New York City transportation officials are creating a pair of protected Manhattan crosstown bike lanes on streets that have a sidewalk curb on one side, and a row of parked cars on the other. They would be the first such lanes in Manhattan that stretch almost completely from the East River to the Hudson. Currently, protected bike lanes in Manhattan only run north–south.
One of the protected lanes will be on 26th Street (eastbound) where there is no bike lane. The other is one-way westbound on 29th Street. It replaces an existing – unprotected – lane which is marked by paint. Both are approximately 1.8 miles and should be complete by the end of 2018, according to city transportation officials. In December 2017, the city also announced plans for new crosstown protected bike lanes running in both directions on a 1.5-mile stretch of 13th Street.
City officials say the program to build protected bike lanes in Midtown Manhattan is in response to the 2017 death of five cyclists in crashes between 14th and 59th Streets, including the first fatality involving the bike share program.
Throughout the city, 2017’s 23 bicyclist fatalities marked an increase from 18 in 2016, while pedestrian and vehicle-related fatalities noticeably declined over that same year. Cycling is becoming an integral part of New York City’s transportation infrastructure, and officials are committed to building 50 miles of new bike lanes every year, 10 miles of which they say would be protected lanes. In 2017, a record 25 miles of protected lanes were added to the city’s 1,100+ miles of bike lanes, with 451 miles of them being protected.
But will they make a difference in bike riding fatalities? Granted, part of the uptick in cycling fatalities includes the deaths from the Halloween terror attack. But there are also indications that maybe bike riding enforcement needs more study. It also seems that putting more teeth into enforcing those laws – not limited to increased fines – could help.
Criticism from residents and some elected officials about cyclist behavior continues to grow. Opposing complaints that cyclists speed, run red lights, travel in the wrong direction on one-way streets and pose a danger to themselves and pedestrians arise every time the city proposes to add bike lanes in Manhattan and Queens. And others complain that the laws which govern bicycle traffic are ambiguous at best, especially those that apply to violations of bike lane ordinances. On social media, one cyclist complained of unmarked NYPD cars pulling cyclists over (and hanging out in the bike lane while writing tickets, thus forcing other cyclists out of the protected lane and subjecting them to being “pulled over”).
So maybe building protected lanes is part of the answer; the rest of it could involve organic planning and enforcement which makes bicycling a safer and more enjoyable transportation alternative.
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