DOT Will Close Remaining Gaps in First Avenue Protected Bike Lane

DOT plans to replace sharrows on First Avenue between 55th and 59th Streets with a parking-protected bike lane later this year. Image: DOT
DOT plans to replace sharrows on First Avenue between 55th and 59th Streets with a parking-protected bike lane later this year. Image: DOT

Soon there will be a continuous northbound protected bike lane along the length of First Avenue, from Houston Street to the Harlem River. On Monday, the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted for DOT’s plan to plug the critical gaps in physical protection near the United Nations and the approach to the Queensboro Bridge [PDF].

From 55th to 59th Streets the First Avenue bike route currently consists of sharrows, and between 47th Street and 48th Street there is no physical protection. The new project would protect those five blocks. At the intersections of 57th Street and 59th Street, cyclists and drivers turning across the bike lane would have separate signal phases to eliminate conflicts.

In addition to creating a safer bike route, the redesign will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians. The sharrows on this part of First Avenue were not keeping people safe. On the four blocks from 55th to 59th, one cyclist and three pedestrians were severely injured, and three pedestrians were killed between 2010 and 2014.

DOT announced its intention to close what was then a 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected lane last May. The project was supposed to happen in two phases in quick succession, starting in the summer. But the first phase was delayed until the fall, and the second phase didn’t get off the ground until this year.

In addition to closing the gap from 55th to 59th, DOT’s plan resolves flaws in the design by United Nations Plaza. Motorists frequently ignore the bike lane between 47th and 48th, which is only separated from traffic by a painted buffer. There were multiple pedestrian and cyclist injuries at those intersections between 2010 and 2014, according to DOT.

DOT’s design update swaps the bike lane with the curbside parking lane and calls for two concrete pedestrian islands. The island at 48th Street would ensure that motorists merge into an orderly one-lane file before turning onto First Avenue:

Image: NYC DOT

Over on Second Avenue, meanwhile, the southbound complement to the First Avenue bike lane remains very much incomplete.

In March, DOT Manhattan community liaison Colleen Chattergoon told CB 6 the city would present a protected bike lane proposal for Second Avenue between 43rd Street and 59th Street in May or June. A DOT spokesperson said today that the plan is on track to be presented this month.

Coupled with the protected lane above 68th Street that’s set to be installed subway construction wraps up, that would leave the nine blocks between 68th and 59th Street unprotected, as well as the nine blocks between 43rd and 34th Street. Those areas are particularly treacherous for cyclists, who must contend with heavy Queensboro Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel car traffic.

You can testify for the First Avenue project — and for improvements on Second Avenue — at tonight’s CB 6 full board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall A at the NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue.