmoners and both pedestrians crossing midblock who wouldn’t think to check for anyone going the wrong way and fast cyclists overtaking slower ones going in the ‘right’ direction.

  • Maggie

    You know, try being one of about 70 pedestrians who are squishing between the bumpers of a Mack truck and a turning SUV in midtown Manhattan, and just trying to get their lunch on a Tuesday before you say “oh every driver rolls through the Manhattan crosswalks, no harm, no foul.”

    Midtown Manhattan desperately needs the Move NY plan and limited filtered permeability on its crosstown streets.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    I agree Two way (Contra-flow) bike lanes are a terrible Idea in Midtown for cross town lanes – pedestrians Have a difficult Time as it already Is just Avoiding traffic coming from One direction in Midtown.

    The simple effective solution Is to use a Number of the small One way streets and reconfigure them as follows:

    11′ Bike Lane and Buffer protected with Those low bump thingees or the Plastic Stick thingees (11′ because that Is minimum for NYC snowplow)
    10′ motor Lane
    9′ (24 hours) loading Zone; no Car Storage, just 15 minutes active loading

    Any number of cross town streets qualify for This Treatment.

    There Is ZERO reason to allow on street Car Storage at Any Time in Midtown We want to encourage deliveries during off hours, so these loading zones should be 24 hours – 7 days a week.

    You Wanna Drive your private Car Into midtown ? There are tens of thousands of paid off street Parking Spots Waiting to Serve you.

  • BBnet3000

    Unfortunately our planners and advocates, including most on this site, don’t seem to know about filtered permeability. :-[

  • Did you not catch the Cambridge Streetfilm?


  • Joe R.

    I’ve long thought we should have a system of retractable bollards on all minor Manhattan side streets. Delivery, emergency, and sanitation vehicles would be able to retract them to go about their business. Maybe you could also make an occasional minor side street for buses. Other than that, the side streets would be primarily for pedestrians and cyclists. I can’t think of any good reason private automobiles, or even taxis, need access to minor streets. Most of their destinations are on the avenues.

    The nice thing about this system is any bike lane running along the avenues can just have a yield-to-peds and essential vehicles sign at minor side streets since there would be almost no cross vehicular traffic. That reduces the number of traffic signals cyclists encounter by about an order of magnitude. If you want to take it one step further, you would put overpasses or underpasses at major cross streets to eliminate traffic signals altogether from the bike lane.

  • BBnet3000

    The exception that proves the rule. I’ve never seen it come up in reference to cycle planning in New York and if its ever been proposed for any corridor here I’d love to hear about it.

  • Maggie

    Totally agree. I’d love to see this as a pilot project for a small number of crosstown streets.

    Why does the DOT effort stop at 42nd instead of up to 59th?

  • BBnet3000

    Ah the heady days of 2009, when we thought that 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th Aves were getting protected bike lanes and anything seemed possible. What we got in the end turned out to be a hodgepodge of non-comprehensive dedicated infrastructure, the best segments of which are only medium quality.

    In the intervening six years there hasn’t been a single use or official proposal of filtered permeability in NYC. Dean and Bergen still suck (as do Smith and Hoyt), and we continue to paint and repaint crap bike lanes on streets where they will fail.

  • J

    I love that this video was made in 2009, and it’s nearly 2016 (7 years later) and NYC still hasn’t even discussed bike boulevards. That pretty much sums things up, these days.

  • J

    Yep. No crosstown lanes, no continuous north-south protected lanes. No plan for future bike lanes. Really everything is still ad hoc in NYC.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    this could be tested in front of every primary school in the city

  • Alex

    Exciting to see this because DOT has needed to update their toolkit for some time.
    One of the tough sells, though, was seen in that ill-fated 32nd street plaza that got a lot of loading zone complaints. There are very few midtown streets that won’t run into this problem, so I would wonder how they deal with this. One way, of course, is to make these two way to take advantage of the ability to build them where they can. If it were up to me all of the protected 11′ lanes would be two way.


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