Corey Johnson’s ‘Master Plan’: 50 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes Per Year — And A Lot More

The council speaker's long-awaited "complete streets" bill has finally arrived.

Corey Johnson canvassing bus riders in Queens earlier this year. Photo: Emil Cohen
Corey Johnson canvassing bus riders in Queens earlier this year. Photo: Emil Cohen

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is putting his legislative muscle where his mouth is.

Three months after he proposed a five-year plan to prioritize people who walk, bike, and take mass transit over people in motor vehicles, Johnson is set to introduce legislation next week requiring city officials to build 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes and 250 miles of protected bike lanes within five years [PDF].

“The way we plan our streets now makes no sense and New Yorkers pay the price every day, stuck on slow buses or risking their own safety cycling without protected bike lanes,” Johnson said. “I want to completely revolutionize how we share our street space, and that’s what this bill does. This is a roadmap to breaking the car culture in a thoughtful, comprehensive way.”

New York City has significantly expanded its protected bike-lane network under mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio, but not nearly to the extent necessary, given the increasing carnage of people biking on city streets. In his best year, 2017, de Blasio’s Department of Transportation built almost 25 miles of protected bike lanes, which dropped to less than 20 miles last year. Currently, the department has committed to at least 10 miles of new protected bike lanes a year.

Even when it seeks to proactively redesign streets, the city considers its impact on private vehicle speeds and parking concerns. As a results, the improvements have been piecemeal — neighborhood-by-neighborhood, block-by-block — with DOT going to great lengths to appease recalcitrant community boards.

Johnson, a likely mayoral candidate in 2021, wants to change that — or, in his words “break the car culture.” Aside from a nod to “traffic congestion,” Johnson’s bill makes no mention of people in private cars and, in fact, sets priorities to counterbalance their omnipresence.

The bill sets priorities at every level. Even parking policies for delivery trucks, according to the bill, should be based not on the immediate needs of drivers, but on the “safety of pedestrians and individuals using bicycles; access to and use of public transit; reduction of traffic congestion and emissions; and improving access to streets, sidewalks, public spaces, and mass transit for individuals with reduced mobility, hearing, or visual impairments.”

The bill offers benchmarks, and the city would be required to account for each one. DOT would have to release its first plan this October, with specific plans on how it will achieve the following items within five years:

  • at least 150 miles of protected bus lanes;
  • at least 1,000 intersections with signal priority for buses;
  • at least 250 miles of protected bicycle lanes, or 50 per year;
  • citywide bus stop upgrades;
  • and commercial-loading-zone reforms that prioritize people who don’t drive.

By 2021, the agency also would have to double the city’s total pedestrian-plaza acreage and add 12 new “shared streets,” where speed limits are capped at five miles per hour.

The 10-year goals are even more ambitious:

  • a completely connected bike network;
  • protected bus lanes everywhere feasible;
  • “accessible pedestrians signals” at all relevant interactions;
  • and compliance with ADA accessibility at all intersections.

It also creates a metric for the safety of the bike network, called the “bicycle-network connectivity index,” based on “the number of choices a cyclist has for turning from one bicycle route onto another,” the bill states. The 2024 master plan would charge the city with completing an entirely connected protected bike lane network by 2029.

Advocates hope a citywide approach will alleviate the effect of community-board opposition to bike lanes and other non-auto street project, because city officials will be able to point to the citywide effort and roadmap as justification for more local actions.

Whether the DOT under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is willing to push for such radical changes is another question.

“This is a potentially very powerful tool in the hands of a mayor who wants a more powerful bike network,” said Bike New York Communications Director Jon Orcutt, a former city transportation official under Mayor Bloomberg. “You set a bunch of project ideas and then you don’t really have to go back and revisit those decisions. You potentially get past having a year-long debate over every single bike lane or every piece of every bike lane.”

DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said the agency is reviewing the bill, and disputed the current narrative that the mayor has lost the focus of his signature Vision Zero campaign as he runs for president. The administration has committed to reducing traffic crashes and improving bus service, most recently with the mayor’s pledge to improving bus speeds by 25 percent within a year, Gastel said.

None of the administration’s effort go nearly as far as Johnson’s agenda.

  • thomas040

    Damn, I hope this guy gets his proposed bills through. This is the kind of leadership the city needs. Forward thinking!

  • Zach Katz

    I love Corey so much

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    how long until we get to amsterdam levels? this is pretty good progress.

  • Daphna

    Love: protected bike lanes
    Like: dedicated bus lanes, signal priority for buses, stop upgrades
    Dislike: more audible crosswalk beeping that adds to the already significant noise pollution of the city
    Off-track: commercial loading zones being reformed to prioritize people who do not drive – commercial loading zones are not the problem and it would be part of the solution to increase their number and enforce these zones – what does need to be reformed is free and underpriced non-commercial curbside parking (aka long term car storage) and parking placard use/abuse (aka politically connected drivers expect to park illegally for free at their convenience)
    Missing: pedestrianizing streets, widening sidewalks wherever needed

  • burnabybob

    Sounds awesome, Corey.

    The problem with the city’s current piecemeal approach, building bits of bicycle infrastructure here and there and depending on community board support, is that it pleases nobody, but still pi###s people off in the process. There are so many bike lanes all over the city that don’t really go anywhere, or will start off promising then just end abruptly- case in point the 8th avenue bike lane as it approaches Port Authority. That’s probably the busiest part of 8th avenue where cyclists need the most protection, but it leaves cyclists at the mercy of aggressive cab and bus drivers.

    The DoT needs to conceptualize bike lanes as a NETWORK. And they need to understand that we need to make tough choices to improve our streets. A city that is serious about confronting climate change should NOT prioritize level of service for single passenger vehicles and provision of free or low-cost street parking. Loss of street parking to bike lanes is a double win, since it incentivizes cycling and disincentivizes driving. Those are the kind of bold decisions the city needs to make. Not just in midtown Manhattan, but in places like Downtown Brooklyn, Flushing, Jackson Heights and Grand Concourse.

    NYC would do well to emulate Seville, Spain, which built a comprehensive network of protected bike lanes within a few years. They have been tremendously successful because people could immediately see their benefit, they have resulted in a huge increase in bicycle ridership, and there was a political payoff as they were created within a single election cycle. De Blasio would do well to cement his legacy by doing as much as he can to build a real network of bike lanes while he has a supportive city council. The haters are never going to like him anyway, and watered-down half measures won’t be effective.

    Oh, and the city’s bike network will never function effectively with the level of lax enforcement we have now. Drivers who park in bike or bus lanes should receive hefty fines, consistently.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Is there anything in there about the *quality* of bike infrastructure?

    https://twitter.com/Fresh_Kermit/status/1130492164989956096

  • PDiddy

    Decades.

  • AJ

    “By 2021, the agency also would have to double the city’s total pedestrian-plaza acreage and add 12 new “shared streets,” where speed limits are capped at five miles per hour.” That sounds like pedestrianizing streets right?

  • Have you been to Tokyo? They have audible crosswalk beeping and it’s not very intrusive – they use twittering birdlike sounds that are fairly appealing.

  • DeBlasio is forward thinking… to Iowa.

  • Colin Wright

    Dislike: Blind people walking into traffic because Daphna is worried about noise pollution in NYC.

  • Simon Phearson

    Don’t expect Streetsblog to focus on anything other than quantity.

    For all its merits, the Skillman protected bike lane has a glaring flaw where it intersects Honeywell/35th Street, and I don’t know what to do about it. The way it is currently designed, it encourages drivers to take fast, wide-radius turns around a corner where sightlines between cyclists and drivers are very poor. I have been nearly right-hooked there several times in the past few weeks, and it’s always the same thing – some driver plowing over paint in order to take the turn too fast.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    hopefully there is follow on legislation about raised crosswalks. ped islands, chicanes, banning left turns. widening sidewalks, etc. More bike a bus lanes will be great but if third avenue for example, goes from being a six lane highway to four lanes, or cars can still race down any side street we’re not doing all we can to make this city safer and more liveable.

  • Simon Phearson

    We need to dispense with this childish obsession with pure mileage.

    There are several miles of protected bike lanes that run either along the routes I ride or run parallel to them. I do not use them because they are not convenient or useful. We do not need protected bike lanes on edge roads that don’t directly connect destinations for cycling traffic. We need them on arterial roads.

    We also need protection that works. We need to get past the idea that “parking protected” means “protected.” Because in many ways it is not. First, because it is too easy for people to drive into and park in “parking protected” lanes, as can be seen all over the place in Manhattan. Second, because many “parking protected” lanes are in fact in dooring zones, meaning that it is impossible to navigate these lanes safely at even typical cycling speeds, to say nothing of navigating them with other cyclists or at reasonable commuting speeds. We need concrete curbs. We also need protected bike lanes to have protected intersections. Mixing zones are not safe design, and they need to be expunged from the NYCDOT toolkit.

  • Oh, and the city’s bike network will never function effectively with the level of lax enforcement we have now.

    This is true. Even the best design can be defeated: yesterday I saw a van pull into the protected First Avenue bike lane; and the sight of motorbikes and even motorcycles on the Williamsburg Bridge bike path is not uncommon.

    For this reason, enforcement is the single most important factor in a functioning bike network.

  • Daphna

    Thanks! I missed that part. So many worthy plaza applications to the DOT plaza program got shot down by community boards who prioritized parking for the car owning minority. Plaza acreage could likely be quadrupled or more, not just doubled, by simply giving the go-ahead to all those already proposed plazas.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, as much as I support the idea in concept of the disabled/blind/etc. being able to get around independently, the idea that the blind can safely cross streets is ill-thought at best, dangerous at worst. I’ve long been arguing that even a sighted person can’t safely cross streets unless there is daylighting and good lines of sight. NYC allows parking right up to the crosswalk on the (stupid) theory that pedestrians can still safely cross if they wait for a walk signal. The problem here is a red signal for motor traffic doesn’t act as a force field. Motorists can and do go through red lights all the time, whether intentionally or because they’re just not paying attention. The problem is compounded when the person crossing can see this until it’s too late. If NYC streets are too dangerous in their current configuration for even a sighted person to safely cross, there’s no way we can say audible signals can make it safe for the blind to cross. They can’t, and all we’re doing is encouraging the blind to put themselves into harm’s way.

    There’s only one way audible signals and traffic lights can make safe crossing for the blind possible. That would be if a physical barrier came up after the light for motor traffic turns red. I doubt NYC will do anything like that in either the near or the distant future.

  • Joe R.

    We definitely need cycling infrastructure to be designed with reasonable commuting speeds in mind, not the 10 mph that some people think cyclists should be limited to. Removing traffic signals from bike routes, especially along arterials, is another thing we need to do.

    To me viaducts over major arterials are the best way to accomplish the goals of safety, eliminating conflicts, and allowing faster overall travel speeds. We should have put one in along Queens Boulevard as a pilot project. We even could have hung part of it off the #7 viaduct. If the idea worked well, it could have been a blueprint for a network of such viaducts above major arterials.

  • Zach Katz

    Anywhere to see a list of all those proposed plazas?

  • Joe R.

    Even relatively pleasant noises regularly occurring are an annoyance. Think dripping water, air conditioners cycling on and off, clock bells ringing, etc.

  • I guess if you were blind you might think differently. I didn’t find it obtrusive. YMMV.

  • Joe R.

    As I mentioned in my lengthy post above, there are probably better ways to alert the blind that it’s safe to cross, like a device they carry which vibrates when the walk signal is on. Granted, in the scheme of things noises to alert the blind to cross are minor annoyances compared to car horns but they nevertheless add to an already oppressive level of noise pollution. And while this might not matter much in Manhattan, I can imagine it being a nuisance in the outer boroughs late nights if people have their windows opened. I think the background noise level is the primary determinant of whether or not additional noises are annoying.

  • Simon Phearson

    For this reason, enforcement is the single most important factor in a functioning bike network.

    Not even remotely true. Enforcement (along with education) has a role to play, but you limit the need for enforcement by designing properly. A van pulls into the bike lane on First Avenue because you don’t have grade separation or concrete curbs, for instance.

    As for motorcycles on the Williamsburg Bridge… I’ll admit that I’ve never seen such a thing, despite dozens of traversals during peak usage times, and I can’t imagine why any motorcyclist would do that, given how crowded the bridge often is and how the exits on the Manhattan side are designed. I’m inclined to believe you’re… shading the truth here. Anyway, the issue can, again, be addressed through decisions about design – as, for example, the aforementioned concrete barriers on the Manhattan side would dissuade most (perhaps not all) non-permitted vehicle users from crossing it on the bike/pedestrian paths.

    Basically, any place in this city where you find frequent and predictable non-compliance with the law, you’ll find some design feature that’s not working right. Fix the design, and save the enforcement resources for other places in the network.

  • Vooch

    Joe,

    one day you and I will be riding our velomobiles along every single Robert Moses Parkway…..it will happen

  • Vooch

    There are 6,000 miles of streets in the 5 boros.

    Existing PBLs is roughly 130 miles (majority of this is recreational)

    at a 50 mile per year rate – it will be 14 years before 15% of City streets have PBLs.

  • Vooch

    I’ll argue that this idiot parked outside the green area and seriously thought he was parkinvg outside the bike lane.

    It just goes to show you that engineering needs to be ironclad to succeed

  • Johnson and Council Member Antonio Reynoso are our great hopes for the future.

  • PDiddy

    Hopefully the 10% threshold will accelerate infrastructure progress.

  • AMH

    Did Seville really do that? I remember Barcelona rolling out a huge network overnight. That’s great if other cities are doing the same. (Madrid really needs more.)

  • Simon Phearson

    I took the Williamsburg Bridge for the vast majority of days over a seven-year period.

    Then your experience is not representative of current conditions. I don’t take the WB the “vast majority of days” (this in itself is likely shading the truth, since you’re not a cold-weather or rain rider), but if mopeds over the WB were so common that you would see them daily, then certainly I should be able to think of having seen one. Which, no, I can’t recall having seen. Just yesterday I crossed the bridge during rush hour, passing dozens of cyclists, a handful of e-scooters, but not a single moped.

    As for motorcycles – again, I have a hard time believing this. The concrete barriers on the Manhattan side are difficult enough to manage at a slow speed on a bike; you’re saying a full-sized motorcycle riders would venture it every couple of weeks? It just beggars belief.

    Where I have seen more motorized traffic has been the QB. What could explain this difference? I believe it helps to prove my point. The approaches to the WB bridge within nearby neighborhoods encourage cycling traffic but are not particularly convenient for motorized traffic, while the QB approaches are far more convenient (and accessible) to motorized vehicle users, no doubt owing to the QB path’s origins as a roadway into its own neighborhoods. Also notable here is that there is no real difference, in terms of enforcement, on either bridge. Police do not patrol either bridge, separating traffic. But motorized vehicles are more common on QB. Similarly, pedestrian incursions on the cycling side is more common on the WB than the QB – again, not a difference of enforcement, but of design.

    As for manning the bridges and bike lanes with cops – man, Ferdinand, you don’t exactly have a reputation for sensible ideas, but this one’s a real whopper. Obviously it’s just an invitation for cyclist harassment with today’s NYPD; as for how you’d get good, honest cops in(to) the NYPD and taking care of these facilities, I suppose, is left as an exercise for the reader. Never mind the simple repugnance of the totalitarianism you’re recommending here.

    You constantly bemoan the cycling culture in NYC, but you’ve never really suggested how you’d do anything about changing it. Now it’s pretty clear. You want cops everywhere, and if they happen to occupy themselves, when they’re not waving taxi drivers out of bike lanes or mopeds off the bridges, by issuing citations to cyclists for running red lights, riding without bike lights or horns, or just going too fast down hills – all the better.

  • First of all, while I do not ride in the rain, I did ride all winter during those seven years. My tolerance for 20-degree mornings finally waned somewhat; and I didn’t ride much during this past winter. But for every winter between 2011-12 and 2017-18, I was out there on the Williamsburg Bridge almost every day freezing my balls off. And, yes, there were mopeds just about daily, and even the occasional motorcycle.

    And I will state emphatically that the police definitely do have a role to play. Of course I deplore the police department’s handling of all things regarding bicycling. But I don’t want to have no police; I want to have better police. And the fact is that the change that we need in the police rests upon a broadening of their perspective with respect to bicyclists, whom they currently see as an annoyance at best, and as a threat at worst (such as when bicyclists were not allowed on the Queensboro Bridge while Trump was on the FDR Drive, even though cars were allowed).

    When I was a kid I hated seeing bike cops; I perceived them as targeting us. But now I recognise that we need as many bike cops as possible. Only then could we have the remotest hope of getting bikes treated as legitimate vehicles, and of seeing enforcement against incursions into bike lanes. If a cop riding in the bike lane up near the Queensboro Bridge were almost hit by a car that had been sent through a red light by a traffic enforcement agent (as shown in the link within my previous response), that terribly dangerous practice would stop immediately. More generally, having cops riding up and down our bike lanes would cause the police to start to understand the issues that cyclists have with the lanes, and would allow the lanes to fulfill their potential.

    In the current climate in which drivers run rampant and are coddled by the police even when they kill, any enforcement directed against cyclists is improper. (Anyway, the reason that cyclists should not blow red lights or go the wrong way is not fear of being ticketed, but, rather, the anger and ill will that these behaviours cause within the general public, a phenomenon which translates directly into legislators’ disinclination to help us, and also into increased hostility from the goofballs at Community Boards.)

    But in the imagined scenario in which the police were giving appropriate attention to protecting our bicycle infrastructure, then their giving a cyclist a ticket for disobeying the law would be fair. The simple solution under that scenario would be for cyclists to ride legally — while at the same time continually prevailing upon legislators to make bad laws more sensible.

    Regarding the improvement of cycling culture, the only way is through direct engagement with our fellow cyclists. When you see a cyclist run a red light, explain to that cyclist why that act hurts our shared interest by endangering the expansion of (or even the continued existence of) our bike lanes. Honestly, it is more likely that you will be told to F off by a selfish asshole than that you will start a thoughtful conversation with a thinking person; but those thinking persons do exist, and those thoughtful conversations do sometimes occur. So, while the odds are remote that we will ever acheive the threshold of awareness within the mass of cyclists that would be necessary to bring about improvements in our cycling culture, each concientious cyclist can do only what one individual can do, which is to set a good example and to try to influence people one at a time.

    Another vitally important practice is involvement with officialdom, both elected officials and law enforcement. If you know of an issue or a problem at a particular location, visit the Council Member’s office and the local precinct, and make your case. Last year I was in constant contact for a period of months with CM Holden’s office and with the 104th Precinct regarding persistent driver incursion into some of the DOT’s reclaimed pedestrian space. Improvements were eventually made. And Reynoso’s office helped effectuate the repaving of a street where the bike lane had become unusable.

    Our enemies are certainly talking to these officials every chance they get; so often we hear electeds and police make statements against bicycle-related improvements on the basis of what they hear from their constituents. We as a bloc of citizens with a common interest cannot afford to be left out of the decision-making process.

  • Simon Phearson

    And, yes, there were mopeds just about daily, and even the occasional motorcycle.

    Then I don’t know how to explain the discrepancy of our experiences. As I said, if you saw them “just about daily” during what I assume would have been 5-minute bridge traversals, they surely must be common enough that I would have seen them, as well.

    And I will state emphatically that the police definitely do have a role to play.

    The question is not whether enforcement serves a useful purpose, but what purpose it most profitably serves. Your view is that, since any design can be overcome by scofflaws, design is secondary to enforcement, and you would put NYPD patrols on every piece of critical bike infrastructure. My point is that good design obviates the need for such heavy-handed techniques, and could, indeed, address many of the complaints you’ve offered here.

    An approach to transportation policy that incentivizes scofflaw behavior and then punishes those who engage in it – which is exactly your prescription, once we pare away the verbiage you couch it in – is quite simply insane.

    The idea that cops on bikes would be more attentive to cyclists’ concerns rests upon at least one assumption – namely, that cops perceive the world around them accurately and seek to perform their duties in good faith. What evidence have you seen that this is the case?

    As for lecturing co-cyclists – again, insane. I am a law-abiding cyclist, but I am not a scold; do you know why? Because it is precisely by being a law-abiding cyclist that I can observe how doing so puts me in danger. I can think of several examples on my typical routes where red light-stopping means an increase right-hook risk, dooring risk, close-passing risk, and so on. I have to employ other strategies to avoid getting smashed by illegal 53′ foot trailers on non-truck routes. I ride in bike lanes, where provided, notwithstanding the fact that doing so often puts me into conflict situations with pedestrians and various types of hooking risks. So I am never going to tell another cyclist that they should also follow the law, as I do. I know such advice would not actually be in their best interest; it would be immoral to counsel them to do so.

  • Ishamgirl

    I take a Bronx express bus to work. There’s a bus lane in Harlem, on Second Avenue that starts at 125th. Every effing day there are cars parked in the bus lane and there is ZERO enforcement. I don’t mean cars idling, I mean cars parked in a lane that specifically says “BUS LANE” and has a great big sign hanging in the air with specific times and days one can use the bus lane. I’m in the process of shooting off an email to anyone who will listen (which will be no one).

  • In a better world, these cars would be towed immediately upon their drivers walking away.

  • Blair

    No mention has been made of the almost total lack of adherence that cyclists show to traffic regulations and those who cycle on protected streets who do not use the safe bike lanes. What about getting cyclists to obey the traffic rules on a consistent basis?

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