With Central Park Car-Free, There’s One Less Excuse Not to Extend the 6th Ave Protected Bike Lane

Car traffic will shift away from Sixth Avenue, opening up room to extend the protected bike lane that currently ends at 33rd Street.

Missing from the Sixth Avenue entrance of soon-to-be-car-free Central Park: safe space for biking. Photo: Google Maps
Missing from the Sixth Avenue entrance of soon-to-be-car-free Central Park: safe space for biking. Photo: Google Maps

Last week’s big news about Central Park going car-free in June has implications that extend beyond the park. With the park’s roads no longer available as shortcuts for drivers, Manhattan traffic patterns will change, and that will make it easier to claim street space for other uses.

Without a car route to the Upper East Side through Central Park, Sixth Avenue is set to become a road-to-nowhere for some motorists. Meanwhile, for people on bikes, the connection to the Upper East Side through the park will become less stressful and more attractive. Already, nearly 2,000 people bike across 50th Street on Sixth Avenue daily during the warmer months, according to DOT.

Extending the Sixth Avenue protected bike lane north from 33rd Street to the park is, as Jon Orcutt of TransitCenter noted on Twitter, a “no-brainer.”

DOT installed a protected bike lane on 25 blocks of Sixth Avenue in 2016, but it ends at 33rd Street. When that project was announced, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said extending it north was on the agency’s radar, but that DOT had to take things “one step at a time.”

Since then, DOT has also installed protected bike lanes on segments of Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue. But those north-south routes don’t extend through the heart of Midtown.

The only protected bike lane east of Eighth Avenue and west of Second Avenue is the southbound route on Broadway. A Sixth Avenue connection would finally provide a northbound route through the busiest section of Midtown.

Current Central Park roads
The blue and orange routes mark park roads where cars are allowed for the time being, but not after June 27. Image: NYC DOT

For similar reasons, now that Terrace Drive and West Drive will no longer be a rush hour shortcut for car traffic through the park, a protected two-way bike lane on 72nd Street will also become an easier lift. Advocates campaigned for a 72nd Street protected bike lane on the East Side a few years ago, but DOT ruled it out.

  • KeNYC2030

    Yup, upper Sixth is a total shit-show for someone on a bike right now. For drivers it will soon be a literal dead-end, but for cyclists it will lead to a glorious 2.5-mile car-free route north to Harlem. Putting it on a road diet with a protected bike lane is a no-brainer.

  • Vooch

    TA did some traffic counts a couple of years ago on upper Sixth. I think Bike traffic was between 15-20% of roadway traffic.

    That number has only increased.

    A PBL would only take 7% of the roadway.

    Let’s devote 7% of roadway to support 20% increase in traffic

  • Jeff

    In a sane world, yes, but unfortunately I think DOT will use this as an excuse to _not_ make bike improvements, or any other kind of road diet treatments, within the vicinity of the park, due to the whole “Where will the cars that used to be in the park go?” attitude which they have to pretend to take seriously.

  • vnm

    I think that argument would apply to routes that parallel the park (like Madison Avenue) but not to routes that run right into the park.

  • BrandonWC

    On a similar note, is there any reason not allow two-way bike traffic on the park drives?

  • Vooch

    You do realize placed holders and other members of the protected class will still drive inside the park ?

    Marty Golden will be still be using the Park drives as his personal shortcut.,

  • Maggie

    Yup! This connection will be crucially important for tourists who are biking, as well as residents.

    For me as a resident, I’d love the city to have a PBL southbound on Seventh Avenue from the park towards midtown and Times Square, and to take a hard look at engineering the Broadway bike lane for the two-way bike traffic it already carries. But northbound on Sixth is the biggest easy lift, the lowest hanging fruit.

  • MatthewEH

    There does seem to be *tremendous* latent demand for this. (Also, not so in Prospect Park? Or at least I’ve never, *never* seen a wrong-way cyclist on the Prospect Park loop.) It seems like a doable lift now.

  • MatthewEH

    To be fair, there is a door-zone lane from 33rd to 42nd. Not as nice as the protected lane further down, but better than absolutely nothing.

  • qrt145

    I disagree. I bike all along 6th Avenue regularly and the worst part by far is that door-zone lane. North of 42nd it’s easy enough to take a lane, but between 33rd and 42nd it’s harder due to the presence of that alleged bike lane. Motorists are understandably more pissed when they see a cyclist refusing to use what they think is a bike lane (as opposed to the death trap that it is), and they show it.

  • Guest

    How are traffic volumes on 7th btw Times Sq and Central Park in the morning? I sometimes ride that stretch during the evening rush hour and am always angry there’s no protected bike lane, because car traffic is sparse and, as a result, fast. There’s space and there’s reason to provide protection to cyclists! Is it the morning rush hour that’s holding this up?

  • MatthewEH

    Huh, interesting. I’ve had okay experiences there, though 41st Street is a problem with the number of cars making the left turn there.

  • J

    This is what NYCDOT’s “one step at a time” network looks like in practice. Lots of lanes, few of them continuous or connected to other lanes.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/aa5d71f4d3a7b5433fda177c785e6cfb3350159050f9c3802cc3f38689063513.png

  • Vooch

    same map from two years ago – need a magnifying glass to measure progress.

    City should have a goal of building 50 miles of PBLs every year.

  • Vooch
  • J

    It’s ridiculous that this doesn’t yet exist. It’s also absurd that there’s still no plan for a network of lanes. Protected lanes need to be continuous and connected in order to be actually useful.

  • crazytrainmatt

    It appears there is a plan to shift the downtown broadway bike lane through Greeley Square onto the west side of 6th between 32nd and 34th: http://nycdotfeedbackportals.nyc/content/proposed-improvements

    This is probably an improvement overall given the total confusion in the green bike lane / sidewalk extensions, but it’s a no-brainer to apply the same treatment one block further north, between 34th-35th which has many the same issues, exacerbated by the ridiculous NYPD “gate”. And this would naturally lead to a one-way PBL heading up to the park proposed here.

  • J

    You’d expect, after years, that some of the network would starts to connect to other parts of the network. After all, once you build Line 1 of the subway, you would expect that Line 2 would connect to it. But in NYC, almost none of lines 1-20 connect to each other. Baffling!

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