DOT Proposes Complete Street for Second Ave Above 68th Street

DOT plans to add a protected bike lane and bus lane to Second Avenue north of 68th Street. Image: DOT

With the conclusion of Second Avenue Subway construction on the horizon, DOT is preparing to move forward with a 2010 plan to add a bus lane and protected bike lane to Second Avenue on the Upper East Side. The project will close a gap in the Second Avenue bus lane and extend the protected bike lane on the avenue from 105th Street to 68th Street. Construction should begin this summer if the MTA meets its schedule for restoring the street.

The plan, which DOT presented to the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee yesterday, promises to create a much safer neighborhood street and nearly 60 blocks of continuous protected bike lane stretching from East Harlem to the UES, but between 68th Street and the Queensboro Bridge, the bike lane will give way to sharrows. For now, DOT has no proposal to extend the Second Avenue protected lane to 34th Street and close a dangerous gap remains in the east side bike network.

After subway construction no longer impedes the surface of Second Avenue, DOT will paint a bus lane for M15 Select Bus Service, filling a gap between 105th Street and 60th Street. Like other M15 bus lanes, these will be enforced from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m. Midday and in the evening, the bus lane will be used for metered parking, and overnight it will be free parking.

The new protected bike lane segment will run from 105th to 68th, though there will be a one-block gap in protection between 69th Street and 70th Street to accommodate a wider sidewalk and new subway entrance. Intersections with one-way streets where car traffic turns across the bike lane will get the “mixing zone” treatment, while at two-way streets, signals will give cyclists and pedestrians a head start on left-turning drivers. At other crossings, pedestrian islands will be installed between the bike lane and car traffic.

From 68th Street to the Queensboro Bridge, a “transitional design” will only add sharrows, providing no protection where traffic becomes most intense. DOT Acting Director of Bicycle and Greenway Programs Ted Wright said at last night’s meeting that a protected lane was too much to tackle in this project since congestion on Second Avenue is so severe, but that a future project could extend the protection.

Between 68th Street and the Queensboro Bridge, the protected bike lane gives way to sharrows. The curb lane on the east side of the street will be a shared lane during rush hours and a parking lane at other times. Image: DOT

DOT has gradually filled in other gaps in the protected lanes on First Avenue and Second Avenue over the past few years, though none have been as long as the one that remains on Second. In addition to claiming space on blocks with lots of car and truck traffic, fixing the Second Avenue gap will require design solutions for complex intersections with the approaches for the Queensboro Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Committee co-chair A. Scott Falk highlighted the conspicuous gap and implored DOT to make the streets by the Queensboro Bridge safer. “I want you to look a creative ideas because we know that there’s not an easy solution at the Queensboro Bridge,” he said.

Falk joined with advocates and committee members in commending the overall plan. “I don’t believe that the right thing to do following construction is to try to restore the highway that used to be there to get people from Harlem downtown,” he said. “I believe that this design makes everyone in this room safer.”

On the block between 69th and 70th, the sidewalk will be widened to accommodate a new subway entrance and the bike lane will not have protection. Image: NYC DOT

While there was a smattering of comments about “dangerous cycling,” licensing cyclists and bikes, and other standard bikelash fare, the room was generally in favor of the plan. Only a few safe streets advocates were given the chance to speak, but their statements in favor of the proposal received a noisy and positive response from the audience. “There are benefits for cyclists, for motorists and pedestrians,” committee member Sharon Pope said of the plan. “I would ask if we could please separate the behavior [of some cyclists] from the specific and actual benefits of this program because we need it.”

CB 8 approved the initial plan in 2010, and DOT intends to move ahead with implementation as soon as the MTA restores Second Avenue, which DOT anticipates to be in the late summer.

Speaking before the meeting, Council Member Ben Kallos was supportive of the proposal. “I am for a complete street proposal that provides a protected bike lane to provide pedestrians, cyclists and motorists a safe way to use the street,” he told Streetsblog.

  • SteveVaccaro

    I <3 Hindy!

    So irritating how some of the same CB-member-for-life types get to argue ad nauseam against bike infrastructure based on their imagination laced with unverifiable anecdotes. Cyclist kill! Bike lanes destroy businesses! Cyclists are irresponsible–make them buy insurance! How many years do we have to sit through these lies…?

  • AnoNYC

    6 years later and you still can’t figure out how to fill the gap to the Queensboro Bridge?

    Here’s a tip: just extend the physically separated bicycle lane. Automotive traffic is going to be backed up regardless. Only MoveNY stands a chance of reducing congestion in that area.

    Also, how about a hell of a lot of loading zones so trucks (and others) don’t illegally take over the bicycle lane.

  • snobum

    2nd Ave really needs offset or separated bus lanes. The existing bus lanes really don’t do much. This picture was taken this morning around rush hour (9:15am or so) at 22nd and 2nd.

  • Geck

    Any news about plans for a new protected bike lane is good new, but it is frustrating that the most congested areas, where protected lanes are need most, don’t get them.

  • There are tens of thousands of legitimate bicycle trips on these roads every single day. Calling for mode-use restrictions and reform due to 0.1% of the traffic flow being intolerably dangerous – well, I wish they’d think that way about cars, too.

  • Reader

    A bike network is only as good as its weakest link, and this project’s weakest link is total garbage.

  • I know it’s a minor issue compared with the substantial continuing problem of the gap in southbound cycling provision, but I hope I may be permitted a little sigh over the “mixing zones”. Mixing zones seem to me designed to ensure drivers can turn off without delaying those behind them. They’re designed like freeway slip roads and drivers use them in the same way, making fast passes without yielding to cyclists coming up the bike lanes. It would be far better to have far sharper turns that would force drivers to slow down and yield. It’s profoundly frustrating that the DoT continues to install this dangerous design.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Expect UES citibike to grow from 3,500 daily trips to 7,000 by Spring. one motor lane on Second Ave. below 68th will simply be owned by riders. The volume of riders will simply overwhelm the motor lane.

  • AnoNYC

    I see the same along Lexington Avenue during my morning commutes.

    It’s frustrating, no consideration at all for bus riders.

  • BBnet3000

    The horrible gap for the worst possible stretch leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth and the lingering feeling that there’s really nothing to celebrate here. We knew upper 2nd Ave would get this lane when the construction was done and it was approved in 2010.

    Really nothing to announce or applaud here other than that the paperwork got stamped. We’re a very low ambition cycling city.

  • AnoNYC

    Tell me about it. I almost got sideswiped today along 1st Ave near E 125th St. Just before the Willis Ave Bridge.

  • BBnet3000

    There’s no excuse here since there isn’t even curbside parking. It’s low-ambition design.

  • BBnet3000

    I don’t honestly think our designers understand the relationship between auto volumes and levels of cycling infrastructure. In most cases this relationship is inverted in New York compared to best practice.

  • AnoNYC

    I wish they would just physically separate the bus lane with flexible delineators already.

  • As long as common-sense, life-saving street redesigns have to go through the broken community board process, we’ll have to sit through these lies for a lot longer.

    Not that DOT should skip over community boards, but in a Vision Zero city, they have to be given a lot less influence.

  • J

    Still no protected intersections in NYC. Can someone please share this bit of design guidance from MassDOT with the folks at NYC DOT?

  • J

    This plan for bike lanes on 2nd Ave would be like building a subway line that ended at 68th street, then you had to get out and walk to 34th street, where you could get back on the subway and continue your trip. Pretty useless.

  • MatthewEH

    The obvious result of this is going to be continued rampant salmoning in the 1st Avenue lane from 68th down to 59th.

    Though perhaps this is an opportunity? Make that part of the lane a bidirectional protected path, adding signals and singage as appropriate.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Another problem with the mixing zones is that they are too short. DoT’s presentation uses graphics that show a 4-5 car-length mixing zone with a huge daylighting effect. The ones they actually install are more like 1-2 car lengths.

  • Spin

    No, it’s not useless. Many bike trips are shorter. Yes, everyone, including DOT recognizes the plan near the 59th St bridge is insufficient, but let’s not exaggerate.

  • Spin

    They understand, but you can’t just squeeze cars and generate gridlock. We need MoveNY to moderate traffic volume and give motorists good alternatives.

  • Spin

    Same question: obviously two-way bike lanes are not ideal, but maybe they would work where you can’t have a protected southbound lane on 2nd Ave near the bridge and tunnel. Pedestrian signage would be important, as well as lowered bike speeds. But it would be an improvement over salmoning.

  • Geck

    Protected bike lanes through congested areas ARE good alternatives for motorists.

  • Spin

    Yes, you’re right! Squeeze cars, taxis, delivery trucks, busses, cranes, ambulances, fire trucks etc, into one lane. Most of those functions can be replaced by bikes.

  • Spin

    If I understand correctly, your view directly contradicts Robert Wright’s post. He says the mixing zones are too long, you say they’re too short. Seems like the ones actually built are a compromise.
    I agree with you Steve, to optimize traffic flow they’d preferably be longer, but that removes too many parking spots.

  • Spin

    I agree with your comments at last night’s meeting, and share your frustration at the knee-jerk opposition to bike lanes, but the idea of insurance for commercial riders is worth consideration. I’m not advocating it, but I’m keeping an open mind.

  • Noobs_R_Us

    It’s kind of strange that the DOT can’t seem to look in other countries for solutions? That last time I checked, the Dutch has the most sophisticated bike sharing transportation system. Why not take ideas from them? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to copy someone else! The protected intersection is something that the Dutch uses.

    As for 2nd Ave. All they need to do is route the bike lane from 68th street below to the west side of the avenue and then back to the east side after the bridge. Carve out part of the wide sidewalk on the west side of the avenue for cyclists in that section. Duh? Again, not rocket science.

  • HamTech87

    I think Wright is saying no mixing zones at all. I’d prefer to get rid of the mixing zones, where motorists seem to thrust their 1 ton vehicles against my bike to gain a few second advantage in travel time. It is also a waiting area that blocks the bike lane.

  • HamTech87

    I don’t think MoveNY is about “alternatives,” b/c the 59th Street bridge has multiple subway lines near the same alignment. It is about putting a price on driving to incentivize motorists to switch modes. This can be done with price (MoveNY) or difficulty (“squeeze cars”).

  • BBnet3000

    Crossing the Avenue twice within a block to continue straight is not something the Dutch would do, ever, and if they were going to take sidewalk from the west side why not just shift all the lanes over and keep the bike lane on the left?

  • BBnet3000

    I think Wright’s point relates more to the geometry of the mixing zones than to their length. A more Dutch design would keep them protected and have drivers make a tight radius 90 degree turn (similar to around a bulbout) to cross them.

  • nanter

    Does the cyclist have the right of way with these mixing zones? Much like with sharrows, there seems to be a range of understanding about right of way.

    My understanding is that the cyclist has the right of way as the motorist is crossing the cyclist’s lane. Is that correct?

  • J

    This guide is from freakin’ Massachusetts! But yes, it is based on Dutch design. However, unlike Dutch guides, it’s free online, so there no excuse the folks at DOT haven’t seen it and aren’t pushing for better design.

    *side note: The dutch actually aren’t very keen on bike share. The latest data show only 76 bike share bikes in the entire country, half of which are at an airport. Fargo, ND has 100 bike share bikes.

  • BBnet3000

    Fire trucks and ambulances can use the bus lane, assuming some moron isn’t parked in it.

    Is “we need to wait for MoveNY to build any bike lanes in Manhattan” the new “we shouldn’t improve bus lines because we should be building subways instead”?

  • J

    re: Mixing Zones. Mass Dot provides much better guidance on taking bicycle lanes through intersections safely. Sadly, NYC DOT seems opposed to any guidance coming from outside NYC.

  • Geck

    Spinning out of control …

    We are talking about one of six lanes being allocate to a dedicated bike lane.

    Also bike lanes often allow emergency vehicle to get around congestion.

    And this:

  • Spin

    Understood. But the mixing zones pull turning cars out of through-car traffic, which is really needed to maintain overall vehicular flow where you’ve eliminated a traffic lane. One stopped car in a car traffic lane can have repercussions for many blocks, a stopped bike does not.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    62′ of roadway width devoted to cars and 8′ for bikes – that’s really squeezing cars on 2nd avenue

  • Joe R.

    A better idea is to just make minor Manhattan side streets for bike and pedestrian traffic only, perhaps allowing access for delivery trucks and emergency vehicles only via keys to lower retractable bollards. That eliminates the need for mixing zones. It also eliminates traffic signals at minor streets for pedestrians or cyclists going along the avenue since there is no vehicular cross traffic to wait for. If you have overpasses for bikes at major cross streets, you won’t need mixing zones there, either. Cyclists would essentially have a run free of traffic signals from one end of the avenue to the other.

    A secondary bonus of eliminating motor vehicle access to minor side streets is that you get rid of a ton of parking spots. That space can be repurposed for something better. It also has the effect of discouraging auto use.

  • Spin

    It’s more environmentally efficient to not have cars brake to a tight turn where unnecessary. It’s a small amount for each event, but a large overall savings in air pollution and fuel economy. Of course safety overrides those factors where appropriate.

  • Spin

    If that happens (and I hope it does!) I expect DOT will come up with some better way to protect riders.

  • Spin

    I’m strongly in favor of bike lanes, everywhere, right away. Just noting there are real congestion concerns for the area near the bridge, and just mouthing off isn’t going to fix them.

  • Geck

    There are in fact yield markings for cars entering mixing zones, but trusting cars to yield the right of way is a recipe for disaster.

  • Shemp

    The Mass stuff will be even more impressive when someone in Mass builds some of it

  • Noobs_R_Us

    Yea, most Dutch own their bikes. I meant bike sharing lanes with cars.

  • Noobs_R_Us

    Because there’s no good way to protect cyclists from the bridge traffic coming off the bridge on the east side of the avenue. There is however, a very wide sidewalk underneath the skytram on the west side of the avenue.

  • BBnet3000

    Isn’t that what a traffic light is for? My problem at that location is sharing the lane with cars that are on 2nd Avenue. I’ve never had a problem with traffic from the bridge at all because it isn’t moving when I cross.

    The long crossing distance is a problem on foot, but not at cycling speed.

  • Geck

    There is no doubt that building good bike infrastructure in congested areas like 2nd Avenue in midtown is an engineering and political challenge. But if we really want to significantly increase bicycle mode share, we are going to have to meet that challenge—while fighting for the MoveNY Plan. I hope that is helpful. Thanks for joining the discussion,

  • AnoNYC

    It’s already grid locked. Extending the physically separated bicycle lane down to the Queensboro Bridge would make a miniscule impact on congestion. It’s already always jammed up.

    The solution is to toll the East River crossings to reduce automotive traffic volume on the QB Bridge.

  • knisa

    “obviously two-way bike lanes are not ideal”

    Why is this so obvious? Having been to many places where two-way bike lanes work without hitches (including Bogota, where they are standard), I can say that once pedestrians expect two-way bike lanes, they work very well.


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