Press Releases

July 17, 2023
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NYC DOT to Begin Construction on Third Avenue ‘Complete Street’ Redesign in Midtown & Upper East Side with New Bicycle & Bus Lanes

Transformative project will add roughly 1.9 miles of bike and bus lanes across nearly 40 blocks from East 59th Street to 96th Street, new intersection safety redesigns

Design will include wider bike lane segments to create more welcoming, comfortable riding experience for micromobility users

New York – New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced today that the agency will begin construction next week to redesign a 1.9-mile stretch of Manhattan's Third Avenue featuring a new dedicated offset bus lane and a parking-protected bicycle lane. The "Complete Streets" project will bring critical safety upgrades along a corridor in Midtown and the Upper East Side that is heavily used by delivery cyclists. The project will also deliver faster, more reliable bus service for 50,000 daily riders along the corridor.

"This nearly two-mile project will make a busy stretch of Manhattan smoother and safer for bus riders, pedestrians, and cyclists, including many hard-working delivery workers," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. "DOT has been creative in deploying a range of tools to suit this particular corridor, building on our ‘Charge Safe, Ride Safe' plan with wider bike lanes to encourage more and safer cycling. We've worked closely with the community to come up with a plan that works for everyone, and we look forward to helping those who live, work, and travel through the East Side get around more quickly and safely."

"This project will be transformational for Third Avenue, prioritizing the safety and mobility of all New Yorkers," said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. "Building a Complete Street featuring a dedicated bus lane, protected bike lane, and pedestrian islands is about putting people first."

For this project, NYC DOT is refining its protected bike lane design. Because of the high volume of cyclists operating at varying speeds, the Third Avenue protected lane will include wider segments, which will make cycling conditions more comfortable and safer. The new bike lane will encourage the growth in cycling and micromobility use and will mark the second project in 2023 where NYC DOT has installed wider bicycle lanes, following implementation on Ninth Avenue earlier this year.

The lane will also complement the heavily used First Avenue protected lane as an additional northbound route for bike riders on Manhattan's East Side. Throughout the project and afterwards, DOT will monitor, evaluate and make adjustments as needed. The monitoring process will include reviewing both designs and behavior in terms of how the widened bike lane is being utilized and how cyclists are adapting. The monitoring framework will also measure the capacity of the bike lane and whether it can safely and comfortably accommodate micromobility growth.

These efforts build upon the Adams administration's Charge Safe, Ride Safe E-mobility Action Plan announced earlier this year by incorporating streets designs to accommodate the growth of micromobility devices on city streets and make riding both safer and easier.

Bus Ride Benefits

Third Avenue serves the M98, M101, M102, and M103 bus routes and over 150 buses travel along Third Avenue during the morning peak hour (8-9 a.m.). On average, buses travel at 5.4 miles per hour in the morning peak (6-10 a.m.), and 5.2 miles per hour in the evening peak (3-7 p.m.)—far below the average across the city. The project will add a 24/7 camera-enforced offset bus lane to Third Avenue. Offset bus lanes use the lane adjacent to the parking lane; by retaining space for parking and loading, the bus lane is kept clear for buses. These improvements will complement the spring 2023 installation of Transit Signal Priority (TSP) on Third Avenue between 7th Street and 125th Street.

This bus lane complements existing bus lanes on First Avenue, Second Avenue, and Lexington Avenue, and will provide connections to the Q32, Q60, Q101, M66, M72, M79 SBS, M86 SBS, and M96 services. This project is one of many bus priority projects that DOT is implementing as part of the NYC Streets Plan.

An offset bus lane on First Avenue in Manhattan
An offset bus lane on First Avenue in Manhattan

Wider Bike Lanes

The new bike lane on Third Avenue will be nine feet wide with a three-foot buffer—notably wider than most protected lanes along Manhattan avenues, which are typically six feet wide with a five-foot buffer.

NYC DOT will be adding even wider, 11-foot bike lanes along two uphill segments of Third Avenue—between 64th and 66th streets, as well as between 80th to 82nd streets—to create passing lanes where faster e-mobility users can safely pass pedal cyclists.

At eight intersections with signalized left turn lanes, NYC DOT will also widen bike lanes to 10 feet and protect those bike lanes with physical barriers. These wider lanes will create comfortable passing space as riders approach green signals and additional room for riders waiting at red signals.

The benefits lane widening deliver for micromobility will not only come in the form of travel speeds, but also provide a more comfortable space for cargo bikes used for deliveries and families.

NYC DOT staff will be monitoring the designs and rider behavior and will be surveying users on their experience. Wider bike lane segments will be clearly marked with two side-by-side bike stencils.

Additional Safety Treatments

NYC DOT will also build pedestrian islands to improve visibility at intersections and reduce the time it takes pedestrians to cross the street. Targeted intersection redesigns will include "offset crossings," which improve visibility between cyclists and drivers, and naturally slow driver turns. Other redesigns include adding left turn lanes with dedicated turn signals to reduce conflict between turning vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians.

The project will also create two layover areas for delivery workers, which will help keep sidewalks clear by giving delivery workers new space to rest or wait for deliveries, at locations with high volumes of deliveries on Third Avenue, between 84th and 85th streets, and between 86th and 87th streets. The agency will create these areas by adding painted, mid-block sidewalk extensions and bike corrals, planters, and granite blocks will protect these spaces.

NYC DOT is exploring additional safety upgrades along Manhattan's entire Third Avenue corridor, but the agency will begin work where the highest number of traffic fatalities have occurred in recent years. Six pedestrians and one cyclist were killed between 59th and 96th streets since 2016.

The Third Avenue project was the result of significant community engagement, with the design supported by Manhattan Community Board 8. Implementation is expected to take place through 2023.

"Efficient buses are drivers of equity as dedicated bus lanes have proven to speed up commutes and get New Yorkers relying on public transit to their destination faster and safer," said New York City Transit Department of Buses Senior Vice President Frank Annicaro. "New York City Transit commends NYCDOT for starting construction on this offset bus lane along Third Avenue, which will make transit service along the East Side more reliable for all."

"Breaking ground on the Third Avenue Complete Street redesign is welcome news, making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians alike while delivering more efficient bus service to the East Side," said Congress Member Jerrold Nadler. "We must continue to support innovative efforts that put pedestrians and public transit riders first, not private cars."

"You can practically hear the cheers of cyclists along Third Avenue – this is a major win for safety along one of Manhattan's busiest boulevards," said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. "This innovative approach to accommodating a variety of modes of transportation sets a new precedent for keeping Manhattan moving safely."

"A street is not complete unless it's able to safely accommodate all road users," said Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York. "The redesign and improvements to this stretch of Third Avenue, including its wide protected bike lanes, is an investment in equity, accessibility, safety, and community connectedness whose return is priceless. We at Bike New York commend Commissioner Rodriguez for his vision and leadership and the amazing team at DOT for continuously creating safer and more inclusive streetscapes."

"Expanding and improving bus lanes is critical to speeding up buses," said Andrew Albert, Chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council and MTA Board member. "An offset bus lane on Third Avenue with greater enforcement will help the tens of thousands of riders on the M98, M101, M102, M103, and the many express buses along this corridor, keep moving without being blocked by deliveries, cars, or other vehicles. We hope the ABLE bus lane enforcement camera system will be an integral part of this new offset bus lane. We thank NYCDOT and the MTA for working together so bus riders can move faster than a chicken!"

"This project is a great example of how varying street treatments can be used to respond directly to a corridor's needs," said Chelsea Dowell, Director of Communications at Open Plans. "If the bike lanes are crowded and chaotic, widen them. If delivery workers are competing for space with other users, provide the designated space they need. If bus service is slow, install automated enforcement to keep lanes clear. Kudos to DOT for being intentional about which tools will best serve this stretch of Third Avenue, making the street work better and saving lives in the process."

"Not only will the Third Avenue Complete Street deliver faster, more reliable bus service for 50,000 daily riders on Manhattan's Upper East Side, it will prove a concept relevant to over a million riders citywide," said Riders Alliance Senior Organizer Jolyse Race. "From Fordham Road to Flatbush Avenue, New York's bus riders look forward to the concepts that work on Third Avenue being implemented to save valuable time and dignify public transit in every community. The City's promises to confront climate change and racial and economic inequity hinge on staying the course toward better bus service for all New Yorkers."

"Third Avenue needs space for people, and today's announcement from Commissioner Rodriguez is excellent news for pedestrians, people riding bikes, and bus riders. When we reclaim space for people, as we've called for in NYC 25x25, we give New Yorkers more reliable, sustainable, and efficient ways to move around New York City," said Danny Harris, Executive Director at Transportation Alternatives. "Wider bike lanes, safe crossings, dedicated space for buses — this is a project that can and must be replicated across New York City. We look forward to this groundbreaking, and groundbreakings of complete streets projects across all five boroughs."

"Over the years we have seen successful implementations of Complete Streets elements like protected bike lanes and bus lanes on 1st, 2nd, and Lexington Aves, but 3rd has remained largely untouched, and we have seen the results in the fatal crash statistics," said Renae Reynolds, Executive Director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "Today, this five lane road (seven if you count parking lanes) is increasingly a relic of the past, and a reminder of how dangerous and car-dominated all of Manhattan's avenues used to be. It is high-time 3rd Ave is opened up to the majority of New Yorkers, not just drivers. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is thrilled to see the lessons learned from earlier generations of protected bike lanes applied here. These extra wide lanes will accommodate larger electric cargo bikes, help reduce bicycle congestion on 1st Ave, and offer a more central safe northern route for people cycling throughout the Upper East Side. We hope to eventually see these treatments extended beyond this neighborhood to stretch the entire length of the Avenue in Manhattan, and also urge the Department to consider accommodating bi-directional bicycle travel on all its avenues, just like pedestrians enjoy on the sidewalk. There is plenty of room in this roughly 70-foot wide stretch of roadway to accommodate free mobility for all New Yorkers, no matter how they travel."