Checking in With People Cycling on the New Sixth Ave Protected Bike Lane

The Sixth Avenue protected bike lane was installed last month. Photo: David Meyer
The Sixth Avenue protected bike lane at 20th Street. All photos: David Meyer

The Sixth Avenue protected bike lane is just about finished between 8th Street and 33rd Street, except for the pedestrian islands. The redesign is still in that awkward transitional phase where people are figuring out how to use it, so today Streetsblog checked in with a few of the thousands of people who bike Sixth Avenue daily to see how the change is coming.

“I think it’s great! I think they should keep making more,” Jesus Andrade said as he waited for the light to cross 26th Street. “I think this [design] is the best way because the cars shield us from the traffic.”

The old painted bike lane on Sixth Avenue was frequently blocked by double-parked drivers, pushing cyclists into the street’s treacherous motor vehicle traffic. Wide crossing distances made the street exceedingly dangerous for pedestrians too. Between 2009 and 2013, 27 pedestrians and 10 cyclists were severely injured in the project area, according to DOT.

In addition to a parking-protected bike lane, the project includes 33 new concrete pedestrians islands that have yet to be installed.

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A rider prepares for the mixing zone at 21st Street.

Abigail, who declined to give her last name, said people are still adjusting to the new street configuration. As she hopped off her bike in front of her Sixth Avenue apartment building, she pointed to the absence of concrete islands as one reason pedestrians and motorists may not be respecting the lane.

“The protected lanes that are not on Sixth Avenue I think are great, because people know about them and I think there’s like curbs between the bike lane and the road,” she said. “I think in the long run, it will definitely make it safer, but I think, as of right now, it would have been maybe helpful if they had cones up or something to signify that [the bike lane] just moved.”

Traffic agents were out ticketing vehicles parked in the bike lane today. Even some cars with unofficial (i.e. fake) parking placards weren’t immune. The owner of this Range Rover with “volunteer ambulance service” credentials got a ticket:

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A closer look at the plea for “professional courtesy”:emergency_amb

One concern with the Sixth Avenue lane is that the sidewalks aren’t wide enough to handle the foot traffic, which will spill into the bike lane. But on this August weekday around noon, there wasn’t much spillover.

David Cass, who was on his bike, endorsed the new design even though pedestrians sometimes use the bike lane. “People still stand in them, which is pretty annoying,” he said, “but I like the protected lane.”

On a few blocks — between 22nd Street and 25th Street and 13th Street and 14th Street — construction projects have delayed installation. We’ve asked DOT for a timeline for the installation of both the remaining portions of the lane, the 33 concrete islands, and new split-phase traffic signals along the route.

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