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

On Eighth Avenue between 42nd Street and 43rd Street, DOT repurposed a parking lane so pedestrians and cyclists don't have to fight over scraps of street space.

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
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

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. On Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets, just north of Port Authority, DOT recently wrapped up a small project that could serve as a template for avenues all over Midtown and other crowded pedestrian areas.

Earlier this summer, the city replaced a parking lane on this block with a nine-foot-wide strip of colored gravel, adding 40 percent more space for people on foot. Planters line the expanded pedestrian space, separating it from the adjacent bikeway.

In the last few days, DOT has added inexpensive bollards and low-profile barriers to separate the bike lane from motor vehicle traffic, giving some heft to what had been a painted buffer.

Put it all together, and it’s a promising approach to retrofitting Midtown blocks that have protected bike lanes but not enough room for pedestrians, as well as streets that need more room for both walking and biking. Repurposing a few lanes from parking and car traffic is all it would take to give the crowded Midtown pedestrian network some breathing room and create a more cohesive bike network in the densest part of the city.

  • steely

    this is a great answer to the popular excuse “but there’s no room for a [insert safety improvement here]”

  • Hilda

    The section of 6th to the east of Hearld Square had a sidewalk enlarged a few years ago as well, and it works pretty well; there are only people walking in the bike lane about 5% of the time.
    It seems that all of these improvements work best when parking (and the need to cross over a protected bike lane!) is removed from the scenario.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    It’s almost as if there are too many cars in Manhattan. Could that be the case?

  • Tyler Hill

    So removing less than ten parking spaces makes life better for hundreds of people daily. Who knew?

  • redbike

    fact check: The parking you allude to as having been “removed” — the only parking on the west side of 8th Av between 42 & 43rd Streets — was police cars parked in the bike lane.

  • Tyler Hill

    I apologize as that came out all wrong. I bike up 8th ave every afternoon and the gap at 42 drives me up onto the sidewalk not out of fear but how tightly the cab drivers fight for the few spaces in front of the PA Bus Terminal.

    50% of the police don’t live in NYC at all. And many of the 50% that do live in NYC live in the car dependent fringes of the boros. They say it’s affordability but I know, since I grew up with them, it’s their fear of people with brown skin.

    The police will obey orders so the real problem sits at the command level, most of whom do not live in our city. The command level has tight control over whoever occupies the mayors seat at City Hall as they will threaten to “go by the book” to any mayor that does not tow their particular line.

    So you have a white older man of Irish decent living in some place like white only car dependent Massapequa Long Island controlling one of the most diverse places in the world.

  • Adrian Horczak

    Pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements. Vision Zero at its finest!

  • Eli

    Yup. This gap drives me to take the subway instead of riding.

    When they’ve ripped out the mixing zones and filled in the protected bike lane 39th-42nd, I would totally bike rather than take up scarce subway space.

  • AMH

    This is great–I’d heard about the gap but experienced it only recently since I typically avoid biking this stretch. It was awful–this is such an improvement!

  • guest

    That change makes an incredible difference. A few days ago, I had to walk through much of this area with my family & dog. Ended up having to carry the dog because he would have gotten squished like a bug. Overall, it was such an anxiety-inducing, stressful experience, that it reminded me why I avoid much of Midtown at all costs. When we got to this block, it felt like I was finally able to breathe. Alas, that didn’t last long. More of this street treatment please!

  • J

    Great! Maybe in another 10 years they’ll close the gap in the bike lane between 39th & 42nd.

  • That gap is freaky.

  • “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
    Man never Is, but always To be blest.
    The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

    Alexander Pope,

    An Essay on Man

  • Seth Rosenblum

    “Earlier this summer, the city replaced a parking lane on this block with a nine-foot-wide strip of colored gravel”

    correction: the colored gravel was already there. it was already a sidewalk, but with police cars parked on it.

  • NYCyclist

    One block down, 8 zillion more to go!

  • rao

    This could easily be duplicated all over Midtown, including on side streets. Unlike some other parts of the city, there are countless parking garages in the area, so there’s no reason to sacrifice precious street space for vehicle parking.

  • William Lawson

    I’m guessing there will never, ever be a bike lane outside the Port Authority.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    > countless parking garages in the area

    They should create a centralized network / database of current and new parking garages that work in tandem with an app and website stating the occupancy / availability of each in real time so that motor drivers don’t have to bitch to us peds and cyclists about how hard it is to find parking and therefore make it a lot easier for us to reclaim precious space needed for people.

    That and in the meantime also make more parking garages, where feasible, to give time for transit agencies and the DOT to f*-king fix sh*t with the subways / rail / buses / roads in order to account for current load and anticipated load as more and more people are led away from using a private motor vehicle to take transit or cycle.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    In the tiniest of fking doses possible. We need more of this and other variations of this kind.

  • J

    I hope you’re wrong. #VisionZero cc: Polly Trottenberg

  • J

    The community has been begging for this type of treatment literally since the project was proposed in 2011, and it’s taken DOT 6 years to actually do something for ONE block! But Vision Zero, right?

  • There was a fence so it wasnt part of the sidewalk

  • Dan Sciannameo

    unless cops park in it as they usually do

  • NoNotTellingYou

    Wow. A whole block.

  • Bernard Finucane

    This has been a common practice for decades (with signs not apps) in various parts of Europe. The weather beaten sign in the pic is from a Streetview image from 2008.

  • neroden

    The command level, *specifically* the Commissioner of Police, can be fired at will by the mayor. We just haven’t had a mayor who was willing to fire the CRIMINALS who have been running the NYPD like a CRIMINAL gang. Get a mayor who will hire a clean, reform commissioner willing to lower the boom on the CRIMINAL element in the NYPD — and the problem will be solved.


The New York of 2016 Needs the Wide, Generous Sidewalks of 1906

The Times ran a feature on the pedestrian crush in New York City today, and as good as the photos are, they don’t do the situation justice. To get a sense of just how inadequate the sidewalks are in Midtown, you need to go there — or failing that, watch this Streetfilm from 2009 with narration by Streetsblog publisher Mark […]