Consulting with local communities, DOT will look to add two pairs of lanes on cross-streets in the 20s and 50s;
In 2017, the safest year on record for traffic fatalities, cyclist deaths increased, including five along Midtown streets lacking protected lanes
The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that it would present a series of proposals for new crosstown protected bicycle lanes in Midtown. In the coming weeks, DOT will make presentations for street redesign for consideration by Midtown Manhattan Community Boards, starting at Community Board 4 this evening. (See proposed plan here). The plan seeks to improve safety for cyclists/pedestrians while allowing businesses’ delivery access and keeping other vehicles in motion on some of New York City’s busiest streets. See New York Times article here.
“We were heartened by the progress we made with Vision Zero in New York City during 2017, the safest-ever year on our city’s streets. However, the increase in cyclist fatalities indicates just how much work we still have to do,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Too many of the cyclist tragedies happened along Midtown streets without protected lanes. With plans already in place to add new protected lanes for the L train closure next year, we look forward to consulting closely with Midtown Manhattan’s community boards and elected officials to address the need for bike lanes farther uptown. With its vibrant commercial activity, major transportation hubs and must-see tourist destinations, Midtown presents both great challenges and great opportunities for safer cycling.”
As announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, New York City in 2017 saw its fewest-ever traffic fatalities, 214. However, cyclist fatalities increased to 23, from 18 in 2016. Of those fatalities, 9 were in Manhattan and 5 were in Midtown (between 14rd and 59th Streets), including the first-ever death of a Citi Bike rider last June -- on West 26th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. None of the 2017 cyclist fatalities in Midtown occurred in protected lanes, which are generally separated from moving vehicles by physical barriers, including parked cars.
In December, DOT had announced with the MTA that the agencies‘ joint mitigation plan for the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel closure in 2019 would include Manhattan‘s first two-way 1.5-mile protected crosstown path on 13th Street. New protected bike lanes are also planned for the East 20s, to connect to new East River ferry service planned by the MTA.
Unlike the two-way lane being added to 13th Street, the DOT proposals for Midtown will focus on creating two pairs of one-way protected crosstown bicycle lanes. DOT will propose the first pair of lanes for 26th Street eastbound and 29th Street westbound. These lanes would be complemented by a pair of protected lanes south of Central Park in the 50s, on streets still to be determined after further community consultation and study. The anticipated budget is less than $500,000 for each new lane.
In recent years, daily cycling in Manhattan generally and in Midtown specifically has seen enormous growth. Bike commuting in Manhattan rose 98% between 2010 and 2015, the largest growth of any borough. Over the past decade, New York City has dramatically expanded the city’s bicycle infrastructure, including a robust north-south cycling network throughout Manhattan. In 2013, the arrival of Citi Bike also brought an increase in ridership, including within Midtown, where there were 6 million Citi Bike trips in 2017 alone.
While the number of cyclists has increased, DOT’s Safer Cycling report, released in July 2017, found a trend of “safety in numbers.“ That is, cycling in New York City has grown safer as ridership increases have far outweighed the recent increases in tragic cyclist fatalities. On the mostly north-south avenue thoroughfares where it has installed protected bike lanes in Manhattan -- including on Broadway, as well as along 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th , Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues -- total injuries have decreased by 20%. In addition, crashes with injuries were reduced by 17% and pedestrian injuries are down 22%.
“Last summer’s tragic crashes threw a spotlight on the glaring need for safe, protected crosstown bike routes in mid-Manhattan,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I’m glad the Department of Transportation has responded and put together a plan, and look forward to hearing the input of the areas’ community boards.”
“Extending protected bike lanes to areas within Midtown Manhattan, especially in the West 50s, will have a major impact on the safety of my constituents who frequently have trouble navigating those intersections,” said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. “It is essential that the New York City Department of Transportation also continue to fix problematic intersections where necessary.”
“Promoting the use of bikes in our city will alleviate congestion and help us in achieving our 80x50 environmental goals,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “We have made much progress in making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, but we must continue to push enhanced safety for more New Yorkers to consider biking a real transportation option. I look forward to working with Speaker Corey Johnson, Commissioner Trottenberg, and my colleagues in government to reduce transit fatalities across the city.”
“The East Side has been an area for unfortunate fatalities,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “Protected bike lanes in these high-traffic areas are an investment in safety and put us on track for zero fatalities, injuries, and incidents.”
"The fact that in 2017, cyclist fatalities rose while overall pedestrian fatalities declined shows that we cannot neglect the safety concerns of bicyclists. This plan gives bicyclists the safe route into the heart of Midtown Manhattan they need,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “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.”
"We're thrilled to see the New York City Department of Transportation's plans to bring protected bike lanes to crosstown streets in Manhattan,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “This decision shows that city leaders have been paying attention not just to the demands of everyday cyclists, but also to the data which show that protected bike lanes save lives. Manhattan's crosstown streets are like most local city streets, with parking along each curb and a wide general purpose lane -- which drivers use not just for travel but also for double parking. Sometimes there are painted bike lanes or 'sharrows,' but usually there's nothing at all that says, 'this is a place where bikes belong.' The DOT's proposal is a bold one, and we commend them for taking this important step towards zero deaths on New York City streets."
In 2017, DOT had unprecedented growth in its nearly 1,200-mile bicycle network, adding a record 25 miles of protected lanes. In addition to considering new Midtown crosstown protected lanes, DOT has several bike route projects underway across all five boroughs. Additionally, as the result of a collaborative effort with DOT, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the city will focus on bicycle safety efforts in 10 new Bicycle Priority Districts - seven in Brooklyn and three in Queens - which represent only 14% of the city’s bicycle volume, but have 23% of cyclist fatalities or severe injuries. A comprehensive plan to address safety includes research, engineering and planning, enforcement, education and legislation.