Bike or Walk in Midtown? Make Sure Tonight’s CB 5 Meeting Isn’t an Anti-Bike Kvetchfest

Midtown streets cater too much to cars -- and there are too many flaws in the local walking and biking networks -- to get distracted by bike-hating complainers.

Sixth Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, where a driver injured a Citi Bike rider last winter. Photo: Google Maps
Sixth Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, where a driver injured a Citi Bike rider last winter. Photo: Google Maps

If you know what it’s like to walk on Midtown’s cramped sidewalks or bike on its frenetic, car-dominated streets, consider dropping in on tonight’s Community Board 5 transportation committee meeting.

CB 5 encompasses most of Midtown from 14th Street to 59th Street between Eighth and Lexington avenues. The item on tonight’s agenda is a “[r]eview of bike and pedestrian safety concerns in the West 50s.”

Word is that the event was prompted by people agitating for a forum to complain about cycling in the district. Without sane voices this meeting could turn into an anti-bike gripefest. Which is too bad, because Midtown needs more space for walking and biking, not another NYPD “crackdown” on cyclists.

While District 5 includes the Times Square pedestrian plazas and some protected bike lane segments, there’s still much to do. Sidewalks are too narrow to handle all the foot traffic and people have to walk in the roadbed at some times of day. This also makes some stretches of protected bike lanes impassible for people on bicycles.

Most of the district still has no safe bike infrastructure. There are no east-west bike lanes more substantial than some paint and markings on the pavement, and the Fifth and Sixth Avenue protected bike lanes don’t extend north into the Midtown core.

Motorists have killed no fewer than three cyclists and seven pedestrians in District 5 since January 2016, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. Seven of those victims were known or believed to have been walking or biking with the right of way — including Dan Hanegby and Michael Mamoukakis, both struck by charter bus drivers while riding bikes on crosstown streets in separate crashes five days apart in June.

Manhattan CB 5 typically sides in favor of streets safer for biking and walking, like the Fifth Avenue bikeway and improvements at Union Square. Extending these types of improvements throughout the district would be a huge benefit to both people on foot and people on bikes. Now is no time to get sidetracked by anti-bike kvetching.

Tonight’s CB 5 transportation committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Bryant Park Corporation, 111 W. 40th Street, #2400.