Monday, July 18, 2011

Sharing the Road on Manhattan’s East Side

By Elizabeth Manus

Prepared for the CIVITAS Spring 2011 Newsletter

Protected bike lanes on Columbus Avenue

Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told an audience of design-minded people in midtown Manhattan that now is the time “to build more choices” into “underperforming” streets that were engineered for car travel. Thus, she stated, bicycle lanes represent an important part of DOT’s overall strategy. Indeed, over the past four years approximately 250 miles of bike lanes have been introduced into the 6,000 miles of city streets.

The implementation of Select Bus Service (SBS) along First and Second Avenues has afforded DOT an opportunity to redesign a part of Manhattan’s East Side streetscape to provide a place for bicycle travel. Accordingly, DOT planners are in the process of considering various bike lane designs along these corridors.

Essentially, there are four types of bike lanes DOT can choose from. Along a physically protected bike lane, cyclists travel a green strip running between the sidewalk on one side and a white painted area, flanked most often by a parked-car lane, on the other. In a buffered lane, cyclists have the parking lane on one side and a parallel dashed-line painted buffer on the other; the barrier is visual, not physical. The conventional bike lane, designated by pavement striping, is the most common type of lane. Finally, the shared lane is a route cyclists share with motor vehicles. All bikeways feature the symbol of a helmeted rider perched on a bicycle, and a shared lane is marked additionally by chevrons.

Currently, on the First and Second Avenue SBS routes cyclists enjoy access to protected lanes below 34th Street, a situation which provides maximum protection. When protected lanes are laid, “injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations,” according to a March 21, 2011 memo by Howard Wolfson, Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications. For this reason, bike advocacy groups are urging that protected lanes be extended north to 59th Street and in East Harlem.

In considering which type of bike lane to make part of the roadway, DOT designers, planners and engineers will be analyzing everything from bicycle volume to parking needs, pedestrian crossing distances and store loading plans. Many cyclists stress that to travel on a physically unprotected lane, even under optimal pavement conditions, is to travel unsafely.

Find more about NYC bicycling routes and regulations for riding at: