DOT Plans to Beef Up the Bike Network Around Union Square

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

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

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.”

  • Simon Phearson

    Ah, sounds like Wright didn’t get the memo – according to his boss, Trottenberg, the DOT has all the resources it could possibly ask for.

  • J

    Yep, DOT is talking out of both sides of the mouth. Clearly this refusal of funding was De Blasio’s call. Maybe there is a good reason to prioritize limited funding for other things, but since more people will be injured and killed as a result, you need to actually make that argument instead of some bullshit “we don’t need the money” reason. How am I supposed to support DOT on good projects like this, when they treat me like I’m an idiot?

  • J

    Wow, DOT is actually thinking about networks. Hooray!

    Maybe someday we will have a real bicycle plan to create a network of these low-stress facilities across the city. Maybe someday DOT will actually create useable crosstown bike facilities. Maybe DOT will actually TRY to get funding to implement these quicker.

  • BrandonWC

    I’m assuming Wright is DOT’s Ted Wright?

  • rogue

    This is awesome. A true protected path with bollards.

  • redbike

    South of 16th St on Onion Sq East, the current southbound-only bike lane is always obstructed by parked police vehicles. Any plans to eliminate this obstacle?

    Any discussion of — south of 14th St — making the 4th Av / Lafayette St protected bike lane two-way — as it should be? The only chokepoint is the curb at the NW corner of the intersection at E 8th St. Currently, biking southbound on B’way is typically marginal at best.

  • madman10101

    What about people who are riding from 4th Avenue and continuing up on Park Avenue? With this plan it would require one to cross into the bike lane at E15th street and then cross back onto the north-bound side of Park Avenue two blocks later at East 17th street. Everyone remembers the § 4-12 (p) of the NYC Traffic rules “Bicycle riders must use bike path/lane, if provided, except for access, safety, turns, etc.” – so a bicyclist legally MUST do this. It could work if they made at least a shared bike lane on the northbound portion of Park Avenue….

  • Vooch

    This Is clearly a Interim solution intended to be installed by end of summer.

    BTW – The CB Board included language Asking DOT to Support/study a PBL for Fifth from 23rd to 8th.

  • madman10101

    I was talking about 4th Avenue – Park Avenue northbound. With the proposed it requires snaking into PBL on the southbound side at 15th and back to northbound at 17th to continue onto Park Avenue north… at least if one wants to avoid being ticketed for not riding in the bike lane by just continuing to ride on Park Avenue north from 15th to 17th…

  • Vooch


  • Simon Phearson

    If I had to guess, the reasoning might have been that people taking 4th to go uptown when it hits Union Square are actually interested in crossing the island, too; if anyone wanted to go just straight uptown, they’d be on First. And it does seem to provide good connectivity, for those cyclists.

    But I get it – there’s no reason why uptown-bound cyclists should be expected to take First when Park is more convenient, and zig-zagging to go straight is the kind of “innovation” in bike lanes that the DOT has built a reputation for.

  • Kevin Love

    “’That’s a big project. It involves, perhaps, concrete,’ he said.”

    And nobody in NYC is laying any concrete for car infrastructure…

  • Vooch

    his Statement was in Context that the Union Square Upgrades are ready to be installed by August and Flip FIfth requires more Planning & Design work. He didn’t want Flip Fifth to delay implementing Union Square upgrades.

    If was rather amusing when be said If, subsequently be clarified his position

  • Kevin Love

    True, but I thought it amusing. A “big” project involves concrete. Welcome to New York City…

  • BBnet3000

    Wouldn’t that fall somewhere under the access/safety/turns exceptions? “That bike lane goes left, I’m going right”. Even a dumbass cop ought to be able to understand that. Whether they care of course is another story…

  • BBnet3000

    My guess is that they’re adding the flexible delineators in hopes of keeping the cops out. Might work, might not. Maybe they should go for the heavier highway-style delineator like they have protecting the Bergen St lane at Flatbush Ave by the police station there.

    As for two-way, these are generally not a great idea on grids, and at a minimum require full split-phasing, which is very costly.

  • Tyson White

    Could not come soon enough! Union Square area is horrible to get around by bicycle.

  • Vooch

    The issue of the NYPD Storing their unecessary Vehicles in the hike Lane did come up in the Q&A. It was Generally agreed that the NYPD Störes Their unnecessary cars along the curve just South of the proposed bike lane.

    It’s less than 1/2 mile to walk from Their station House to Union Square. Because of the One Way streets and traffic, it takes Much longer to Drive from station House than to walk to Union Square.

  • Simon Phearson

    You’re thinking about it like a sane, non-malicious person would. If you’re NYPD, all that you see are two blocks of easy pickin’s for cycling tickets. If there’s a consistent pattern of cyclists hanging right to go up Park, I’m sure we’ll see a consistent pattern of parked NYPD cruisers, as well.

  • Vooch


    Once 14th becomes a Transitway from Sixth to Irving – this stretch of Park Ave will be liberated from

  • Daniel

    I’m not privy to the internals of the DOT, but as recovering manager it sounds like the underlying issue is that Polly Trottenberg can’t hire the staff needed to manage the number of projects they already have in flight. Remember, the DOT lost a lot of good people when Mayor De Blasio failed to convince Janette Sadik Khan to stay.

  • Geck

    Good point. They should include sharrows on the right for cyclists continuing north on Park Ave.

  • Guest

    There are other talented people out there… Is DOT putting out job postings for adequately paid positions and not getting qualified candidates?

  • com63

    Not sure about that. Most turns are already banned from 14th St to Park Ave. All of the traffic comes from 4th ave already.

  • com63

    They should also make pedestrian improvements at 14th st and Broadway and 4th Ave. It has gotten better since that woman got killed a few years ago there, but there is still way too many people for the sidewalk space available. I guess if 14th st becomes bus only, that would fix the problem.

  • Josef Taylor

    The love for two way protected bike lanes is very perplexing. Is it just so they can squeeze an extra two feet of car lane/parking into the road vs. putting protected one-ways each side, or is there someone saying these are actually better?

  • madman10101

    Well – you’d think that, but I was recently ticketed on 2nd Avenue and 16th street for not riding in a bike lane which had construction from 15th to 17th – sidewalk fully closed and bike lane made into shared pedestrian/bike way with plastic construction dividers and all. I was riding in the express bus lane after 7 PM (when it basically becomes available for everyone including for parking). See the photo I took to present as evidence in court.

  • Vooch

    the DOT presenter made it clear that this is a quickly installed interim solution that was not perfect but a significant improvement over existing.

    It’s a dilemma, do you fight a 4-5 year politically costly struggle to maybe possibly install second rate solution or do you install a down and dirty third rate solution in a couple of months, meanwhile hopefully increasing political willpower to implement first rate solutions in 4-5 years ?

    there is realky no right answer.

    clearly trying to reallocate car storage or motor lanes results in epic battles, but poor infrastructure results in reduced cycling.

  • Josef Taylor

    I just hope we start correcting all these interim solutions before they turn permanent. In this case, with the transitway(?) coming in, that at least is a sure thing. Two-way lanes are confusing and weird!

  • BAMstutz

    All good stuff, and Broadway should be closed to cars between 42nd and Union Square.

  • BBnet3000

    Great project, unanimous CB support: what is the timeline for physical implementation?

  • com63

    The chart on page 23 of the presentation is interesting. It shows that in the 3 years after implementation, pedestrians and cars benefit much more from improved safety. There was only a 2% decline in cyclist injuries. I wonder if this data is masking a huge increase in riders on these streets, so it would still reflect a net decrease in risk to riders.

  • BrandonWC

    DNA Info article says Union Square East will have “buffer of flexible bollards.” I’m hoping that means using the heavier duty Qwick Kurb like on Bergen rather than the normal flexible delineators. (Qwick Kurb are really under used by DOT. They are so much more effective at keep cars out of bike lanes, and they are < 11" wide so they fit just about anywhere light weight delineators do.)

  • BrandonWC

    That is the standard explanation given (and it seems to be right). You can find more data here.

  • BrandonWC

    DNA Info says sometime this summer.

  • ohhleary

    I think we have a new candidate for most useless block of bike lane in the city: 16th Street between 3rd Ave and Rutherford Place.

    I’m annoyed that the DOT didn’t even consider people trying to ride east from Union Square to the 1st Avenue bike lane and Stuy Town. A contraflow bike lane on Rutherford/17th or on 15th would be a huge help.

  • multimodal

    This is the end of my route every day and … I don’t love this. I mean, getting across 14th will be nice but cutting across south-bound B’way traffic just for a couple blocks seems unnecessary and lots of bikers just won’t do it.

  • multimodal

    Yeah I ride this route every day and I really don’t see the point of this.

  • madman10101

    I hate those double lanes too. Especially when they paint it green – which greatly reduces traction when wet…

  • kevd

    Of course people heading north on Park won’t. I think it is primarily for people heading west on 17th st.
    It will be much nicer for them. It isn’t on here, but I hope the 17th street lane will be made 2 way. It basically is now….

  • multimodal

    Agreed but I would rather not get a ticket for ‘not riding in the bike lane’ for the couple of blocks I’d stay in the north-bound traffic lane for.


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