DOT Extends Sixth Avenue Protected Bike Lane Plan to 8th Street

A rendering from DOT's November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue. The plan now includes raised pedestrian medians. Image: NYC DOT
DOT’s November proposal for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue included painted pedestrian zones. A new version of the plan calls for raised concrete islands instead. Image: NYC DOT

DOT is extending its plan for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue six blocks and will include some concrete pedestrian islands in the project. Previously, the plan called for a protected bike lane between 14th Street and 33rd Street with painted pedestrian islands at intersections. The revised plan extends south to 8th Street and will include some raised concrete islands.

The Manhattan Community Board 2 transportation committee voted unanimously for the new iteration of the project last night. DOT’s Hayes Lord said work on the project will likely begin in June and wrap up by the end of the summer.

The new design will replace the existing painted bike lane on Sixth Avenue with a six-foot-wide parking-protected lane and a three-foot buffer. The raised pedestrian islands will be narrower than usual, since DOT isn’t going to claim more space by removing a general traffic lane.

The concrete islands were added by DOT at the request of the Community Board 4 transportation committee, which withheld its support because the plan lacked sufficiently safe design at intersections. The Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed the plan in November but said DOT should have gone farther to prioritize safety and transit.

DOT Project Manager Preston Johnson said larger pedestrian islands and a dedicated bus lane would not be included due to the heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.

While the plan now extends six blocks further south, committee vice chair Maury Schott chided DOT for not putting forward a proposal that includes the rest of Sixth Avenue down to Canal Street. Previously, DOT has said that a section extending to Canal Street is on the table for 2017, and an extension north of 33rd would be considered after that.

Johnson was non-committal about a bike lane below 8th Street. “We want to be able to work there as well,” he said. “But like I said, the difference in the street width just creates different conditions that we want to look at closer.”

Schott said the committee supports a continuous protected bike lane starting at Canal, knowing full well this will probably entail the removal of a general traffic lane. “I think I express the opinion of a lot of people in the community that one of the biggest problems we’re having now is that we’re between and betwixt,” he said. “The reality is that the drivers and the cyclists and the pedestrians are dealing with constantly changing conditions. There are places where cyclists are properly served, there are places where they’re not served at all, there are places where they are not properly served — which is, I think, what a lot of people would say Sixth Avenue is now.”

Like Community Board 4, CB 2 also wants more protected signal time for pedestrians and cyclists to cross without potential conflicts with turning drivers. The committee’s final resolution asked DOT to include a leading pedestrian interval, which the plan already has at the 14th Street and 23rd Street intersections, at 11th Street by P.S. 41.

The full board will vote on the plan on January 21.

  • c2check

    TAKE A TRAVEL LANE

  • East Villager

    I much prefer the configuration at present. Drivers usually don’t yield to my right of way and turn left in front of me every other block, but I can just move over to the right and go around them. On the other hand, when I’m stuck behind a row of parked cars, I’ll just have to stop every two blocks until all the cars have turned left.

    I’ll probably just ride in a traffic lane on the right of the avenue and risk being ticketed.

  • r

    “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user.”

    There’s your problem right there. What’s wrong with compromosing “another user”? This is DOT weak-speak for “We’re terrified of doing anything to discourage driving in this city.

  • J

    DOT Project Manager Preston Johnson said larger pedestrian islands and a dedicated bus lane would not be included due to the heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.

    So basically, we compromise the speed of bus users and the safety of pedestrians in order to not compromise the speed of cars.

  • J

    The community is BEGGING for DOT to go farther. In this location, the biggest obstacle to better, safer, more multi-modal streets is DOT itself.

  • bob

    Unreal considering the success of the 1-2, 8-9 aves protected lanes. They work so well, especially for drivers due to the turning lane. I cannot believe johnson said “compromising another user” – unreal. so long as that is the underlying concern, Vision Zero is a joke; if NYC cannot explicitly be for non-cars, how the heck is the rest of the country? I am glad the city is doing something, but its very frustrating that they cannot take the full step and also include (at least) rush hour bus lane. very very frustrating

  • Reader

    So long as “another street user” isn’t a motorist, DOT does a ton of compromising. Look at all the compromises they’re asking for from cyclists and pedestrians in this project alone!

  • SteveVaccaro

    You can and should pass on the right drivers who are turning left in the mixing zones of a protected bike path. It’s the safest way to do it. Because the mixing zones exist, you are not “stuck behind a row of parked cars.”

  • Nick Ober

    Which intersections will have raised concrete islands? Also, I assume no tree beds will be part of this project. That’s a real miss along a corridor that has little greenery.

  • HamTech87

    Why does DOT’s default position always favor motorists? At this pace, I’ll be dead before we have a protected bike lane network in Manhattan.

  • BBnet3000

    This lane is going to give protected lanes a bad name even more than the Midtown section of the 8th Avenue and Broadway ones already have. The consequences of following the absolute minimum design standards in a high traffic location that requires the best.

    I wish advocates cared as much about design as they do about politics.

  • BBnet3000

    At the higher traffic left turns it backs up too far to get to the right without cutting perpendicularly between bumpers. Nobody seems to make a note of this and consider adding a turn signal at the locations where this happens frequently. Nobody seems to care how these lanes actually function after they’ve been installed.

  • BrandonWC

    At the November CB 4 meeting the DOT rep explained there is no room for tree pits. Apparently, for tree pits, you need a 7′ island (the pit is 6′ plus 6″ of concrete on each side). It looks like the islands in the revised proposal will be just 5′ wide to allow 11′ clearance from the curb for street cleaning and then 1′ clearance from the from the car lane.

  • BBnet3000

    They’re saying that cycling will never really be given space as a mode of ttransportation in New York City. Bike facilities will only ever be installed around the edges in extra space that nobody else is really using. Even then under Vision Zero bike facilities are ranked below striping buffer space intended to be used by no one.

  • AMH

    I have mixed feelings. 6 Av is reasonably fast on a bike when traffic isn’t too heavy, you can go 10+ blocks between red lights. It usually is pretty scary, however. Separated bike lanes are great for a few feet at a time, but the mixing zones are hell and you can’t ride fast enough to get more than 2-3 blocks between red lights, especially with split-phase signals that stop bikes to let cars turn.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    60′ for cars 6′ for bikes 0′ for buses – welcome to the new & entlighted DOT

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Bike traffic is already 12% of roadway traffic on 6th –

  • I think advocates care plenty about design. Many of us have been pushing hard on DOT to do more with it in both the easy, cheap ways and in ways that move the needle a lot. In this case, the only reason DOT came back with more is because CB members and advocates asked for a better design!

  • Boeings+Bikes

    By “turn signal” I assume you mean splitting out the turn phase. I’m not sure what you mean “nobody cares”… if you cared to look at the plan, it includes split turn phases at 14th and 23rd. Similarly, other protected lane projects also include turn phases where there is highest turn volume. But if you give drivers a green turn-arrow, you can’t also have bikes scooting by on the inside (they can’t both have the right of way when their paths cross), so that means the bikes get red lights, which is also not so desirable. I think the balance on projects like this is the best middle ground.

  • Boeings+Bikes

    It’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t just the committee who expressed support of the Canal-to-W. 8th segment but *every single public commenter* as well. That was the primary view expressed by attendees, that the project is incomplete leaving a gap where there is so much demand.

  • BBnet3000

    Yes, they put a split phase at 14th and 23rd, but not at other points where backups happen that block the bike lane. As for the red lights not being desirable, I prefer having to stop occasionally for a red light to having to stop at a green light because of cars blocking the lane.

  • BBnet3000

    When I say design I mean things like width and geometry. All that’s happened here is a change of materials from the original proposal (from paint to concrete).

    This also means that the chance to take a lane and do this right is pretty much gone, because they could strip paint to change a temporary materials layout later, but they’re never going to break up these more costly pedestrian islands. I hope you like the width and comfort of this lane when it’s built because it’s going to be locked in for decades.

  • I’ve been saying for a long time that DOT isn’t building bike lanes for the future. It’s still using a circa-2010 playbook. Absolutely agree that bike lane width is an issue and DOT should fix it.

  • David Meyer

    That’s correct! They said trees weren’t possible without taking away a car lane.

  • thomas040

    That’s amazing:) Do you have any sources to back that data up? 12% is a lot!

  • jooltman

    And just to be clear, when CB2 Transpo Co-Chair says 6th Avenue isn’t “serving” cyclists, he means 6th Avenue does not protect people on bikes from death. Is DOT really okay with that???

  • knisa

    The HORROR of “compromising” Long Island SUV drivers so that buses can go faster than 4mph! It’s mind-boggling that deBlasio and Trottenberg’s DOT won’t consider this even when the community boards ask for it.

  • knisa

    The quote below seems to imply to me that deBlasio and Trottenberg have embraced a tacit policy of “no road diets”:
    “DOT Project Manager Preston Johnson said larger pedestrian islands and a dedicated bus lane would not be included due to the heavy traffic on Sixth Avenue. “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.”

  • chekpeds

    Exactly that is whey CB4 would like split phase at all intersections. Good for bikes,good for peds…

  • Fire Trottenberg now.

  • I love this quote: “It’s very hard for us to find another space without compromising another user,” Johnson said.

    It’s an almost newspeakesk way of saying “We’re choosing to compromise pedestrians and transit, in favor of automobile travel”.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Trans alt did traffic counts this summer – the stats are somewhere here on Strtblog

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the Ped islands are easy to move – jack hammers do wonders these days

  • SteveVaccaro

    Fair point. DoT should also stop using drawings that show half-block-long, 5-car-length mixing zones when they shortened them to half or less than that in practice to appease those worried about parking reductions.

    But I think it is important for anyone using these facilities to pass any car entering the mixing zone on the right, not even to attempt to pass on the left. DoT is coy with its advice–“don’t hug the curb”–when it should be advising cyclists to pass on the right.

  • East Villager

    There are already enough cyclists in the 6th Avenue lane during rush hour that I’ll sometimes take the left traffic lane for a block or more to pass four or five slower riders. This won’t be possible with the narrow parking-protected lane. In fact, if 6th Avenue follows the example of 8th Avenue (and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t), the protected lane will encourage wrong-way riders and pedestrians who want to avoid the crowds on the sidewalk.

    Attention DOT and TA: it’s not enough to boast about the miles of bike lanes that you’ve installed. They actually need to be designed to be useful for the cyclists who use them.

  • Joe R.

    Great idea. This was similar to one of my ideas for another avenue. Totally agree there shouldn’t be any private car parking along the avenue (or any other Manhattan Avenue). This is some of the most expensive real estate in the world. I don’t get why the city feels motorists are so deserving of the largesse we’re giving them in the form of free or underpriced curbside parking.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The whole concept of having areas in NYC intended for use by no one is really bizarre.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Widen the sidewalks, too.

    In the Village especially, the sidewalks are often very busy. Moving the curb line a few feet into the current street surface would be a big benefit.

    On 8th Avenue near the Port Authority, again the sidewalks actually overflow with crowds of pedestrians hurrying to catch a bus home, or sometimes tourists hurrying to catch curtain time at the theaters. Take a full lane from auto traffic there, add several feet of space to the sidewalks on both sides of 8th Avenue, and greatly improve the quality of Midtown life.

    When we only talk about narrowing streets for bikes, we fail to win allies among the more numerous pedestrians in the city. It should be both/and for wider sidewalks and bike lanes coming out of an eliminated traffic lane.

  • Mark

    No, it’s the NYPD. The protected bike lanes we have, most especially 8th Ave. and the new one on 7th in the 40s, are death traps, all because people have learned that there are no consequences to them if they walk, walk their dogs, ride the wrong way or park their cars and trucks in the bike lanes. This is because the NYPD is clearly incapable of doing anything about it (just as they are incapable of reigning in rogue cyclists).

    In fact, many times it’s police vehicles parked in bike lanes — in particular see 7th Ave in Times Square, 8th Ave in midtown around that precinct, and Richmond Terrace in front of the 120th precinct.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    correct relatively easy to recruit peds as allies

  • Alexander Vucelic
  • Joe R.

    Amazing considering the weather all but stopped both bikes and cars. At first I thought it made little sense given the road conditions but doing the shopping on foot with a shopping cart probably would have been more dangerous, and definitely would have taken longer. After seeing this I’m thinking a velomobile wouldn’t be horrible even in a full-out blizzard. Some models can be totally enclosed. It might be slow going, but then again nothing moves fast, if at all, during a blizzard anyway.

  • Pedestrians use the bike lane on 8th Ave because the sidewalks are too narrow. Fault for this lies squarely with DOT’s unwillingness to reclaim a car lane, no matter how badly needed—on 6th Ave now as well as 8th. Trottenberg’s DOT is happy to stand idly by as motorists slaughter New Yorkers by the thousands.

  • Nathan Rosenquist

    If you ask a DOT rep what their highest priority always is, it’s traffic throughput. Pedestrian and cyclist safety has weight for them, but ease of car traffic weighs far more. If they’re implementing improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, it’s because they found a way to do so without hurting motorist throughput numbers.

  • AlexB

    I love this improvement to 6th Avenue but we need to create more and better downtown bike lanes. We’ve got decent uptown options on 8th, 6th, and 1st, but the only protected downtown lane is on 9th. No, I don’t count 5th or 2nd since those have no protection through midtown.

  • Clearly this is the case. The question is, what can be done to change this, and who exactly can do that. What bugs me about the quote however, is the degree to which its implicit in it’s real point. The implication of the quote is that pedestrian’s aren’t a mode which deserves consideration of “compromise”….”compromise” is something that only auto traffic faces.

  • Mark

    Try 7th Avenue. The bike lane that starts around 47th is pretty crappy, but outside of that 7th Avenue has plenty of room for cyclists on both the left and right sides, outside of some construction closures around Times Sq the last few months that have generally been pretty short-lived. No bike lane needed here (granted I’m generally pretty wary of them, as a cyclist myself)

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