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.

  • Can the planters stop a rampaging motorist?

  • Doubtful, but then there would be shrapnel to consider…

  • dave “paco” abraham

    These changes, both on 7th avenue and on broadway, will literally be instant successes.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    This seems really half-assed. What is it going to look like in the winter?

  • Reader

    Really great, but if they’re going to take the Broadway bike lane out of commission, it should be paired with a 7th Ave protected bike lane from 42nd Street down, and not just 30th as in the current plan.

  • Reader

    For clarification: I know you’ll be able to bike through there, but it will probably wind up working like biking through Herald Square. It’s doable, but not comfortable.

  • J

    Seriously. this is a de facto ban on cycling on Broadway with no alternative provided. It’s a fantastic project for pedestrians, but DOT must do better for cycling. The bike network is already piecemeal; why break it up even more?

  • Jeff

    This is great, but we’re almost definitely not getting a completed 7th Ave protected bike lane any time soon.

    Fighting for scraps…

  • Seth Rosenblum

    These are both huge, excellent improvements. I hope it’ll lead them to the conclusion that the eastern sidewalk of 8th avenue also needs to be extended by a lane through that stretch.

  • redbike

    Glad to see this.

    I’m a pedestrian who also frequently rides a bicycle and (very rarely) drives a car. This plan for 7th Av between 42nd St and 34th St explicitly takes street space from motor vehicles and transfers it to pedestrians. Good!

    It doesn’t accomplish it through stealth sidewalk widening like the (useless for bicycles) mid-town “protected” bicycle lanes on 8th Av between 33rd St and the mid 50’s or on 9th Av between the mid 50’s and 34th St where sidewalks should be wider so pedestrians walk in the bike lanes.

    Make sidewalks wider by … wait for it … widening sidewalks.

  • redbike

    A winter wonderland.

  • Peter L

    About time they reversed the mistakes of the 1920s. Many sidewalks in the city were wider before it (and most other cities) were rearranged to suit the individual motorist.

  • com63

    Note they are removing a dedicated bus lane from the design.

  • *dedicated NYPD parking lane

  • AnoNYC

    Yup, that bus lane better come back.

  • com63

    14,500 pedestrians at the PM peak and only 1,420 vehicles at the PM peak. Per their numbers of 500 vehicles per lane, they need three lanes to accommodate those vehicles. That means they could make the fourth lane a dedicated bus lane.

  • AnoNYC

    What’s the point of leaving those extra blocks on Broadway open between Times and Herald Sq. Just close the whole damn thing to autos. Even if the BID can’t afford to add things to the street, just close the damn streets and let people walk and bike on them.

    Leave the cross streets open for deliveries/drop offs/pick ups. No one actually needs to drive down Broadway.

  • ortcutt

    I was in Paris recently and was amazed by the width of the sidewalks on the boulevards. You can have a cafe with a sidewalk terrace and still have plenty of room for pedestrians. That said the sidewalks on side streets are often much too narrow.

  • Vooch

    Let’s pray and advocate for more sidewalk widening plus the creeping pedestrianizstion of broadway from The Battery to 72nd street !

  • Vooch

    great data !

    love data

  • Rex Rocket

    This in addition to the sidewalk extensions also known as bike lanes?

  • Tim Troxler

    I don’t get why they never created elevated walkways crossing the streets in those blocks. It would eliminate a lot of conflict and friction, and pedestrians wouldn’t have to wait for lights to change to cross. I know someone will probably bring up the “sanctity of the street” and the importance of street level retail among other urban design jargon, but the situation there is out of control and dangerous. Way too much activity is crammed into one level.

  • iSkyscraper

    Because of the space required to create ramps.

  • Joe R.

    It seems to be livable streets dogma that everything has to be on one level. I agree as cities continue to get denser we’re eventually going to have to look at grade separating modes—motor vehicles on one level, pedestrians on another, bikes on a third level. When you try to cram lots of users with disparate requirements on to the same level you end up with a poor compromise which really works well for nobody.

  • Tim Troxler

    Elevators? A shaft going from the subway up to sidewalk and then to elevated walkway level for triple duty! Stairs with ramps like they have in Amsterdam and other bike-friendly cities? But if you’re going into the lane of traffic anyway, that is room for ramps!

  • Tim Troxler

    Yeah, the High line kind of put that rule to bed. Of course, it has a lot of security and is closed off at night.

  • iSkyscraper

    Too many engineering issues to go into in depth, but a quick summary would be never to use elevators (volume, mech breakdowns, security, space for machine rooms, power), the sheer length required for an ADA ramp thereby removing the point of entry far from the intersection (to clear, say, 18′ you would need 216′ of ramp), foundations over utilities or subway tunnels ($$$), lighting, snow clearance, railing heights and preventing thrown items, the visual blocking of the supports and ramp vs turning sightlines, etc. etc.

    You could pull it off in a suburban setting, sure, but never in a congested urban environment. It’s just unworkable.

    The closest you could get to your idea would be a network of skyways. But most planners would argue that downtown Newark is not the ideal model for urban environments, and some cities have been busy demolishing their skyways (Cincinnati). Unless you are in a cold winter environment (Calgary, Minneapolis) the cons seem to outweigh the pros.

  • Tim Troxler

    Yeah, that’s true. Las Vegas has a lot of pedestrian bridges along Las Vegas Blvd. with escalators and elevators, but again, not an ideal model for urban environments, and it is in a hot, dry climate. How about if they came right out of Penn station, accessed from the interior, with stairs going down to street level. You can avoid the ADA requirement since the street crosswalks would still be accessible. At least some of the pedestrian traffic would be able to leapfrog out a couple of blocks to reduce congestion at street level. You have a similar condition at the Port Authority bus terminal, where a lot of people come out onto the street right where a lot of vehicle traffic is entering Manhattan from the Lincoln tunnel. Seems like designed conflict.

  • Vooch

    why make pedestrians climb stairs or ramps just because operators of hulking death machines are reckless maniacs ?

    BTW -Blade Runner wasn’t meant to be a model of urban design

  • Vooch

    sorry joe but the easy solution is to remove the least efficient modes consuming the most space

  • Andrew

    While I’d never object to a bus lane, this isn’t a major bus corridor, and there are more important places to fight that battle. Getting pedestrians the space they need here is a much higher priority.

  • Samuelitooooo

    Thanks for those stats!

    Those 1,420 vehicles don’t exclude buses. So they could be city buses, express buses, highway coaches from other companies, school buses, sightseeing buses (not to mention emergency vehicles). Seems fair to me that all other traffic needs only two lanes, and that fourth lane can be for bicycle riders instead.

  • Samuelitooooo

    At that rate, you might as well expand Penn Station itself, what with all of its underground walkways. (Currently you can walk between 7th and 8th Avenues underground.)


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