Eyes on the Street: The Fifth Avenue Bike Lane Gets Flipped

Fifteen blocks of the busiest bike route in Manhattan won't be a slalom course around double-parked cars any longer.

At 23rd Street, the Fifth Avenue bike lane is now protected from moving traffic by parked cars. Photo: Justin Pollock
At 23rd Street, the Fifth Avenue bike lane is now protected from moving traffic by parked cars. Photo: Justin Pollock

DOT crews made quick progress on striping Fifth Avenue’s new protected bike lane this week. The project flips the parking lane along 15 blocks of the old buffered bike lane, providing protection from moving traffic between 23rd Street and 8th Street [PDF].

Fifth Avenue gets more bike traffic than any other Manhattan avenue despite a severe double-parking problem that forces cyclists to weave in and out of its 1980s-era buffered bike lane. Manhattan Community Boards 2 and 5 voted for DOT’s plan to protect the bike lane this spring.

Transportation Alternatives and its volunteer Manhattan committee have been running a long-term campaign to win more space for transit, biking, and walking on Fifth and Sixth avenues. By 2014, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Community Boards 2, 4, and 5 had signaled support for the idea of “complete streets” on both. A petition specifically calling on DOT to “flip” the Fifth Avenue bike lane garnered 17,000 signatures.

DOT crews have laid down thermoplastic stripes for the new design. Green paint and bike stencils are on the way, as are plastic bollards on the southernmost block of the protected lane, between 9th Street and 8th Street. The block between 8th Street and Washington Square is not slated for a bike lane upgrade.

This project is pretty low-hanging fruit for DOT and essentially brings the existing section of bike lane up to the agency’s current safety standards without major adjustments to motor vehicle capacity. North of 23rd Street, DOT recently installed a protected bike connection on Fifth Avenue from Broadway via 25th Street. In the heart of Midtown, there’s still no bike lane.

To create a complete north-south protected bike route connecting people to the city’s densest cluster of jobs and attractions, the Sixth Avenue bike lane has to be extended north of 33rd Street, and the Fifth Avenue bike lane has to go north of 25th. Wider sidewalks will need to be part of those plans too.

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