Even Before Congestion Pricing, City Must Expand Bike Network: Advocates

Cyclists must ride right next to heavy traffic at 6th Avenue and 35th Street, where today bike advocates demanded the city think about expanding the bike network ahead of congestion pricing. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Cyclists must ride right next to heavy traffic at 6th Avenue and 35th Street, where today bike advocates demanded the city think about expanding the bike network ahead of congestion pricing. Photo: Julianne Cuba

The city must follow London‘s lead in expanding its bike network before congestion pricing kicks in in 2021, bike advocates charged Thursday in midtown Manhattan.

City and state officials need to redirect their focus from who will be granted congestion pricing toll exemptions to thinking about creating safe and alternative modes of transportation for all of the people who are expected to abandon their four-wheelers for two-wheelers in order to avoid the toll — London saw an 83-percent increase in cycling in the four years following its implementation of congestion pricing in 2003. There’s no excuse for the de Blasio administration not to create the same safe-cycling infrastructure.

“We want a piece of the action in the form of space on the streets for a much better bike network,” said Bike New York’s Jon Orcutt.

Bike New York and Transportation Alternative leaders stood at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 35th Street — where the Sixth Avenue bike lane turns into no man’s land — to blast the city for allowing major gaps in the bike network, including a large swath of Second Avenue between 43rd Street to 34th Street, the Central Park loop drive to the Hudson River Greenway, 6th Avenue from 35th to 59th Streets, and all the way down to Bowery and East Broadway between Park Row and the Manhattan Bridge.

“It turns into a hellish environment for cyclists in the course of a split second. We need the city to step up,” said Orcutt.

State legislators back in April historically passed congestion pricing, which authorizes a toll on drivers who enter Manhattan’s central business district below 61st Street. Benefits of the toll are twofold — it’s expected to raise $1 billion each year to fund the MTA’s capital expenditures and reduce traffic in an overwhelmingly congested area. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to install more protected bike lanes and fill in gaps in the network since fewer cars on the road means more room for cyclists who are now forced to share space with trucks and cars.

“This only happens once and so we need to take advantage of it,” said Orcutt. “The city is constantly saying high traffic volumes keep us from extending bike lanes past the Midtown Tunnel.”

Some of the most popular bike paths in the city, including ones within the central business district, have no safe way to get there, said Transportation Alternatives co–deputy director Marco Conner.

“We have to start preparing for the bike infrastructure we need now. We need more than just refugees of safe spaces, we need to get to places like the Hudson River Greenway and Central Park safely,” said Conner. 

Advocates unveiled a list of streets ripe for protected bike lanes in and around the central business district. They include:

  • Extend the protected bike lane network into West and Central Harlem 
  • Protected bike lanes on Northern Boulevard from Grand Central Parkway to Queens Plaza
  • Protected bike lane connection between the Pulaski and Queensboro Bridges
  • Redesign the Vernon Boulevard protected bike lane so it does not abruptly switch back and forth between sides of the avenue
  • Extend Skillman Avenue protected lanes to the area of Pulaski Bridge
  • Protected bike lanes on Thomson Ave to calm vehicle traffic exiting the Queensboro Bridge and provide safety for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Additional protected routes through or around Downtown Brooklyn; for example, extending protected lanes along Adams Street/Boerum Place south from the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, completing the Jay/Smith Streets protected bike lane to Atlantic Avenue, and connecting bridge entrances and the pending 4th Avenue protected bike lane via a protected route on Ashland Place and Navy Street
  • Protected bike lanes along Flatbush Avenue between Empire Boulevard and the Manhattan Bridge

Other suggestions that would complement expanding the bike network ahead of congestion pricing include more space for walking to create higher-functioning bike lane, including on 8th Avenue in the 30s and 40s, and creating a separated cycling and walking path on the Queensboro Bridge.

They also called for converting standard unprotected bike lanes into protected lanes on the following routes:

  • Manhattan cross-town bike lanes in the 40s
  • East Houston Street
  • Lafayette Street from SoHo to City Hall (southbound)
  • 6th Avenue from 35th-42nd Street (northbound)
  • Hudson Street from Canal St to Clarkson St (northbound)
  • Avenue C and Madison Street in the East Village/Lower East Side
  • Bi-Directional protected bike lanes on Avenue B
  • St. Nicholas Avenue north of 116th Street
  • The Dyckman Street bike lane should be reinstalled
  • In Brooklyn, Bedford Avenue between Atlantic and Flushing, DeKalb Ave, Bergen Street east of Carlton, 3rd Avenue south of Carroll

Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel said the agency was indeed preparing for the start of congestion pricing.

“We looked at cities such as London and Stockholm and what they have done to reclaim space and the benefits they’ve seen from congestion pricing,” Gastel said. “New York City could see tremendous quality of life benefits, mobility enhancements and transformative possibilities if congestion pricing is done well here.”

The agency statement continued:

DOT continues to aggressively build out our bike lane network in Manhattan, including crosstown lanes built last year and more to be added this year. We also made significant advancements in filling in gaps along the borough’s north-south avenues. Effective congestion pricing would allow us to realize more of these enhancements and lead to further development of the bike lane network. We look forward to this opportunity and toward working with advocates to accomplish these goals.

  • com63

    How about closing all of Broadway to everything except bikes and peds (and buses in some sections)?

  • Rider

    It’s not just quantity, although that needs to go up. DOT needs to build *quality* infrastructure with real concrete, not paint. They need to widen existing bike lanes and build out curbs and other forms of separation so that this form of transportation works going forward. It only barely does now. London is not perfect, but its cycle highways have real concrete in a lot of places. New York needs to follow its lead.

  • thomas040

    Even half of these projects would be a godsend, but man I’m crossing my fingers that all this will be implemented. This, + the return of electric citibikes…. we might have a tipping point happening.

  • Geck

    … linking up to a two-way protected lane the full length of Lafayette Street from Union Square to the Brooklyn Bridge/Park Row.

  • Reader

    They can do it if they stop going to community boards for approval on every single project. They need to just stick to the idea that community boards can offer some input, but can’t torpedo projects just because of parking.

  • Joe R.

    Or even better emulate the bicycle superhighways in the Netherlands. Those not only have separation plus sufficient width, but also are virtually non-stop. The latter is one area where NYC is behind nearly everyone. To date DOT I don’t believe has even acknowledged that repeated stopping is a major problem, much less done anything about it.

    Then there’s the awful pavement condition citiwide. Fixing that alone would do more to improve cycling than just about anything else.

  • Joe R.

    How about closing all of Manhattan to everything except bikes, peds, buses, and emergency vehicles (with delivery trucks allowed only at night)?

  • Or else they could realise that community boards consist primarily of lunatics and half-wits who should have input on no matter more serious than the colour of the streamers at the block party.

  • John

    It’s really disappointing that the entire Bronx was left off this list of demands (not to mention SI). The Harlem River Bridges and adjacent streets, as well as the Grand Concourse campaign of Trans Alt, should have been part, to name just two. I get that they say this is about the central business district and adjacent areas but they go on to mention huge stretches of Queens and Brooklyn and even Dyckman St in Inwood that are not CBD adjacent, indeed some of which are even farther from the central business district than the Harlem River Bridges. The city routinely puts the best bike infrastructure in wealthier whiter neighborhoods, ignoring places like the Bronx. Apparently the same biases are at work in our advocacy organizations. I’d love to hear their explanation for why the Bronx was omitted. I’d also be very curious to know if anyone from the Bx was involved in developing these demands. My guess is there was no one.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    great point, the grand concourse could be a bike super highway if the DOT got serious, lots of other routes like Post Road and Tremont would be much better with proper bike infrastructure. The hills in places can be a challenge of course, but e-bikes can be part of the solution.

  • Sassojr

    As I pointed out before, there aren’t enough hipsters in the Bronx for Streetsblog or TA to care about anything other than when communities oppose bike lanes.

  • BronxEE2000

    The Bronx is fine the way it is. Hell, roll back some of the changes that were already done.

  • AJ

    I think you’re spot on, the DOT has very little clue about what’s important when riding a bike, perhaps all DOT employees should be obliged to commute by bike for a month. Then they would realize that the repeated stopping that you mention might not be much of a problem when you’re driving a car (although cars also blow through red lights a lot), but when every stop means a physical effort it becomes really annoying.

    Also that might help them to realize that putting all these obstacles on the bike lane to protect cyclists is sort of counterproductive. There are so many examples of poorly placed obstacles. Who thought it would be a good idea to put two poles, right in the middle (!) of each lane, on the Hudson River Green Way (at the height of about 87 St). First, why not place one (right in the middle of the two lanes) or 3 (as is done more often) of those poles to prevent cars from driving there. But second, which cars??? There are no cars driving there!!! So why the need to endanger cyclists??? The stupidity of it pisses me off, now that I started to commute through there every day.

  • AMH

    Unfortunately there are cars/trucks/SUVs (both NYPD and Parks) frequently driving on the greenway.

  • AMH

    “The city is constantly saying high traffic volumes keep us from extending bike lanes past the Midtown Tunnel.”

    I can’t believe I have to say this, but:

    HIGH TRAFFIC VOLUMES ABSOLUTELY NECESSITATE PROTECTED BIKE LANES

  • BayRidge Phantom

    Delivery trucks only at night is a non-starter. Businesses and their employees would hate it. And you’d have more noise at night when all deliveries were being made after hours in residential areas

  • Dan

    Sadly that was the result of a terrorist attack (lunatic driver) who drove on the bike path and killed a few innocent people. TBH that should have been there from the beginning.

  • AJ

    Ah yes of course, the NYPD has to drive there. I only saw those parks cold carts driving there, so it didn’t occur to me that you would also need to drive your SUV there

  • AJ

    Yes I’m aware of that. But I’m sorry to be blunt, to me it appears like sham security. There are plenty of crossings left where a car could drive into cyclists. So to (only partially) prevent an act of terrorism, continuously dangerous obstacles are placed in the middle of the bike like… Makes little sense to me.

    But okay, if it’s necessary to block the bike Lanes from cars you need to do it. However, I guess you’ve also seen how those concrete blocks are placed? First, they could have been placed in a better way, still blocking cars but making it slightly less dangerous for cyclist. But why those enormous blocks at all? A pole does the same job and creates much less obstruction for cyclists.

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