How to Close the Second Avenue Bike Lane Gap

TA proposes a center-running protected lane for Second Avenue between 63rd Street and 59th Street. Image: Transportation Alternatives
TA proposes a center-running protected lane for Second Avenue between 63rd Street and 59th Street. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Last year, DOT made substantial progress on the protected bike lanes along First Avenue and Second Avenue in Manhattan, and the agency plans to protect 16 more blocks of Second Avenue in Midtown. But even after that project wraps up, there will still be two major gaps where the Second Avenue protected bike lane approaches the Queensboro Bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

In a new report, Transportation Alternatives makes the case for closing these gaps as soon as possible and lays out a design concept for the tricky approach to the Queensboro [PDF].

Second Avenue is one of the most dangerous streets in Manhattan, according to DOT’s pedestrian safety action plan. On the 18 blocks with no protected bike lane on the ground or in the works (68th Street to 59th Street, and 42nd Street to 34th Street), an average of 110 people are injured each year, according to data compiled by T.A.

The city first announced plans to put protected bike lanes on First Avenue and Second Avenue seven years ago, but implementation has proceeded in fits and starts since the first segments were installed in 2010.

The still-incomplete Second Avenue bike lane has been years in the making. Image: Transportation Alternatives
The still-incomplete Second Avenue bike lane has been years in the making. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Members of Manhattan community boards 6 and 8 are on the record asking for a protected bike lane along all of Second Avenue. “I want you to look at creative ideas because we know that there’s not an easy solution at the Queensboro Bridge,” frustrated CB 8 transportation co-chair A. Scott Falk told DOT reps last January.

“We’ve got on record several resolutions in which we had advised about the problems of providing [sharrows],” CB 6 transportation committee member Larry Scheyer said in March.

DOT officials have hesitated to claim space for bicycling where car traffic is very intense, arguing that motor vehicle throughput should take precedence.

TA envisions extending the curbside protected bike lanes from 68th Street to 63rd Street. From there the bike lane would shift to the right of left-turning traffic heading to the FDR Drive and the Queensboro. It would be separated from turning traffic by a concrete median and from through traffic by flexible bollards.

The concept is very similar to a recent DOT safety improvement at Third Avenue and 57th Street, where the agency installed a concrete bus boarding island between turning traffic and through traffic:

Image: NYC DOT

TA concludes:

The proposed design for the gap on Second Avenue near the Queensboro Bridge is an easily replicable, affordable option to protect cyclists traveling at this dangerous intersection. Given the high number of traffic injuries that have occurred on Second Avenue in recent years, we have no time to waste. Transportation Alternatives urges the NYC Department of Transportation to overcome its misgivings and fill the gaps in the Second Avenue bike network today.

  • Alex

    TA’s timeline isn’t entirely accurate. Originally, the protected lane had a gap between 23rd and 14th. There was an (unusable) buffered lane there, overrun by double parking. In 2013, the DOT eliminated the gap:

  • Vooch

    PBL is needed for the 2nd avenue gap, because cyclists are taking over the ‘sharrow’ lane. Much of the day, 2nd avenue gap sees hundreds of bikes/hour.

    If the Gap doesn’t have a PBL – soon the bikes will be taking over 20′ of roadway instead of the 7′ a PBL will give them.


  • AnoNYC

    Let’s not forget about these gaps too:

    Flex posts would solve this problem instantly.

  • J

    DOT should take a network approach, building low stress Bikeways that connect directly to other low stress bikeways. Seems reasonable, but getting DOT to connect the existing pieces has been like pulling teeth. Even super simple solutions like flipping parking on buffered bike lanes have taken many years to implement, even with strong local support. Does DOT need more money? Nope, they refused more money.

    Piecemeal infrastructure is only marginally helpful, since you still must pass through horrendous conditions. The places that have taken a network approach have seen remarkable success. NYC officials need to look beyond the city’s borders, as there is much to learn from places like Seattle (transit islands & network planning), Calgary (rapid network building), Salt Lake City (protected intersections), and Portland (bike boulevards). None of these ideas have been tried in NYC, and we’re missing out as a result.

  • Two Wheels Good

    When the UES left lane is coned off for NYC Marathoners, or midtown left lane coned off during UN week, it’s a great prototype of a bike lane..

  • I was riding on 2nd avenue yesterday, to see for myself, and I’ve come back with pictures. These photos seem to show, that where the DOT *did* install Bike Lanes, they did a decent job. Lets give credit where credit is due. But yes, it needs to be continuous, to fill in the gaps.

  • 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 Rule of the City of New York and that RCNY 4-12(p) supersedes certain sections of the NYS VTL. This unlawful targeting of cyclists means that I’m deterred from commuting by bike any further.

  • Well, you’re deterred from riding outside the bike lane.

    If I understand you correctly, your defence was that the sharrow lane isn’t a bike lane, so the requirement that cyclists use a bike lane doesn’t apply. Is that correct? I would think that it’s well settled whether a sharrow lane counts as a bike lane for the purposes of that law. I hope that Steve Vaccaro will notice this and will give us an opinion on that. (For some reason, I cannot tag him with the @ sign.)

    Anyway, I am sorry that you got a ticket. But please don’t let that turn you off to biking in general. Just stick to the bike lane on that avenue. Or else go a half a mile out of your way and use Park Avenue to come south.

    I am the biggest blowhard about the need for bicyclists to stop at red lights. But once I got a ticket for going through a red light! The strange thing was that I wasn’t actually riding my bike at the time; I was walking it. I was straddling the bike, and walking; my feet were not on the pedals, but on the ground. But this was a week after the killing of Mathieu Lefevre; and, of course, the cops were out cracking down not on the perpetrators of vehicular violence, but on its potential victims. So I made the mistake of walking the bike through a red light at the same corner where the killing happened, Morgan and Meserole; and the cops rolled up on me. Getting the ticket was infuriating, for several reasons. But I didn’t bother fighting it, and just sent in my $190.

    I hope that you continue riding, and that you just follow the rules more closely.

  • Milan Shah

    Hi. Actually that wasn’t my defense. I only pointed that out to the judge as one reason why the police are giving out baseless tickets, and it seemed relevant to this story. My actual defense was that I was turning right to go to work on park ave. But the police officer was adamant that the only legal way to turn right would be to stay in the “bike lane,” get off at the lights and walk the bike across the crosswalk. Go figure.
    My reference to RCNY was because the judge also failed to acknowledge that you can ride on either side of a 40 foot one way road, since that rule doesn’t exist at the state level.
    I follow the rules to the letter, in this case to my detriment, and am usually the only biker standing around at a red light.


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