NYC Gets Its First-Ever Physically-Separated Bike Path

The Department of Transportation revealed plans for New York City’s first-ever physically-separated bike lane, or "cycle track," at a Manhattan Community Board 4 meeting last night. The new bike path will run southbound on Ninth Avenue from W. 23rd to W. 16th Street in Manhattan. Unlike the typical Class II on-street bike lane in which cyclists mix with motor vehicle traffic, this new design will create an exclusive path for bicycles between the sidewalk and parked cars.

DOT’s plan also includes traffic signals for bicyclists, greenery-filled refuge areas for pedestrians, a new curbside parking plan, and signalized left-turn lanes for motor vehicles. "The left turn lane will be immediately adjacent to
the bike lane," DOT Bicycle Program Director Josh Benson explained to CB4 members. "As a cyclist you’ll know that if there’s a car next to you, that car is
turning left." Likewise, left-turning drivers’ view of cyclists will be completely unobscured.
The bike lane is 10-feet wide to accommodate street cleaning and emergency vehicles.


DOT planners consulted with Danish urban designer Jan Gehl on the plan, according to
Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Noah Budnick. "They are drawing from international best-practice and being smart about talking to other engineers and planners who have implemented these types of designs," Budnick said. "They really thought holistically about everything that is going on on the street."

These types of physically-separated on-street bike lanes, increasingly referred to as "cycle tracks," are commonly found in bike-friendly cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Livable Streets advocates have long pushed DOT to experiment with this type of bike lane design in New York City. After Benson’s presentation, Community Board 4’s transportation committee voted to approve the DOT plan which is part of a larger pedestrian safety and public space initiative around the intersection of 9th Avenue and 14th Street.

The new bike lane design is a break from previously stated DOT policy.
In March, during discussion of a possible Houston Street bike lane, DOT
officials told Manhattan’s Community 2 that physically-separated bike lanes should only be installed on streets with a maximum of 8 intersections per mile to ensure fewer conflicts with turning vehicles.

A copy of the presentation DOT made at last night’s Community Board meeting can be found here.

  • gecko

    New York City is essentially a warehouse for people, goods, and services. You don’t normally drive cars and trucks into warehouses. The cars and trucks are left outside. You have equipment scaled correctly and application-specific to do whatever is required. Most likely that’s what the future of the city will be like.

    Delivery at Staples Union Square is started from a huge truck parked a block away and completed by electric pallet trucks driven to the store. Future delivery could be by barge to 14th Street and the Hudson or East River and completed by similar pallet trucks more suitably adapted to those long journeys across town.

  • gecko

    Or, even by the L line which recently got a very low rating for carrying people. Don’t think the packages would mind.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Gecko, you mean like The Pushcart War (fictional) or the Chicago freight tunnels (factual)?

  • Do bike lanes only work on one-way streets?

  • steve

    CD, On-street lanes are less common on two-way streets, but there are a number of them. The longest one I can think of is 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

  • gecko

    Angus, Both The Pushcart War and Chicago freight tunnels are charming and maybe a freight car on every subway train and some organization that can build and maintain working street-level freight elevators (also available to people who have trouble with stairs) might be a way to start to limit the need for trucks.

    But, extensive safe cycle tracks would transform this city . . . and, we can only hope that 9th Avenue is a first test run to get the kinks out.

  • gecko

    Elevated veloways or bike rail could be welcome additions on two way streets with medians like Park Avenue and Broadway (uptown) having no conflicts with cars.

  • Dave H.

    Do elevated veloways exist anywhere at present? How much do they cost?

  • gecko

    In this town if they cost $100 million per mile and had the same capacity as subways they would be better than twenty (20) times less expensive.

  • Dane

    Gecko: If you can’t point us to specific working examples, or even just inventors’ sketches, of these human-powered rail systems and elevated veloways, then I think you should stop blabbing about them. Truly, I have no idea what you’re talking about and I’m sure I’m not alone here.

  • gecko

    There were bike rails in New Jersey, Atlantic City, even the Bronx (so I’ve heard) in the 1880s. You’ve probably seen pictures of them and just don’t remember: like riding on a fence in one case, or suspended under a monorail in another. They were just very primitive and even comical. They lost out to “freewheeling” bicycles which later lost out to cars to bring us to the mess we are in today. David Gordon Wilson’s book “Bicycle Science” has a couple of pix. Look at these pictures and then at that of a Model T or the Wright Brothers plane and you might have an idea where things can go. Another, type of “rail bike” is used by workers maintaining railroads, but not really refering to that.

    Perhaps, the most interesting thing about the bike rail idea is that it is fairly accessible technology and local communities should be able to have a large say how they are designed and implemented. How would you design a small human-scaled human-powered vehicle system that runs on a small monorail that has a minimal environmental and aesthetic impact where you live, and is of course, completely safe?

    Veloways are another term for bikeways, but elevated roadways for bikes should not require much stretch of the imagination as do walkways.

    This link refers to a couple of proposals in California: http://www.ci.la.ca.us/PLN/Cwd/GnlPln/TransElt/BikePlan/B3Study.htm

    Elevated human transport systems should probably serve as express routes like highways because they eliminate conflicts with people, other vehicles, and other things, and their success will most likely depend on easily being able to use and get to them.

    A crucial part of broadly implemented elevated human transport systems is safe ground-level human-powered transport because this provides for the extensive distributed and on-demand advantages that bicycle-like technology provides — much better than automobiles — and the 9th Avenue cycle track is a great first step.

  • Dave H.

    Okay, so here of some pictures of what I think you mean by bike rails:

    Historic bike rail:
    http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2006/03/railway_velocipede.html

    Modern bike rails:
    http://www.railbike.com/
    http://www.railbike.be/
    http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2006/03/more_rail_bikes.html

    I’m curious as to why these would be better than just free-steering bicyles. I can come up with a whole lot of disadvantages and hardly any advantages.

    When I googled “elevated bikeway” and “elevated veloway” I mostly came up with your postings on streetsblog, so I imagine these do not exist anywhere. But this is not say to say you can’t convince me they should.

  • Chris Orbach

    This is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve seen yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much for bikers and walkers as anyone. But this stretch of 9th avenue is already loaded with traffic, thanks in no small part to the noisy, stupid Maratime Hotel and its associated clubs. The line of cabs that are backed up ninth avenue will only get worse, with one less lane to work with. Already, the backed-up cabs cause other motorists to lean on their horns with rage. This added congestion, combined with the swaying, screaming, drunk patrons of Hiro and Cabanas (two of the Maratime’s pathetic watering holes), & the music that leaks out, often until 4 a.m., will only make the actual day-to-day and night-to-night quality of life far WORSE for the people who ACTUALLY LIVE HERE.

    It’s a great idea. But they couldn’t have picked a worse place for it. Community Board 4 must have their collective head in a location that doesn’t get much sunlight.

  • Smith

    Ah, yes, Chris. The motorists are honking and angry. Appease the motorists by giving them more and more and more of our street space. That ought to solve the problem.

    And, right: Separated bike lanes are a great idea… in someone else’s neighborhood.

  • John

    “this stretch of 9th avenue is already loaded with traffic”
    Uh, that’s not true. The data is in their presentation. Next question?

  • crihs

    i think this is a great idea. i have been to bogota colombia and they have separated bike lanes all over the city. there bike lanes are attached to the sidewalks or in some instances in the middle of highways/freeways.
    i think this is a great move and a step forward for nyc. the only think that i disagree with is i think that the lanes themselves are a little too wide. the space between the parked cars and the lane is way too wide. someone is not going to get hit with an open door. all you need is 2-3 feet buffer zone. in the bike lane all you need is 4-5 feet and if it was a double, 8 feet. avenues do not need to be cut down to 3 lanes. in the cutting down of lanes i feel that nyc is going backwards. those bus stops in the middle of broadway are a waste of space time and create more traffic. i still do not see the purpose of those stupid bus islands. why cant they make broadway from 8th st. down to the bull bus lanes on the west bound lane(s)? surprisingly the ones on madison work well and sometimes the ones on 5th. the city needs to inforce higher ticket penalties for people who block bike lanes. your basically putting a non- experienced biker in live traffic. that is never a good thing to do. the same penalty that someone would get for blocking the fire lane should be imposed, not that they impose that law. the city has to get more strict with street safety for pedestrians and bikers. much to worried about pedestrians though. giving cyclist tickets for riding on the sidewalk is dumb, considering the cyclist cant get thorugh because someone is double-parked unloading a truck or waiting for a customer.

  • gecko

    DaveH, Freewheeling is great on the ground where it is safe providing the ultimate in distributed on demand capability. Riding on monorails above cars and people has the potential to provide a very controlled environment which can eliminate virtually all accidents where the rider does not have to steer (at least most of the time) and keep the bike upright (like riding without holding the handlebars) and provide higher-speed easier-traveling routes especially for longer distance commutes. And, it may be possible to use the same off-rail freewheeling vehicles on the rail system providing the best of both worlds.

    They may also facilitate high-density travel and be a way to provide power and even automation for hybrid human-electric transport and transit.

    Being “human scale” the rails can be more modular and adaptable and easier to change depending on requirements and not like having to change huge roadways or train trestles.

    How a modern human-scaled rail system in a dense urban environment might work has the potential to be quite complex and serious research, industrial design and development would be the way to investigate and hopefully realize the full potential to meet the considerable demands of developed world transportation.

  • Pedal Power Pete

    Can’t we call this new kind of lane
    …a new kind of name?

    “Bike Lane” seems inadequate in a city teeming with human powered movement.

    What about human powered lane? If we call it a bike lane, then the pedicabs can’t use it (per Local Law 19 passed by city council, when it becomes effective). And bladers and skaters and boarders aren’t vehicles.

    We need real HPL lanes that travel the island, because, e.g., the Hudson River recreational path is inadequate and compromised by crossing vehicles, work vehicles of all types operated at speed, and confused drunk drivers.

    And at stoplights along the HPL, there could be coupon dispensers providing carbon credit coupons to users of the HPL.

    -pedal power pete

  • Chris Orbach

    Smith — I didn’t say it was a bad idea across the board — just that it was a bad idea in this particular location. I didn’t say anything about giving motorists more street space. But giving LESS in an already congested area is madness, especially when you’re trying to SLEEP above the consequences of it.

    And, John — The data is WRONG. I LIVE HERE.

  • Jim

    All of you are stupid. This is a death trap, how many people will have to die from left turning cars before DOT understands how dangerous this for bikers.

  • How many will have to die? At least one more than the lane’s current death toll of zero, and more than are regularly killed in an un-separated lane for it to mean something. How many people will have to die with the mixed infrastructure before you decide it’s not “stupid” to try something new?

  • gecko

    Following the “Safe Routes to School” level of focus for safety for each new cycle track might be a good way to start improving safety as they are being built.

    Closely engaging local businesses and communities would also help.

    A “Towards Zero Deaths” campaign would be ultimate.

  • alex

    Seems like a good idea, but I see no reason why pedestrians will not see the new bike lanes as extensions of the sidewalk and just swarm the bike lane.

  • kiuli

    this is the worst idea ever. causes more traffic than ever before and local businesses are suffering along this stretch. sorry that 2 pedestrians have been killed but thats life. i consistently see pedestrians cross the street as if they owned the world, so it may be their own fault. they do not always have the right of way. you should provide exact details of these instances. propaganda shall i say? lets hope your politically driven agendas do not transform this stretch of 9th ave into a ghost town.

  • “lets hope your politically driven agendas do not transform this stretch of 9th ave into a ghost town.”

    And when it doesn’t, do you promise to get a clue? Nearly all businesses on city streets live and die by _foot_ traffic.

    I find a “thats life” attitude about pedestrian death more than a little appalling. Personally I would like to see fewer people killed regardless of exact circumstances, but surely you’re aware there is a spectrum of them on 9th Av and throughout the city. Sometimes pedestrians make fatal mistakes, other times they’re abruptly killed by cars when crossing entirely correctly or–several dozen times a year–run down on the freaking sidewalk. In all cases if the car were taken out of the picture and replaced with another pedestrian there would have been a harmless jostle, followed by some kind or unkind words, and no need for a funeral service.

    By the way there is only one way to “cause” auto traffic (a different thing from worsening it): driving autos. If you want to cause less, then drive less. A nice side effect is that your chances of having to rationalize that someone’s loss of life was just life after your car has crushingly ended it are correspondingly lowered.

  • ddartley

    Kiuli, if you care about public health and safety, you’ll eventually realize that the ideal future New York City is closer to one in which pedestrians can “cross the street as if they owned the world” than the present is.

  • Eddy

    I like the fact that they will have Traffic Signals for cyclists

  • Bob Lothrope

    Awful, awful. I would never ride a bike on such a dangerous sidepath. Besides the aforementioned problems of deliveries, pedestrians (guess where exactly they’ll wait to cross the avenue) and left-turning cars, there’s also the issue of unplowed snow and other junk, with no way to get around it because a curb is on one side and parked cars are on the other.

    Most of Europe is moving away from these designs.

    Unfortunately the NYPD will probably ticket cyclists who do the safe thing and ride in the street.

  • Walking CITIZEN

    In addition to unplowed snow in the winter … how in the heck to the street sweepers maneuver the bike lanes. Unplowed snow will be a pedestrian hazard. Unswept bike lanes will create a dirtier city.

  • Walking CITIZEN

    GREEN = GO
    RED = STOP

    I have yet to encounter a cyclist who honors the traffic signals.

    GREEN = GO
    RED = STOP

  • Walking CITIZEN

    Why do we spend millions of taxpayer $$$ on this nonsense. In a few years time, the municipal leaders (yeah, right) will be removing these stupid bike lanes. We have one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Let people take the subway or bus and walk.

  • Walking CITIZEN

    In addition to GREEN = GO and RED = STOP

    Bicyclists MUST HONOR *** ONEWAY *** traffic

  • mike

    Walking Citizen — actually, the Department of Sanitation doesn’t have a problem with protected bike lanes.

    If you are so concerned with pedestrian safety, please concentrate on the real issue at hand — motor vehicles.

  • Citizen With Two Feet and a Brain

    Give me a break. If we want to waste time talking about letter-of-the-law, then New York City’s “walking citizens” break the law more than any other group of street users.

    Walking Citizen: You rarely obey your traffic signals, you are often spaced out and oblivious to what’s going on around you, you are frequently found standing three feet off the curb while waiting for the light (often forcing cyclists to veer into on-rushing traffic).

  • Walking Citizen: “We have one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Let people take the subway or bus and walk.”

    But WC, if more people ride bikes, you’re more likely to get a seat on the subway. 😉

  • “I have yet to encounter a cyclist who honors the traffic signals.”

    Whenever you want this to change, just let me know and I’ll be happy to meet you for a pint. As long as you’re paying.

  • Tom RAd

    Too intelligent!! What’s becoming of New Yorkers?

  • Mitchell Brown

    Really? Most of Europe is moving away from these designs? Can you cite anything that supports this ridiculous statement?

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