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DOT Bike Lane Intros Dropped 86% in 2023

The agency hasn't announced a new bike lane since August, and advocates worry that the Adams administration will — again — miss its legal requirements for bus and bike lanes.

12:01 AM EST on February 1, 2024

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Rough road, indeed.

The Department of Transportation launched far fewer plans for new protected bike lanes in 2023 compared to the year before, a worrying indication that the Adams administration is slowing down the rollout of safe street infrastructure, according to an analysis of agency presentations.

The DOT typically unveils cycling infrastructure through presentations at community boards and other public forums, but the agency announced just 5.7 miles of new protected paths in 2023, down 86 percent from 40 miles officials announced in 2022, according to numbers crunched by Brandon Chamberlin, an attorney and activist who has been tracking new bike lane mileage for Transportation Alternatives. 

The agency has presented no new protected bike lanes in the first month of 2024, and none since August — and advocates said the trend was a warning sign for fewer projects downstream once the well of previously announced upgrades runs dry.

"Without presentations, we can't have projects. New Yorkers can't afford to wait," said Juan Restrepo, director of organizing at Transportation Alternatives.

Chamberlin sourced the data from DOT's public presentations from recent years of bike lane projects that had clear boundaries and schedules, and those outreach sessions with new proposals have already petered off for recent years

The last announcement for a new protected bike lane was back in August when DOT proposed adding one block of green-painted paths on Broadway north of Union Square. The agency’s last substantial announcement was more than half a year ago, when officials unveiled a 1.2-mile extension of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard to Jamaica. 

DOT has boasted of installing a record 33 miles of new protected bike lanes last year, still 17 miles short of the 50-mile minimum per year under the legal mandates in the Streets Master Plan, but many of those projects predate the Adams administration. And there is so little in the pipeline going forward.

"To meet the legal mandates of the NYC Streets Plan and to keep up with record bike ridership, this administration needs to announce and break ground on new projects right away," said Restrepo.

Safe street boosters laid blame squarely on City Hall functionaries, chiefly Mayor Adams's chief adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who has intervened to water down or stall marquee bike lane projects last year on behalf of powerful political donors.

Lewis-Martin and the mayor installed a non-transportation bureaucrat Richard Bearak to oversee DOT and impede already-approved projects that encounter even minor community opposition, including the redesigns for McGuinness BoulevardUnderhill Avenue and Ashland Place.

“The Ingrid Lewis-Martin counterrevolution is manifesting at the implementing end of DOT,” said Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official who now advocates with Bike New York. “There’s a playbook for how to screw up a DOT project under the Adams administration that’s pretty well known now.”

The city could be speeding up these kinds of projects now that the Council repealed a decade-old law that required bike lanes go through a longer public review process, Chamberlin noted. 

“If you’re not presenting anything to community boards, it doesn’t really matter,” the advocate said. 

Meanwhile, cyclist deaths soared to 29 last year, the second-highest tally in a decade, and with at least 257 total traffic deaths, 2023 marked one of the worst years in the Vision Zero era.

Mayor Adams did unveil some plans last year, but many of them were hollow announcements lacking key commitments.

For example, Hizzoner pledged to build 40 miles of new bike and pedestrian greenways in the outer boroughs, but the project came with no timetable. The mayor also once again launched a “visioning process” to “reimagine” the much-delayed Fifth Avenue redesign in Midtown, which is going on five years without measurable progress.

Adams has made it clear that he cares less about mile mandates or how many new bike or bus lanes he gets in the ground — laws be damned — and more about a vague promise that New Yorkers feel “heard,” which apparently includes going door-to-door for just one bike boulevard in Brooklyn that his own DOT had almost completely finished after years of community outreach. 

A DOT spokesperson said the agency plans to share new projects soon, but also suggested that the slowdown is partly due to Mayor Adams's desire that the DOT conducts "community engagement … beyond community board presentations to include direct interaction with local residents and businesses, online forums, collaboration with faith-based institutions, and various methods of engaging stakeholders."

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