By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Department of Transportation announced in January that two pairs of crosstown protected bike lanes will be added to Midtown neighborhoods, including through Kips Bay on 26th and 29th Streets.
The two pairs of protected bike lanes will run on each proposed street in opposite directions to complement each other, with the 26th Street lane heading eastbound and the 29th Street lane going west. The second pair of protected lanes will be directly south of Central Park on two streets in the 50s but the exact locations have not yet been determined. The DOT anticipates that the budget will be less than $500,000 for each new lane. The agency expects to complete implementation of all the crosstown routes between spring and fall in 2019.
The DOT’s presentation for the affected Manhattan Community Boards specifies that there are sections of the lanes that will be conventional or shared bike lanes rather than a protected bike lane, meaning that cyclists won’t necessarily have a physical barrier between themselves and traffic.
East 29th Street will have a conventional or shared bike lane between Third and Madison Avenues, as well as west of 11th Avenue, and the DOT noted that atypical blocks on 26th Street present challenges for creating a fully protected bike lane on some of the blocks, including between Broadway and Madison, and between Third and First Avenues.
Two-way traffic on the street between Second and First Avenues makes it especially difficult for that configuration due to space constraints. The street is slightly narrower just north of Madison Square Park between Broadway and Madison Avenue and between Third and First Avenues, meaning that there isn’t space for the bike lane to be protected by a physical buffer and cyclists will share the road with regular traffic.
Creating the new bike lane on the narrower sections of 26th Street will also require the removal of curbside parking on the south side of the street, resulting in the loss of 82 spaces. About 37 spaces will also have to be eliminated on 29th Street between Madison and Third Avenues to make room for the new lane.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that the new bike lanes will be in addition to the new lanes planned for the L train closure and the agency will be working with local community boards and elected officials to address neighborhood needs.
According to the DOT, 2017 was the safest year on record for traffic fatalities but cyclist deaths increased, including five that happened on Midtown streets that don’t have a protected bike lane. The total number of injuries has reportedly dropped 20 percent on streets that have installed protected bike lanes and crashes with injuries have been reduced by 17 percent, the DOT said. Pedestrian injuries are also reportedly down by 22 percent on streets with protected lanes.
The DOT will be presenting the proposal to Community Board 6’s transportation committee on Monday, February 5 and is also presenting the plan to Community Boards 4 and 5.
Local council members have expressed support for the addition of the protected bike lanes.
“The East Side has been an area for unfortunate fatalities,” Councilmember Keith Powers said. “Protected bike lanes in these high-traffic areas are an investment in safety and put us on track for zero fatalities, injuries and incidents.”
Council Member Carlina Rivera pointed to the increase in cyclist fatalities as a reason to increase bike lanes.
“This plan gives bicyclists the safe route into the heart of Midtown Manhattan they need,” Rivera said. “If New York City is going to lead the nation in our fight against climate change and pollution, then we also need to lead when it comes to providing access to this non-polluting form of travel.”