After Two Meetings, CB 6 Still Hasn’t Decided on QBB Bike Access Plan

At the end of its second meeting on a DOT proposal to improve bike safety on the Manhattan approaches to the Queensboro Bridge, the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 6 reached a conclusion. The committee needed more time to make up its mind.

The highlight of the plan is a two-way protected bike lane on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. Image: ##

“We will have a decision by June,” chair Fred Arcaro said.

North of 59th Street, Community Board 8’s transportation committee decided last week that two meetings was enough, and voted to support the plan with modifications. It’s scheduled to go before the full board on May 22.

Last night, Robert Cohen, who is not an appointed board member but sits on the CB 6 committee, said that DOT’s presentation, with diagrams, maps, and photo simulations, wasn’t enough. He needed a walk-through with DOT to fully comprehend the proposal. Other committee members said that they had already done a walk-through, but Arcaro went ahead and asked DOT to do a site visit with committee members.

DOT had tweaked the proposal [PDF] since it first presented the plan last month. It now includes a traffic signal for southbound cyclists using the proposed two-way protected bike lane between 59th and 60th Streets. In addition, signal timings at the intersection of 59th Street and First Avenue have been changed so that pedestrians and cyclists will cross the intersection at different times than drivers turning from First Avenue to 59th Street on their way to the Queensboro Bridge.

DOT also explained how cyclists traveling north would navigate the double left-turn lanes on First Avenue. Between 55th and 56th Streets, the shared lane stencils would begin migrating right. Between 56th and 57th Street, the markings would be in the third lane from the left, with the two left-most lanes dedicated for drivers turning onto 57th and then 59th Streets.

Of the roughly two dozen people in attendance last night, many were skeptical of putting a shared lane near the middle of the street, saying it would not be an easy maneuver for cyclists trying to bridge the Midtown and Upper East Side sections of the First Avenue protected bike lane.

Steve Vaccaro suggested DOT install flexible posts, like the ones separating turn lanes from through lanes on Third Avenue at the turn-off onto the Queensboro, to prevent drivers from skipping the queue and cutting across the path of cyclists in the shared lane. DOT’s Alan Ma replied that First Avenue is 70 feet wide, and with seven lanes of traffic, there isn’t space for anything other than a double-white line. “We’ll work with our engineers to see if we can squeeze it in, but it’s tough to find that room,” he said.

With so many left-turning drivers at 57th and 59th Streets, DOT said it can't do much for cyclists or pedestrians on that part of First Aveune. Image: ##

Near the end of the meeting, vice chair Molly Hollister asked if the committee would be moving ahead on a resolution, but Arcaro said it would not, before checking with Ma to see if it would affect DOT’s implementation timeline.

“We’d like to get it done this year,” Ma said.