DOT Will Fill in Most of the Second Avenue Bike Lane Gap in Midtown

The current bike route on Second Avenue goes under these delivery trucks. Image: Google Street View

DOT will present plans this spring to fill most, but not all, of the remaining gaps in the north-south protected bike lanes on the East Side of Manhattan. Significantly, DOT intends to create a physically protected bike lane on Second Avenue between 59th Street and 43rd Street. Combined with the bike lane extension coming to the Upper East Side after surface work on the Second Avenue Subway wraps up, the project would close most of the remaining gaps on the avenue but leave the approaches to the Queensboro Bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel exposed.

DOT Manhattan community liaison Colleen Chattergoon shared the news with the Community Board 6 transportation committee last night. The remaining gaps, she said, will be addressed in future projects but not this year. Chattergoon also said that DOT expects Select Bus Service on 23rd Street to launch later in 2016.

Since putting in protected bike lanes on First and Second south of 34th Street in 2010, the city has added segments in East Harlem, the Upper East Side, and Midtown piece by piece — leaving the most traffic-choked blocks for last. As of now, from Houston Street to 125th the only gaps in protection on the First Avenue bike lane are between 47th and 48th streets (it’s a curbside buffered lane for that block) and between 56th and 59th streets (currently sharrows). Both of those gaps are in line to be protected later this year, said Chattergoon, with DOT expecting to present a plan in May or June.

The Second Avenue bike route has the bigger gap, with no protection between 105th Street and 34th Street. In January, Manhattan CB 8 endorsed DOT’s plan to install a parking-protected lane on Second Avenue above 68th Street after subway construction is finished. The project DOT will present in the spring will call for a protected lane between 59th and 43rd. That would leave two significant gaps — one leading up to the Queensboro Bridge and another leading up to the tunnel. DOT intends to fill those gaps at some point, the only question is when.

The committee did not vote on a resolution regarding the new protected lanes, instead sending a letter to DOT pointing to previous resolutions on the topic. Committee member Larry Scheyer told Chattergoon the community board had requested bike lanes on those blocks in 2010, when it endorsed DOT’s proposal to redesign First and Second avenues.

“We’ve got on record several resolutions in which we had advised about the problems of providing a shared lane, which you’ve adopted, and we indicated it was going to cause conflicts between vehicles and bicycles, which is what has come to pass,” said a frustrated Scheyer.

In other news from the meeting, DOT will unveil a plan for 23rd Street Select Bus Service in April. It’s not clear if the project will include continuous dedicated bus lanes or mostly go without them, like 86th Street SBS. Chattergoon also said DOT will be presenting improvements to the East River Greenway, but did not provide further details.

  • ohnonononono


  • J

    It’s really good to have a firm commitment from DOT to creating a complete bike network on 1st & 2nd. Including Allen/Pike & Christie, this bike lane will stretch the entire length of Manhattan, reaching from the East River Greenway and the Manhattan bridge on the south to the Willis Ave Bridge/ Triborough/Harlem River Greenway. Excellent connections on both ends. Once that’s done, we need to better protect cyclists at intersections (mixing zones suck), and we’ll have a really solid Dutch-style backbone network.

    From there, it should be possible to make ALL new bikeways in Manhattan connect to the existing network. No more islands of bike lanes.

  • AnoNYC

    Glad this is happening finally but …so…slow…

  • HamTech87

    Six years is too slow? ;-( And one would think that the scary areas near the bridge and tunnel would go first, not last.

  • AnoNYC

    I could have painted the lanes myself years ago.

  • JudenChino

    I rode the 2nd ave bike lane for the first time in a long while. I used to ride it regularly as of about 3-4 years ago. And even though, it’s a decent bike lane, man, we still have work to do.

    I rode it from 14th street to the Manhattan Bridge, and at around 9th street, a car, looking to “stand”, just straight up, pulled across the empty parking spots, into my space, and into the bike lane, so it could stand. Big ass SUV, well dressed professional african-american woman behind the wheel. Just sits there. And a lot of bikes are going through.

    At that point, I was thinking, wow, I’m finally back here and even fucking today, car drivers, feel totally comfortable to just straight up stand, in the green marked bike lane, EVEN THOUGH THEY COULD’VE JUST STOOD IN THE EMPTY PARKING SPOTS. And as much as I wanted to get angry (or began to get angry) and thought about, should I shame this person by talking pictures and tweeting it? Should I try to get a cop? Should I try to be polite and let them know . . . . all these things were racing through my mind (and other bikers just went around it). Of course, I didn’t do anything because I have things to do. And, I shit you not, on the very next block, was an empty parked police car blocking the lane (even though there were empty spots available too!).

    And at that point, some eye-rolling, shake of the head, yup, Vision Zero. But, I had an epiphany. I thought, what would happen if we were in Holland? And the answer was, this wouldn’t happen in Holland because no driver would feel comfortable doing it. We need to shame people.. Not me, personally. But, structurally. It’s not enough to just fine people. Fines are good and all but no one really gets fined for obstructing bike lanes while standing. Fines aren’t distributed equally either. We really need to devise a system, so that, the SUV driver, doesn’t even think that that’s an option. The reflex should be “well, I need to pick up X, but I know I sure as hell can’t just pull up to the lane there.”

    I don’t have the actual solution. But I think enforcement is just one small part. We need to really make the drivers feel bad. They need to be made to feel like shit and know that, damn, they really were shitty. That they really were being a selfish asshole. I don’t know how to accomplish this. But direct confrontation, even polite, as most bicyclists know, just causes drivers to be extremely defensive and feel under attack. But it’s got to be engrained such that it becomes instinctual to the point that people “just know” that that’s something you don’t do.

  • Jules1

    For civilians, I tend to nicely explain to them that they need to move before they get towed/ticketed, so it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to move along.

    For police cars or commercial trucks drivers, tweet that f**er like it ain’t no thing. There is NO excuse for professionals to be parked in the bike lane (unless there’s an active police emergency).

  • Nemo

    Better than fining & shaming would be if the design prevented blocking in the first place.

  • Jeff

    We need to get to the point where parking in a bike lane is viewed the same way as parking on a sidewalk. Yes, I get it, we all witness sidewalk parking, but you have to admit that an SUV driver is not just going to pull onto the sidewalk on 2nd Ave in the East Village simply to pickup or discharge a passenger.

  • Actually enforcement is a huge part.

    I’m certainly not against shaming bad actors. But we’ll never make drivers feel bad. People take whatever they can get away with; the only answer is for them to not be able to get away with it, by having enforcement such that the punishment (or the threat of punishment) serves as a disincentive.

    But we will never reach drivers on the emotional level. They’ll never feel bad about blocking bike lanes. Even if they get punished and learn to change their behaviour, they aren’t going to feel bad. Doesn’t matter. We just need them to change their behaviour; we don’t need them to like it. If we want a culture in which drivers “just know” that blocking a bike lane is something that you just don’t do, we’ll need the basis for that feeling to be the fear that they are going to get caught.

    Unfortunately, the key piece of the puzzle — the enforcement — is up to a police department that, at best, doesn’t give a shit about the matter, and, at worst, is hostile to bicyclists and contributes to the problem.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    If it’s a outrageous repeated block the protected bike Lane behaviour – I’ll Hawk a lugi on the side window.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Could we get, excuse the old expression, meter maids to ticket drivers illegally parked? The cops don’t want the job, it’s beneath them. Seems it would be a step up for the uniformed force that enforces metered parking rules.

  • BBnet3000

    Still leaving sharrows through the heavy traffic dual left turn lanes at the tunnel entrance? Come on.

  • Joe R.

    It probably makes more sense to have a group of employees dedicated solely to parking enforcement (and another dedicated to traffic enforcment). Neither one should be a branch of the NYPD, either. The vast majority of people who hire on as police did so in order to shoot criminals, not to give parking tickets, or even red light tickets. Yes, the work is beneath them regardless of whether or not those things might be considered official police business.

  • Tyson White

    Surely there must be someone along 2nd Av that DOT is afraid of and will have the bike lane skip their block, no?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Parking Enforcement should be a DOT function

  • Simon Phearson

    Yeah, I don’t know what I’ll do there. “Filling in the gap” while leaving key points exposed actually puts cyclists at greater risk, in my experience.

    I recently was injured in a crash caused by just such an exposure. The First Avenue lane in midtown stops just in time for cyclists to have to filter into traffic turning onto 57th. As you come up on it, you find yourself solidly to the left of a lot of speeding traffic competing for the two turn lanes, including lots of not-too-aware buses. That section has never been great, but before the lane was installed you could at least legally ride in traffic and position yourself to the right of the left-turners. No more. So, after having safely traveled up First Avenue hundreds of times by riding in traffic, with the new configuration, I found myself sideswiped by a speeding driver turning onto 57th, because I was stuck to their left (and not their right, where I might otherwise have been).

    When they “fill in the gap” on Second, cyclists will no longer have the option of riding on the right side of the street, which was my preferred way to avoid the midtown tunnel crush. Instead, they’ll feed right into a crush of cars blocking their path, and they will either be stopped or dangerously pick their way through a pack of drivers that are paying attention only to the taillights of the car directly ahead of them.

    I increasingly question the kind of incrementalism displayed by these kinds of plans, as I wonder if I’ll manage to survive their half-assed designs long enough to see them finally completed.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    riders can always ride where They deem It safest – bike lane or not.

    At the intersection you describe (57th&1st) most riders continue to own the Lane. If it’s a really bad day or I am Riding with a interested-but-concerned Person, I’ll just walk the 3 blocks from 56th to 59th with my noob friend.

    Kinda sucks – but at least the Tide Is slowly turning This year Is Looking to be a tremendous one for cycling. Critical Mass in Spadss

  • SteveVaccaro

    There will always be work to do improving the East Side Bikeway, because it is such an extensive and critical facility and because it passes through some of the worst traffic sewers in the world. But look how far we’ve come: a six-mile, bi-directional protected facility with links to four of the five boroughs. Within a year or so, the remaining gaps will run for only a few blocks each, rather than a mile or more. This is a huge win and at this moment it seems to me a bit myopic to focus on the dwindling number of gaps (which is only to say that *starting next week*, we have to keep focusing on those gaps and the other flaws in the facility, with laser-like focus for years to come!)

    The bottom line is that the pragmatic, patient but persistent advocacy in support of this over years has been effective. From 2009 to the present, advocates not only have kept continuous improvement of the facility on the agenda, but have moved up into the membership and leadership of the relevant community boards in order to ensure action (A. Scott Falk, Sandra McKee, Devon Gould, Sharon Pope, and others–I’m looking at you! :)) TA, StreetsPAC and others have worked with East Side electeds so they understand the importance of a continuous facility to our community and the need to “take the NIMBY heat.” Thank you Ben Kallos, Dan Garodnick, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez! And of course it never would have happened without Jeannette Sadik Khan, Polly Trottenberg and the hard work of the Alternative Modes staff at DoT.

    Thank you Streetsblog readership, and the broader advocacy community, for this amazing facility!

  • Alexander Vucelic

    it’s happy grumbling for sure 🙂

  • Simon Phearson

    Yeah, “owning the lane” is all there is TOO do, since there isn’t any infrastructure there in the first place. My point was that, rather than “owning” a lane that a lot of aggressive drivers (including of buses) want to use to turn, which the protected lane funnels us to do now, I’d previously “own” the next lane over – I’d usually slip around the backed-up traffic and get some nice open space after 57th into the bridge ramp.

    I would love to ignore every damned protected lane they build for us, but the NYPD is unlikely to let me to get away with that for long.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    how Long Is your commute ?

  • Simon Phearson

    It varies. Why?

  • John

    Instead of relying on an arbitrary social solution, we should be able to rely on an engineering solution. You can’t argue with a piece of concrete. So, where’s the concrete divider when you need one?

  • BrandonWC

    I firmly believe the automated enforcement is the only solution. Bike lane camera would be easier to administer than bus lane cameras since it’s legal to stop to pick up/discharge passengers in a bus lane, while stopping for any reason is illegal in bike lanes. Unfortunately, this would require approval from Albany, but I wish someone was agitating for this even as a pilot project.

  • Joe R.

    Amen to that. I’ll grant protected lanes have their place, but that place is mostly adjacent to natural barriers like waterways, parks, cemeteries, railways, etc. where there are infrequent or no interruptions with cross motor traffic. It’s frankly a misuse of them on a street where you have an intersection every 250 feet. They don’t “protect” much of anything, especially with the silly mixing zones every other block.

  • Joe R.

    It’ll never happen because the NYPD would more often than not be the ones caught illegally blocking the bike lane. It seems in this city they regard bike lanes as their own personal parking venue.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    going to make the argument that a couple of minutes do not matter. The difference between my Riding Wild West Style and Grandma protected lane Style Is less than a couple of minutes from Wall Street to UES. I ride Grandma Style these days and it’s a lot more fun

  • Simon Phearson

    I don’t want to avoid them because they’re slow (though they are). I want to avoid them because they keep putting me in dangerous situations that I’d be able to avoid entirely if they weren’t there.

    On the bit of First Avenue I regularly use, I have the option of jogging over a block to Sutton Place and using that for the bridge approach. It’s a lot safer in the mornings than Second, and it’s safer in the evenings, too. In the evenings, though, the light timing is against you, so you’re stopping at just about every light. And turning left off of Sutton feels pretty dangerous – I typically do a two-point turn on 59th instead of turning like a driver would. So you end up dinged quite a bit time-wise.

    And you can argue that “Grandma Style” is a lot more fun, but there are times when those minutes matter. Besides, I’m not joyriding when I’m in Manhattan. I’m trying to get home. Those minutes do matter to me, just like they do for every other car- and transit-commuter. Heck, if those minutes didn’t matter, you’d see a lot more people waiting for Walk signals.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Have you ever compared the times for the 2 Styles ?

  • Joe R.

    My take on this is time does matter for lots of people, even if it’s only a few minutes. I enjoy cycling, but at 3 AM when the streets are empty. If I was out riding during typical rush hour conditions, the only reason would be that any alternate modes of transport are even worse. Being that I find that type of riding highly unpleasant, and probably not all that healthy given the levels of auto exhaust, I don’t want to be on the road for one minute longer than I need to be. That means I’ll race to make lights, go through them when I safely can, find any gap in traffic, to shave off seconds here and there which likely amount to a good number of minutes by the time I get where I’m going. Granny style might be fine if you just left a bar drunk at 1 AM, the streets are completely empty, it’s a nice night to be out, and you’re in no particular hurry to get home.

    If NYC streets were pleasant places to ride 24/7 then maybe I could see appeal of loafing along but they’re clusterf*cks for a good portion of the day. Whether I’m walking or riding, I like to minimize my time spent under those conditions.

  • Actually, it is legal to pick up and discharge passengers in a bike lane, as well. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

    Also, cars that are entering and leaving parking spaces will have to cross through the bike lane.

    So there are a few challenges to automated enforcement of bike lane encroachment.

  • BrandonWC

    That’s not correct. It absolutely is illegal to pick up and discharge passengers in a bike lane.

    All bike lanes in NYC are no stopping zones. DOT Rule 4-08(e)(9). “When stopping is prohibited by signs or rules, no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle, whether attended or unattended.” DOT Rule 4-08(a)(2). As stopping is not defined in the DOT traffic rules, the definition comes from the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, which states: “Stop or Stopping. When prohibited means any halting even momentarily of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control sign or signal.” NY VTL §147; see also DOT Rule 4-01(a) (“Whenever any words and phrases used in these rules are not defined herein but are defined in Article 1 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, any such definition shall be deemed to apply to such words and phrases used herein.”). “[A]ny halting even momentarily of a vehicle” includes picking up and discharging passengers.

    It is no standing zones (like bus stops) where picking up and discharging passengers is allowed. DOT Rule 4-08(a)(3) (“When standing is prohibited by signs or rules, no person shall stop a vehicle, attended or unattended, except temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in expeditiously receiving or discharging passengers.”).

  • BrandonWC

    Also except in limited circumstances (like entering a legal parking spot), it is illegal for cars to “drive on or across” a bike lane. So 99% of the time when a driver goes to let out a passenger in a bike lane, they break the law as soon as they pull into the bike lane even before they come to a stop.

    See DOT Rule 4-12(p)(2):
    Driving on or across bicycle lanes prohibited. No person shall drive a vehicle on or across a designated bicycle lane, except when it is reasonable and necessary:
    (i) to enter or leave a driveway; or
    (ii) to enter or leave a legal curbside parking space; or
    (iii) to cross an intersection; or
    (iv) to make a turn within an intersection; or
    (v) to comply with the direction of any law enforcement officer or other person authorized to enforce this rule; or
    (vi) to avoid an obstacle which leaves fewer than ten feet available for the free movement of vehicular traffic.
    Notwithstanding any other rule, no person shall drive a vehicle on or across a designated bicycle lane in such manner as to interfere with the safety and passage of persons operating bicycles thereon.

  • Simon Phearson

    It’s typically something like a five minute difference. So, what, I shouldn’t complain about the DOT’s design short-sightedness? Because for the years that the gap on First remains as it is, I can just take a safer detour that only increases my travel time by a few minutes?

  • I went to the CB6 meeting 2 nights ago too and learned there will be a
    proposal to put a buffered bike lane on part of Second Avenue – which is
    the official detour around the 1-mile U.N. Gap. But so far, no one
    seems to know when, or if, the Greenway gap will ever be closed. There is a
    3-block concrete slab rebuilt now, where the old con ed pier used to be,
    from 38-41 streets, but nothing more. This, of course, is the far
    superior solution to avoid one of the most congested and dangerous
    sections of biking in town – an official Greenway detour – where bikers
    have been injured and even killed. But the higher priority seems to be
    traffic flow to the Midtown Tunnel.

    will be a followup meeting presentation by the DOT Rep in May with
    specific plans for Second Avenue, but they did say the new lane would
    end at 43, leaving 43-34th street unlaned except for Sharrows, which
    really don’t work, especially around the Midtown tunnel. I pointed out
    that there are actually 4 2-3 block streets exiting/entering the tunnel
    between first and second avenue and second and third avenue, and 34th to
    40th streets, and that these could be repurposed to handle more traffic
    and/or for bike lanes, solving at least part of the problem. These are
    all three lane streets, so dedicating one of those lanes to bikes ought
    to be feasible. Continuation of the downtown First Avenue bike
    land which currently runs from 38 to 37 all the way down to 34, or more
    likely 33, is another possibility. Several others, including those on
    the CB spoke out in favor of the expansion of bike lanes. No one was
    opposed. There is a long-standing resolution to have bike lanes there,
    which was resubmitted Monday too.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    We should advocate for complete streets relentlessly until it’s considered normal for second graders to ride without helmets to school.

    but we should also recognize small successes when they happen. We are winning

  • I see. Thanks for the thorough correction.

    I thought that I had read in the Rules of the City of New York an exception for picking up and dropping off passengers in bIke lanes. But clearly I was mistaken.

    So maybe automatic enforcement of bike-lane-related infractions would be more feasible than I had imagined.

    Still, there remains the problem of the police’s unwillingness to enforce these laws. I once went up to a traffic police car and alerted the cop to a car sitting in a bike lane a block away. The cop admitted that his commanders don’t want him to pay a lot of attention to that.

    I asked him to go tell that driver that he has to move; but he said that, if he did that, there would be complaints about him that would get him in trouble. He said that he can give a ticket to a car parked in a bike lane, but that he has been instructed to ignore cars sitting in bike lanes with the drivers still in them.

    This is an indication of how unaccountable the police department it; and it raises the question of whether New York City even has a civilian government.

  • You know, I sort of resent this characterisation thar you give of Manhattan’s streets. They actually are generally pleasant to ride on at all times of day.

    On account of the mild weather i took Wednesday off from work and just rode around all afternoon and evening. I didn’t go anywhere far; I just noodled around in Manhattan. I did 48 miles, all but about 16 (the distance between home and the Queensboro Bridge in both directions) in Manhattan.

    And it was great. I enjoyed just soaking up the feel of the streets, going up and down the avenues (Second Avenue, even with its flaws, is wonderful), and back and forth across town. I was so happy to reacqaint myself with my favourite borough — and the best one for bicycling — in my first pleasure ride of the year after a winter of riding solely for commuting.

    I get the whole “different strokes for different folks” thing. Still, what you say about riding in Manhattan really bugs me. This is probably because you have admitted that you rarely ride there; so when you dismiss that borough as a clusterfuck, you are just talking out of your hat

  • Joe R.

    To be sure I don’t like riding in my neighborhood, either, any time between maybe 7 AM and 9 or 10 PM. I have a general dislike of riding (or walking) whenever there’s much traffic on the streets. I might like Manhattan just fine at the times I normally ride. The only issue is it’s kind of far away to ride there regularly. Most of the time my rides are 20 miles or thereabouts. That would barely get me over the Queensboro Bridge before I’d turn around to come back home.

    If NYC had the wisdom to reduce motor traffic levels citiwide to what they are between 10 PM and 5 AM 24 hours a day I think almost anywhere in the city would be a great place to ride, including Manhattan.

  • Simon Phearson

    Look, I’ve got fresh scars on my face, a looming surgical procedure, and thousands of dollars of medical bills, all of which I attribute to the DOT’s decision to implement this “small success” rather than to build a complete lane on First or leave well enough alone. Don’t give me this BS on incremental victories when I can speak from personal experience about how illusory they are.

  • Joe R.

    It’s a pity you can’t sue NYC for making conditions more dangerous. We’re obsessed with just saying we added x miles of bike lanes, rather than looking at the safety and usability of that bike infrastructure. I’d prefer we go for quality over quantity.

    Your unfortunate incident is one reason I avoid riding when there’s much traffic. As careful as I am, sometimes things happen when you’re surrounded by sociopathic motorists. Without any insurance, I’d be left to fend for myself on the medical bills. I really feel NYC should foot the bill in cases like your, or even in cases where a cyclist gets hurt hitting a pothole. It’s the city’s responsibility to keep streets in good repair. It’s also their responsibility to test any new bike infrastructure to see if it really is safer than the alternative of no bike infrastructure.

  • Yes, I was riding down Second Avenue earlier today, from 91st street heading South, and it’s Not just the lack of a Bike Lane, but the Second Avenue Subway Construction has all those huge pits, which are protected by concrete Jersey Barriers…

  • Milan Shah

    I was convicted today at a DMV Traffic Violations Bureau hearing for cycling down the right side of 2nd ave at 54th st. As we all know, the shared lane marked by sharrows doesn’t meet the legal definition of a bike lane/path. Additionally and amazingly, neither the judge or the ticketing officer had heard of the Rules of the City of New York and that RCNY 4-12(p) supersedes certain sections of the NYS VTL (so don’t bother relying on the rules under RCNY since the enforcers do not acknowledge their existence). This unlawful targeting of cyclists means that I’m deterred from commuting by bike any further.

  • Daphna

    That’s awful. That DMV judge should not have his job. I would advise letting the Public Advocate, the mayor, the city council representative for that district, the Manhattan Borough President, the captain of the precinct where it happened & the commissioner of NYPD all know that the law was not followed.


DOT Will Close Remaining Gaps in First Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Soon there will be a continuous northbound protected bike lane along the length of First Avenue, from Houston Street to the Harlem River. On Monday, the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted for DOT’s plan to plug the critical gaps in physical protection near the United Nations and the approach to the Queensboro Bridge [PDF]. From 55th […]