First Look at DOT’s Plan for the Second Avenue Bike Lane By the QBoro Bridge

One of the scariest stretches in the Manhattan bike network - the gap in the Second Avenue bike lane approaching the Queensboro Bridge - is in line for safety improvements from NYC DOT.

Currently, Second Avenue by the Queensboro Bridge is extremely intimidating for people on bikes. Photo: DOT
Currently, Second Avenue by the Queensboro Bridge is extremely intimidating for people on bikes. Photo: DOT

One of the scariest stretches for biking on Second Avenue — the gap in the bike lane approaching the Queensboro Bridge — is in line for safety improvements from NYC DOT. Like DOT’s addition to the Second Avenue bike lane in Midtown, however, much of this nine-block stretch will lack physical protection during rush hour.

DOT presented the plan for Second Avenue between 68th Street and 59th Street to Manhattan Community Board 6 on Monday [PDF]. There was no vote. DOT will also show the plan to CB 8, which includes almost all of the project area, next Monday.

The redesign calls for a buffered curbside bike lane protected by a parking lane during off-peak hours (which the presentation does not specify). But during peak hours, when car traffic is most intense, that parking lane will become a moving lane and there will be no protection.

2nd ave crosssection

That’s the same treatment DOT gave several blocks of Second Avenue in Midtown, where the bike lane is frequently obstructed as a result, forcing cyclists to weave in and out of motor vehicle traffic. (DOT’s presentation argues that on any given block, this stretch of the bike lane is blocked only 3 percent of the time, but looked at as a whole, the data show that someone biking on Second Avenue between 50th Street and 43rd Street during rush hour will probably encounter at least one obstruction.)

Despite the shortcomings of this design, DOT reports that the number of people biking on Second Avenue at 50th Street is up 36 percent since the redesign. But real protection matters: Further north, where the bike lane is protected at all times, cycling is up 105 percent.

The most complex part of the current Second Avenue project is where the bike lane crosses the foot of the Queensboro Bridge. To prevent conflicts between southbound cyclists and drivers heading onto the bridge, DOT splits this block of the bike route into three signal phases. Essentially, cyclists get a dedicated signal phase to cross the path of motorists entering the bridge (“phase 2” below), which means they’ll have to wait through one more light cycle than motorists heading south on Second Avenue.

DOT also plans to stripe five crosswalk segments on the east side of the intersection, which currently lacks a pedestrian route, along with the bike markings.

Image: DOT
Image: DOT

The CB 6 transportation committee declined to endorse DOT’s plan on Monday due to concerns about the safety of this part of the design, according to committee member Brian Van Nieuwenhoven. Instead, the committed requested a walkthrough of the area with DOT.

On Monday, DOT also gave an update on the other big, gnarly gap in the Second Avenue bike lane, between 42nd Street and 34th Street by the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. There, the agency is negotiating with the MTA, which operates the tunnel, about how to proceed.

For Monday’s DOT presentation to the CB 8 transportation committee meeting, Transportation Alternatives is urging supporters to turn out and support a safer Second Avenue, as well as more complete protection in DOT’s bike lane designs. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room 615 of Hunter College’s West Building, 121 East 67th Street.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Why not put the middle bike crossing right next to the ped crossing, rather than having two 90-degree turns that no one will actually follow?

    Why doesn’t the new island have separate spaces marked for cycling and walking? That portion looks like riding on the sidewalk.

  • macartney

    I’d like to see actual crash/injury stats from the specific stretch of rush-hour not protected lanes installed last summer. Generalized safety data from all protected bike lane projects in the city are meaningless for evaluating this new design they want to replicate.

  • Simon Phearson

    It seems almost obvious to me that the approach to the QB bridge, from a cyclist’s perspective, will involve getting across a couple of lanes of turning traffic starting at about 61st and aiming for that pedestrian island at 59th, to continue on without having to stop for the split-phase.

    Why doesn’t the new island have separate spaces marked for cycling and walking? That portion looks like riding on the sidewalk.

    Ha! I’ll bet you that’s just going to be some tan paint with plastic bollards.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Even among previous designs there’s a big variation. This is from 2014, I’d like to see some updated numbers and more locations.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/34fd0fce9ea792e569741aadc2b65dbbb7a8723abc21a43f0747cdb33eb497f7.png

  • Daphna

    This design, asking cyclists to bike in a semi zig zag between 60th and 59th Street, and asking them to wait through two long traffic light cycles when motorists only have to wait through one to go the same distance, will not lead to compliance from cyclists. There needs to be a better way.

  • Joe R.

    There is a better way that fixes all the problems you mention, namely a flyover junction, but of course NYC will never spend that kind of money on bicycle infrastructure.

  • What I don’t get is why this wasn’t implemented eight years ago.

  • Avid_Biker

    The horrific part is the DOTs “MIXING LANES”. I think streets without protected intersections should not be considered as protected bike lanes at all. NYC keeps adding fake statistics of their protected bike lanes.

    Those mixing lanes are fucking stupid, and the cars/trucks rush and accelerate at even higher speeds to make it through the lights in the nick of time. Its very tense cycling through unprotected intersections, cars and trucks trying to purposely squeeze you to the curb and make you stop in your tracks; but NYC DOT would care less but make the city a parking city and a car dominated city!

    SHAME ON DOT.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    The scant bike lanes that Chicago’ DOT put in the downtown core work like:

    curb…bike-lane….bus stop “islands”…bus lane….car… car… parking. with traffic following eastbound.

  • crazytrainmatt

    Well, it’s an improvement but they are clearly tiptoeing around anything that might have the slightest impact on the freeloaders on the queensboro. DOT should be pushed to do better here as this and the QMT intersections feel like a bit of Atlanta that has landed in NYC like an errant meteor. DOT should be pushed on the mixing zones and bike lane blockage statistics.

    The delay for the midtown tunnel section is unfortunate. It’s arguably more important as the queensboro section can be bypassed by using central park or the east river greenway for some trips. It’s also unfortunate that the complexity of the actual tunnel entrance between 37-36 is an excuse to leave the whole corridor from 43-34 untouched when they could just apply the same template there.

    One major source of danger at the queensboro maw is people turning from thru lanes and vice versa, leading to a lot of weaving. Related to this is box blocking, which is especially dangerous when large trucks do it. Serious bollards up to 60th would help, but I can imagine stragglers trying to turn left around (or through) the new pedestrian island.

    As Simon says, confident cyclists will likely just use the thru lanes. Perhaps signage can be such as to prevent nypd stings like at other split phase signal locations.

    There are two other split phase signals at 58th and 57th. Would a 10MPH rider starting at the light at 59th make it through 57th before the bike cycle ends?

    The stub contraflow bike lane on 59th street which connects the queensboro bike path to 2nd Ave needs an extension of the center jersey barriers all the way to the 2nd Ave crosswalk (see the lower right of the second diagram). Drivers from 2nd turning east onto 59th take the turn very widely and I stopped using it after having truck rear wheels nearly take me out while waiting. It seems from the drawing they might plan to ban left turns from 2nd to 59th, but this would still rely on enforcement.

    Finally, I can not fathom the reasoning that pays for a small army of TEAs at these bridge and tunnel entrances who, rather than ticketing red light runners and box blockers, funnel traffic straight at pedestrians and bikers. Can NYC employ box blocking cameras without albany’s approval and let the TEAs sit in a coffee shop all day?

  • Simon Phearson

    The one good thing I see about this design at QB is the way it looks like it blocks left turners from Second onto 59th, for the reason that you cite. That particular bit demonstrates nicely how poor design by the DOT results in non-compliant cyclist behavior. I myself will stop for the light at 59th – positioning myself behind the light post that they have there and constantly eyeing traffic – but salmoning up the other side of the street to turn onto Second is the most common approach to that intersection and makes perfect sense, once you’ve seen how truck drivers take that turn right now. (It’s also the safest way to deal with the southernmost oncoming traffic lane on 59th, where the drivers never signal their true intent.)

  • J

    I don’t know. There are a lot of cars making that turn on the QB Bridge, so I doubt there will be big gaps. Essentially what is being proposed is a protected intersection, where if you follow the rules, you never occupy the same space as cars at the same time. Of course, the devil is in the details, and if they make a 4 minute signal cycle, it will be awful.

  • J

    I don’t understand the logic here:
    1) DOT tries to create protected bike lane with combo parking/rush-hour travel lane
    2) DOT decides it can’t protect the rush hour lane
    3) During rush hour, unprotected bike lane is clogged with illegally parked cars
    4) DOT decides to replicate this approach

    What??

  • J

    Also, if there were 3 protected bicycle lanes and one got blocked 3% of the time, it would be no big deal. But there is ONLY ONE protected lane here. Can you imagine if 1st Ave were completely blocked 3% of the time? What if the FDR were shut down 3% of the time?

  • qrt145

    This can be the second candidate for this year’s “Most light cycles for cyclists within a couple of hundred feet” Streetsie Award. (The first one being the Columbus Circle plan, of course.)

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