[UPDATE] De Blasio Built 20.9 Miles Protected Bike Lanes This Year — Yet Falls Short of Record

The city did not meet its projections for protected bike lanes this year, partly because it failed to close the gap on Second Avenue. Photo: DOT
The city did not meet its projections for protected bike lanes this year, partly because it failed to close the gap on Second Avenue. Photo: DOT

SB Donation NYC header 2Updated | Records are meant to be broken — unless you’re the de Blasio administration building protected bike lanes.

The city Department of Transportation revealed on Wednesday that it fell short of its own projection of installing 29.4 miles of protected cycling routes in the city this year — a prediction that would have represented a whopping 18-percent increase from last year’s record 24.9 miles.

In the end, the city built 20.9 miles of protected lanes — or 16 percent fewer than last year’s record.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is expected to remind New Yorkers of the scores of protected bike lanes that the city has installed since de Blasio took over on Jan. 1, 2014 — 83 miles, in fact. The number dwarfs other cities.

And Trottenberg will also likely remind cycling advocates that the mayor never committed to break his 2017 record year after year — in fact, last year, the city guaranteed only that it would install at least 10 miles of protected bike lanes every year, meaning this year’s “more than 20 miles” is a significant achievement. Heroic even, when compared to other American cities.

But the number does fall short of what the DOT promised just a few months ago (see chart below), when it said it intended to complete 29.4 miles of protected bike lanes this year.

This chart was put out a few months ago.
This chart was put out a few months ago.

The shortfall likely resulted from projects that were delayed by the administration, including the fourth phase of Queens Boulevard (2.2 miles), filling a nine-block gap on Second Avenue in Manhattan (.4 miles), constructing a protected lane on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn (1.3 miles), and completing other projects that have been shelved, though possibly only temporarily. [PDF]

Records are made to be broken — and de Blasio has certainly been eager to play the numbers game when it suits him. He has often boasted of his construction of protected lanes and is proud to defy community boards to bring the life-saving road improvements to neighborhoods across the city.

Queens Boulevard included.

“A protected bike lane along Queens Boulevard is a no-brainer,” he told Brian Lehrer in May, 2016. “We have to make it the Boulevard of Life. We are not going to go backwards.”

This is what the city did this year.
This is what the city did this year.

To be clear, much of DOT’s year was dominated by time-consuming battles with local community boards and not-in-my-backyard dead-enders who oppose street safety redesigns, despite deep statistical evidence that DOT’s toolbox of narrower roadways, protected bike lanes, pedestrian islands and other improvements dramatically improve safety. The mayor spent political capital by over-ruling the naysayers in Sunnyside, on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx and in other areas.

Such negotiations often eat up valuable time, DOT officials often say.

Wednesday’s announcement will take place along the new East 26th Street bike lane. Officials from Transportation Alternatives and Lyft, which operates Citi Bike, are expected to be on hand.

The shortfall in protected bike lane installation comes as the city is headed for one of the safest years in history, with fewer than 200 roadway fatalities for the first time. As of the end of October, there were 162 deaths total, 84 of which were pedestrians and 10 of which were cyclists. The drop in cyclists deaths — from 20 in de Blasio’s first year as mayor — comes as ridership is way up, partly due to protected bike lanes.

The news also comes as Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez challenged the mayor last month to build 100 miles of protected bike lanes every year, anticipating the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters and the 15-month shutdown of the L train, which begins in April. The mayor would not commit to a number, saying, “We obviously are continuing to build a lot of bike lanes and it’s a high priority for the administration. … We have been steadily increasing the number of bike lanes [and] we intend to continue. The number, the amount — we will always report what we think is needed and can be done in the time frame we have, but the directional reality is quite clear under Vision Zero.”

The city has obviously come a long way, as this chart shows:

bike network growth

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  • Reader

    They’re counting 26th Street as “protected”? If that’s the case the mileage is FAR below 20 miles this year. The crosstown lanes are parking lanes, not protected bike lanes. The city must do better.

  • r

    They included Vanderbilt Ave as protected! WTF?!? It’s a class 2 painted lane in the door zone next to moving traffic going uphill! Garbage. Nothing to celebrate here.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    A backslide on mileage is concerning, but worse in my opinion is the fact that the initial network in Manhattan was never completed, newer infrastructure is of lower quality than older infrastructure, there’s been no upgrading of mixing zones or intersection treatments, and so on. The existing network is falling apart in many places and totally blocked by cars with no sign of any upgrades to prevent this. There’s no indication of any feedback in design to keep dedicated bike infrastructure reliable and ready for people to use for cycling rather than having to be diverted to riding in mixed traffic.

    Even expensive capital projects are a mess, with Flushing (Brooklyn) and South Street (Manhattan, EDC project) being of really old fashioned design and not in line with international best practices, and the already very outdated Hudson River Greenway being seriously downgraded with bollards by the State DOT. The expensive “Bikeway” in Battery Park was finished in the past few years by the Parks Department and is an absolute joke, among the worst designs I’ve seen anywhere, but nobody seems to care. ¯_(?)_/¯

  • BrandonWC

    They are counting just the portion of Vanderbilt and Clermont right under the BQE that is protected by flex posts. Not the whole thing.

  • r

    Even that tiny part is frequently blocked by cars, too.

  • JL

    Haven’t been on the 26th Street Lane yet. I go EW on the 29th frequently from 5th avenue. The new “PBL” is worse than not having one for anyone who rides above 15 mph. Ironically, from 10th to 11th ave is much better where it stayed unprotected (not pinched to the gutter). There were NO garbage trucks lining both sides last night, I don’t know if that is a permanent situation. From 5th >9th is a joke. 9th to 10th is a war zone. Awful kneejurk design.

  • It’s worth noting that the number of miles of bike lanes created is the most meaningful metric in determining the success or failure of a mayor’s administration.

    In the lame-duck portion of de Blasio’s time as mayor, he should be fearless in stating that there will be no more deference to Community Boards, and that the legitimate elected government is going to do what it is empowered to do.

  • r
  • BrandonWC

    They’ve since added green paint and flex posts. I’m not saying it’s the greatest 0.1 miles of protected bike lane, only that it’s not unreasonable to have it in the tally.

  • r

    The posts were gone as of a few weeks ago and cars were parked in it, at least on one side.

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    I can recall (and just tossed) that 1997 map. That year I rode every single green line on the map during rides. That would be much harder to do in 2017!

  • Vooch

    It’s time we add a goal say

    …10% of all NYC streets with PBL by 2025…

    ( that’s a sneaky way of demanding 500 miles of PBLs in 6 years )

  • Joe R.

    Quality, not quantity, is what matters. I’d rather have 10 or 20 miles a year of very high quality bike routes than 50 to 100 miles of the stuff NYC is building. Thus far, DOT hasn’t taken travel time into consideration, nor do they often allow enough room for safe passing. Both of these things are second only to safety when building bike infrastructure.

  • AnoNYC

    Total miles of protected bike lanes completed in the Bronx for 2018: 0.1.

    The good people of the Bronx have long awaited the second phase of the Bruckner Blvd greenway, the East Tremont section of the Bronx River greenway, the Grand Concourse protected lanes, and the proposed Harlem River Bridges improvements (e.g. like the PPL on Willis Ave).

  • Daphna

    The 26th Street lane is very narrow; the gutter next to the curb is unusable yet is counted as part of the width of the bike lane; the buffer is small; there is floating parking but drivers routinely park their vehicles in some mixture of the floating parking/buffer/bike lane rather than properly parking 100% in the floating parking markings.

  • Daphna

    Let’s get those additional protected bike lane miles with low hanging fruit – lanes that should be a no-brainer:
    Extend the 6th Avenue bike lane from where it ends at 32nd Street up to 59th Street.
    Extend the 7th Avenue bike lane from 30th Street up to 59th Street.
    Extend the 5th Avenue bike lane from 23rd Street up to 59th Street.
    Extend the Lafayette bike lane down to Canal.
    Fill in the gaps in the 60’s and 30’s of the 2nd Avenue bike lane.
    Switch nearly all crosstown in-the-door-zone bike lanes to be curbside parking protected.
    Get rid of the parking lane on all park side of the streets around all parks and replace it with curbside bike lanes.
    Make Broadway pedestrian and bike only from 72nd to 14th Street.
    Voila – lot’s of new bike lanes, a more complete network, old records broken and new records set.

  • Eli

    Bingo. I had a friend visit from Vancouver BC, who bikes everywhere there.

    But in NYC? He’d feel safe biking in Central Park, and otherwise, he felt he’d have to stick to the subway.

  • AnoNYC

    NYC’s protected bike lanes are not perfect but they aren’t that bad either. The biggest issues IMO are mixing zones and drivers driving in them. A central bollard and a proper intersection treatment can fix those issues for most lanes.

    For example, I remember traveling through the UES/East Harlem via Lexington and the frustration it could cause. The bike lanes on 1st and 2nd Ave are much prefered.

  • Joe R.

    Your last sentence hit on one of the major problems with bike lanes, especially in the outer boroughs. DOT seems to go out of its way to install bike lanes where they’ll get in the way of drivers the least. Often this is on relatively quiet side streets which don’t even really need a bike lane. Even worse, these streets, and therefore the bike lanes on them, often aren’t even continuous for more than a handful of blocks. That makes any bike trip using such lanes a mess of turns. For example, here is one such protected lane about two miles from me:


    It basically goes along 210th St. for about 10 blocks, and frankly isn’t all that useful. Maybe if someone happens to live on 210th Street and they’re going to use the bike lane on 73rd Avenue it might come in slightly useful. That’s the only bike lane it connects to. 210th Street is a short street which I probably wouldn’t even think of using for a trip unless my destination happened to be along it. It’s not even a high traffic street which merits a bike lane, much less a protected bike lane. It’s almost as if NYC if trying to game the system by putting protected lanes where they cause the least interference (in this case along the side of a street which has an adjacent park) just to say they added another x miles.

    And then you have these lanes here on East Hampton Blvd.:


    Pretty much a similar situation except at least this lane connects to Northern Boulevard, even though Northern doesn’t have a bike lane. However, it does so via a rather circuitous path which ultimately ends up on Cloverdale Blvd. Easier to just take Cloverdale Blvd. all the way, and avoid the hills on East Hampton. And that’s another problem. I don’t want to be in a narrow protected lane when I get to the part where I might be doing 30 to 35 mph on the descent. In fact, I prefer to choose my route to avoid as many hills as possible. DOT seems to like to put bike lanes on hilly side streets.

    The multiple lane feeder routes are exactly where you need the bike infrastructure. In much of Queens, they’re the only roads suitable for useful trips. As an example, if I’m going from my place to outside city limits, I have a choice of Northern Blvd. (generally too far unless my destination is also north, the LIE service road (same story except it’s less far north and it gets too hilly past E. Hampton Road), or Union Turnpike (generally my preferred route). I have no problems riding on Union, but it’s not something for a relatively inexperienced cyclist. The problem though with most of these feeder routes by me is lack of room for a bike lane. You would need to lose a parking lane, and that’s not happening in car-dependent Eastern Queens. I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t much care for a protected lane unless it was about 7 or 8 feet wide. I like to book along major arterials. In fact, I need to. Either I’m doing utility cycling, which often involves fairly long distances here, or I’m doing recreational rides trying to keep my heart rate up. Either way, a protected lane where anything over 15 mph is unsafe wouldn’t cut it. I’d really love to see viaducts over the median of outer borough arterials. It seems to be one of only two ways to make these roads truly useful to all cyclists. The other way is drastically reducing motor traffic, basically turning these arterials into bus and bike boulevards.

  • I am looking at the bright side. Considering how riled up NIMBYs and policemen get over even one block’s worth of bike lane, 20 miles is still a huge amount.

  • Simon Phearson

    Right. Flattering coverage like we find on Streetsblog obscures the reality cyclists face.

    I have no idea what’s counting towards the 20 miles this year, but I’ve watched as much-celebrated protected bike lanes get steadily eroded by drivers of private cars and trucks. It is not enough, and almost pointless, to celebrate and push for mileage, when so many miles of protected bike lanes are unsafe and useless.

  • running_bond

    Hope that total includes a negative number for the bike lanes removed from Dyckman Street by the low-information mob.

    As of right now, they are still MIA.

  • Quality is paramount. But quantity matters a great deal. Each bike lane has an effect on the street on which it lies. But bike lanes have an aggregate effect: they serve as a constant reminder to drivers that we cyclists exist.

    Speaking as someone whose first ride in Manhattan took place in the summer of 1981 at the age of 15, I can say that riding in Manhattan nowadays is downright luxurious compared to how it was back then. And this is 100% down to the existence of bike lanes; every single one of them — even the flawed ones; even sharrows! — contributes to this drastic improvement.

    Let’s be clear that drivers continue to represent a deadly threat. They are incompetent as a result of nonexistent standards of licensure; and they are all essentially dangerous sociopaths on the loose. But conditions for bicyclists are so much better now than they used to be that there is literally no language that can adequately express the transformation. Riding in Manhattan has gone from terrifying to comfortable; and Manhattan has gone from being the worst place in the City to ride to being the best place. Bike lanes have quite literally given us our City back.

    We should always be forceful in pointing out the flaws in the existing bike lanes, such as the lack of protection, and also the problems that protected lanes tend to have regarding interaction with turning cars. But never doubt that every bike lane is helping to some extent.

  • Joe R.

    While I agree every bike lane reinforces the idea that we cyclists have the same rights to use the streets as motorists, my beef is when a new bike actually makes things worse on aggregate for cyclists than before. The readers here have pointed out plenty of examples. I’ll settle for a conventional door-zone bike lane over a poorly-done protected lane which forces us into the gutter, and slows us down compared to regular street riding. The new lanes on Queens Blvd. are one example of a protected lane done mostly right. They offer cyclists a safer alternative than mixing with cars on the service road, but they don’t force you to ride more slowly than you might want to. Sure, even those lanes have issues in a few spots, but it’s better than what was there before, which was nothing.

    In my opinion the two things NYC can do to make cycling safer and more pleasant on all streets is to keep the pavement in good repair, and remove as many stop signs/traffic signals as possible. Those things will make cycling faster and safer, regardless of whether or not DOT also installs bike lanes.

  • Ishamgirl

    My Bronx neighborhood is getting bike lanes even though residents don’t want them as there isn’t a need for them. It’s a not a bike riding area and when people do ride their bikes it’s on the side streets, most of which are one way streets.

    We get what we don’t want, need or ask for. But when I requested speed bumps I was told there wasn’t a need for them, despite the fact that most drivers are going well above the speed limit.

  • Ishamgirl

    Were those idiotic bike lanes on Dyckman and Sherman removed – I mean the ones where there’s the street, then the bike lane and then you park. I was there last year (I grew up in Inwood so I know the area VERY well) at an electronics store and was shocked to see what was done to Dyckman. Just thought it was beyond idiotic to have it done that way.

    Of course if the police were allowed to do their job and ticket the morons who double park….never mind. Police aren’t allowed to do their job.

  • Ishamgirl

    Vancouver doesn’t even have a population of 1 million. Bit of a difference between there and here.

  • 8FH

    Often people don’t bike until there are bike lanes, and recent studies have shown that speed bumps are ineffective in new york: people slow down for the bump, then immediately accelerate, often with higher peak speeds.

  • AnoNYC

    I live in the Bronx, what neighborhood do you live in?

    By far people in the Bronx want amenities like bicycle lanes.

    Speed humps should be more commonplace but did the location you request have a bus route?

  • Joe R.

    They’re not only ineffective, but they’re actually a major hazard to cyclists once they start to fall apart.

  • AMH

    Are they counting the full length of streets with protected lanes, or counting only the protected part of the lane? Mixing Zones, etc. should never be included in protected mileage.

  • Rando

    Interesting! So you’re saying there’s an innate inverse correlation between population size and quality of bicycle infrastructure that a city’s DOT can build?

    On what evidence or data are you basing that claim?

  • PDiddy

    Maybe if the roads weren’t abused so much by 2 ton vehicles driving on them at highway speeds, we could have e-scoots using them safely. But unfortunately that’s not realistic. If you have to have the roads paved like glass to keep riders from wiping out, it’s not going to work in the long term.

  • running_bond

    Sherman has painted lanes that have no protection and are permanent double parking zones. Dyckman had real, actual protected bike lanes. Now gone without a trace.

  • Ishamgirl

    I’m saying that Vancouver doesn’t have 1mm population and NYC has over 8mm. I didn’t say that the DOT can’t build an infrastructure for bicyclists. What I am going to say is that it’s not a priority when our roads are a mess and I spend 1+ hours to go 11 miles each day on an express bus (and I’m not taking the effing 5 train in the Bronx for obvious reasons).

    I don’t understand the biking population and why so many of you think this should be the #1 priority of NYC. Perhaps going back to Ohio where most of you are from would be the real solution.

  • Rando

    Actually, I was born here, and my dad went to Brooklyn Tech. 😉

  • Daisy’s World

    The Department of Transportation took a debatably-deserved victory lap on Wednesday, announcing that 20.9 miles of protected bike lanes had been installed across the five boroughs this year. That’s about ten miles short of their projected goal, and a bit less than the record-setting 25 miles that were added last year. But it brings the total on-street protected bike lane network up to 119.5 miles—triple what it was in 2014, when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. This year’s major projects include the first-ever crosstown protected lane in midtown, along with new lanes on Broadway in the northern Bronx; Skillman/43rd Avenues in Sunnyside, Queens; 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn; and on Park Row connecting Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. http://www.daisylimo.com/princeton_nj.html

  • Menachem Goldshteyn

    So they claim the Willis Ave bridge is 1.1 miles. From their powerpoint they “enhanced” the bridge as a shared path. Basically made legal what people were already doing by painting tiny white bike symbols on the pavement.

    The path is about 0.5 miles end to end, so they’re taking credit for both directions??

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db60cb0dfd8e2175afda7152abc73626368e0c3111fbd1bcc47b7cfc1ab5213e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6efdd790c5343e2adf57dfd1311e3347123864520522a8728d696ac11ec2795.jpg


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