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Do Truncated East Side Bike Lanes Threaten a New York Bike Share?

Monday, June 07, 2010 - 09:27 PM

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) On March 3, New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told WNYC's Brian Lehrer "we can't do bike share until we have safe bike lanes." (Transcript and audio below.)   That was when the city planned to build, this year, 160 new blocks of protected bike lanes along First and Second Avenues, from the Battery to 125th Street.  Those lanes would have helped fill a gaping hole in the city's bike lane map.  From the Flatiron district to Central Park and stretching east from Broadway,  bike lanes are virtually non-existent.  That's a  distance of forty blocks, north to south, and about a mile east to west.

Now, plans to fill in that network on the east side of Manhattan with miles of protected bike lanes have been significantly curtailed.  The city says construction deadlines mean it can only build up to 34th Street this year; it isn't offering a timetable for the build-out.

New York City's announcement comes as Boston and Minneapolis are ready to implement major bike share programs this month; Denver's bike share was launched April 22, and Washington DC is poised to launch a 1200-bike program this fall.  And as Los Angeles, freeway city, is investing $230 million dollars in bike lanes, plus bike stations, showers, and other infrastructure.   As we reported back in February, bike share fever is sweeping urban planners around the U.S.

New York City has taken steps towards implementing a bike share; it has issued a request for expressions of interest, and analyzed -- largely favorably -- opportunities for bike sharing in New York.

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, widely viewed as a national leader in promoting biking in cities, has organized bike sharing demonstrations at her summer-streets festivals, where she closes some Manhattan streets to cars.   She's brought in her friend, musician David Byrne, to publicize bike sharing demos in Union Square.

But she's also said biking needs to be safe in midtown before New York can begin a bike share, and her plan to "double the citywide total [of bike lanes] in just one year" is on hold, for 2010, at least.  DOT isn't offering a timetable for construction of the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes, or bike share in New York.  When asked, DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow emailed "As I'm sure you're aware, we continue to explore the feasibility of bike share."

Click here for the audio link to Brian Lehrer's March 3 interview the relevant portion begins at 9:55.

Here's the transcript:

Janette Sadik-Khan:  One of the big new projects that we have got  coming up that should be exciting to your caller is the First and Second Avenue Select Bus Service that we are putting in which will be the first such corridor in the city. We're  going to be putting in a  a protected bike lane and a dedicated bus lane.  When you look at what the buses are up against in a lot of these corridors you can see the problem. It's like an obstacle course of traffic and its tough to get around

With this one project alone which will go from lower Manhattan all the way to 125street  on First and Second Avenues, we will be putting in 160 blocks of protected bike lanes which will nearly double the citywide total in just one year. So I agree we need to do as much as we can to create a safe biking environment as possible . We've seen double digit increases in biking over the last year and we've continued to build it and they continue to come and we will continue to do whatever we can to build this mobility network into the fabric of the streets of New York.

Brian Lehrer:  We just have a couple minutes, how's bike sharing coming? You were thinking of something like Paris has for a short term bike share in midtown.  But I've heard there just aren't enough bike lanes to make that safe.  Is that the case?

JSK:  What were doing now much like the major cities that have invested in bike share, the first step is to get the infrastructure in place.   And so what we're doing is getting the infrastructure in place that allows you to get from point A to point B in a safe and protected way and  that's the first downpayment on that kind of a program.  So we can't do bike share until we have safe bike lanes.

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