DOT to Widen Sidewalks on 7th Avenue Between Penn Station and Times Square

The city will also make two blocks of Broadway car-free this summer on a trial basis.

The western sidewalk will be extended with an epoxy-and-gravel surface, protected by granite blocks and planters. Bus stops will have raised boarding islands. Image: NYC DOT
The western sidewalk will be extended with an epoxy-and-gravel surface, protected by granite blocks and planters. Bus stops will have raised boarding islands. Image: NYC DOT

Midtown sidewalks are notoriously too skinny to handle the huge numbers of people on foot near Penn Station. The pedestrian crush around the nation’s busiest transit hub routinely flows beyond the boundaries of the curb, and people are forced to walk in car lanes. It’s uncomfortable, stressful, and dangerous.

But people on foot will soon have some breathing room. DOT plans to expand sidewalks on Seventh Avenue between 42nd Street and 34th Street [PDF]. The Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed the project last night.

DOT plans to give pedestrians on Seventh Avenue more room with painted sidewalk extensions. Photo: DOT
The sidewalks around Penn Station are too skinny to handle all the foot traffic.  Photo: DOT

Also in the works: Two blocks of Broadway — between 36th Street and 37th Street and between 39th Street and 40th Street — will be going car-free for a summer trial.

The plan for Seventh Avenue calls for low-cost sidewalk extensions and bus boarding islands along the west curb. On the southeast corner of intersections where drivers can turn left off the avenue, DOT will also install painted curb extensions that shave two traffic lanes off pedestrian crossings:

DOT is shifting the off-peak parking lane on Seventh east to make room for expanded pedestrian space. Image: DOT
Image: DOT

DOT is also working on a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue below 30th Street. The Midtown project neither extends that bike lane north nor precludes a future extension, since the materials are not permanent.

On Broadway, meanwhile, the agency will pilot the two car-free from June through August in partnership with the Garment District Alliance [PDF].

Both blocks will get temporary furniture, artificial grass, and planters. The 39th Street block will have 12 food vender kiosks, revenue from which will help fund maintenance. The Garment District Alliance had originally wanted to make five blocks car-free but scaled back the proposal due to lack of funding, according to Janet Liff, who attended last night’s meeting.

Image: DOT
Image: DOT

From the renderings presented last night, it appears that the protected bike lane that runs through both blocks will not be replaced by any dedicated space for cyclists, though biking will be allowed.

CB 5 will vote on the projects when its full board meets on June 8, and implementation would follow soon after.

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The wider pedestrian zone is separated from the bike lane by planters, and the bike lane is separated from motor vehicle traffic by inexpensive bollards and low-profile barriers. Photo: NYCFreeParking/Twitter

This Block Now Has a Protected Bike Lane *and* a Wider Sidewalk

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Midtown Manhattan avenues have a problem: The sidewalks aren't wide enough for all the people walking on them. People have to walk in the roadbed to get where they're going. On avenues with protected bike lanes, this means people on foot spill over into bikeways, rendering them all but impassable for cyclists. Now there's a single Midtown block with a protected bike lane that also has a wider sidewalk.