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DOT Plans to Beef Up the Bike Network Around Union Square

4:44 PM EDT on May 24, 2016

DOT will make the protected lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT
DOT will make the protected bike lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT
DOT will make the protected lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT

The Manhattan bike network breaks down around Union Square, where southbound and northbound bike lanes currently dump riders into the chaotic confluence of 14th Street, Park Avenue, and Broadway. DOT presented a plan to fix some but not all of those gaps last night [PDF], garnering a unanimous vote in favor from Manhattan Community Board 5.

The major change will be the extension of the northbound protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue from 12th Street past the irregular intersection at 14th Street, and along the east and north sides of Union Square. This entails widening the current one-way bike lane alongside the park to eight feet and making it two-way. Biking south past 14th Street from Union Square East, however, would remain treacherous.

In addition, a new painted crosstown lane would extend from Union Square to Sixth Avenue, and another pair of painted lanes would extend east from the park on 15th and 16th streets. The 16th Street lane, however, will stop at Stuyvesant Park without a direct connection to the Second Avenue bike lane.

DOT's plan would also bring new bike lanes to East 15th, East 16th, and West 17th Streets. Image: DOT
The expanded bike lanes are in orange, brown, and purple. Map: DOT
DOT's plan would also bring new bike lanes to East 15th, East 16th, and West 17th Streets. Image: DOT

Last night, Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff suggested that DOT expand the project to include a protected lane on Fifth Avenue, which could help with southbound bike trips. The bike lane on Fifth is currently unprotected and frequently blocked by service trucks and double-parked cars. Liff shared photos of the motor vehicles that obstruct the bike lane throughout the day. "Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 14th Street is actually kind of nasty," she said.

DOT Bicycle and Greenway Program Director Ted Wright said that while a protected lane on Fifth excites him, he sees it as a separate project. "That's a big project. It involves, perhaps, concrete," he said.

Later on, Wright said that for the moment DOT doesn't have the staff resources to take on a Fifth Avenue project. "We're getting a lot of push on these things right now, and I would love to see this happen," he said. "This year, we're so over-booked on projects -- that's the hesitancy."

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