The Department of Transportation revealed a sweeping redesign of 10th Avenue on Wednesday evening to Community Board 4 — creating a protected bike lane from W14th Street to W52nd Street that’s also intended to cut danger with concrete islands at the busiest crossings of a road where three people been killed in the last six years.
The islands would be installed at the busiest crossings at W27th Street, W41st and W42nd Streets, with the project planned for installation between late spring and early fall 2023. But the community board did not give the plan approval, saying they wanted more protection for pedestrians, citing fears of the project’s length, and emphasizing that they wanted to see physical barriers built between cars and cyclists, instead of painted signage or flexible posts.
In addition to three deaths in the last six years, 140 pedestrians and 68 cyclists were injured between 2016 and 2020. Safety advocates and City Council Member Erik Bottcher rallied this February in Hell’s Kitchen in favor of protected bike lines on 10th Avenue in the site where, ironically, a taxi cab crashed onto the sidewalk this May.
Patrick Kennedy of the DOT presented the proposal to Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4)’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday, saying it would address pedestrian safety on the thoroughfare that has historically been known as “Death Avenue”.
The new plan would add a bike lane on the left side of the road, separated from the roadway with flexible posts and a painted island. There will still be four lanes running uptown on 10th, but they will be shrunk from 11ft to 10ft. And each block would lose an average of three parking spaces in the redesign.
The existing 10ft parking lane will be moved to the right of the cycle lane. Loading zones and dining sheds would be moved too, leaving some restaurants without their outdoor dining space as parking space is cut near intersections. Kennedy said the DOT would listen to feedback from the community board and other stakeholders before moving ahead with the plans.
“I am very, very excited to finally have a bike lane on 10th Avenue,” said committee member and cycling safety advocate Charlie Todd. “I’m curious what sort of protection you’re going to provide to ensure that cars do not use the lane — that’s a problem on 11th Avenue, particularly near the tunnel,” he added.
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Todd cited the success of flex posts implemented on the 8th Avenue protected bike lane as an example of a driver deterrent that could be installed on 10th Avenue. “I know that the flex post is not actually much protection against a 7,000 pound SUV, but even just psychologically, it makes the lanes look safer and I think it makes everyone (sort of) behave — there’s less plausible deniability from the motorist breaking the rules.”
Another concern for committee members and community participants was the timeline and commitment to completion by the DOT, who have yet to finish work on the redesigned 9th Avenue sidewalk expansion and bike lane. “It’s been 18 months, and the bike lane isn’t done yet,” said Todd.
Dozens of community members added their public comments on the meeting, with several West Side residents debating the safety of bike lanes and their effect on traffic.
“I know there’s a lot of parents like me, who feel like the addition of bike lanes at this time is kind of problematic for us — when we’re having to use alternate forms of transportation to get our kids around and get our parents around,” said community member Vanessa, who told the committee that she relied on Uber for transportation and felt unsafe on the subway.
“I don’t think that Uber is an option that’s available to a lot of New Yorkers, and I don’t know if that should be the basis of transportation planning writ large in the city,” replied committee co-chair Dale Corvino.
“Most parents don’t take Ubers everywhere,” added community member and parent Cody, who spoke in favor of the bike lanes. “Most parents walk with their children. Most parents take the subway with their children. Most parents bike with their children. We do. We live here and apparently are the silent minority, but we’re here, and we want our streets safer for our kids — because we can’t afford to take Ubers everywhere.”
Other residents raised safety concerns about those unable to use the bike lanes. “I can’t bike because of my physical disabilities,” said community member Katie. “I have to take the M11 everywhere. My southbound ride along 9th Avenue has become significantly slower since the bike lane came in,” she added. “I can’t afford Uber, I can’t ride bikes. My body’s not able and I can’t walk long distances. So I think you need to look at the perspective of disabled people a little bit more in all of this.”
Many residents as well as committee members expressed skepticism about the thoroughness of the DOT’s designs and their accountability in completing the project in a timely manner. “I’m deeply, deeply, deeply disappointed with this design and in particular with the lack of physical hard protection for the bike lane,” said resident Eric.
“This is a grave disservice to the memory of Madison Lyden [a cyclist killed on Central Park West in 2018],” Eric said. “These lanes are going to be filled with vehicles on this current design. What’s particularly disgusting about the DOT’s approach here is they say, ‘Oh, we’ll rely on enforcement.’ Well guess what? The DOT has opposed enforcement. Without enforcement and without physical barriers, you’re asking for more danger, you’re asking for more death. This is just really unacceptable.”
Co-chair Corvino said that the committee would request a significantly more detailed plan from the DOT — including elements addressing the need for additional barriers, a potential dedicated bus lane, the effects and regulations of parking on the avenue, and the effect of commercial loading zones — for their further review before approval.
“Generally we support the implementation of the 10th Avenue bike lane,” Corvino said. “We are definitely going to request more detailed plans. We definitely are encouraged to hear about the pedestrian refuges and concrete pedestrian refuges where they’re planned. We are going to advocate for several more. We have our concerns about the phasing and the completion, and we’ll perhaps suggest that this is broken up into smaller phases which can be completed more thoroughly.”
Todd told W42ST after the meeting that he personally is “thrilled that 10th Avenue is finally getting a protected bike lane. I bike my children on our cargo bike regularly through the neighborhood and this lane will mean so much,” he said. “The DOT presentation tonight is a good start, and I’m grateful for all of the community input asking the DOT to go even further and provide more vertical protection for cyclists and more concrete islands, rather than painted islands, for pedestrians. As many said in the meeting, we should be building bike lanes that all types of cyclists feel safe in, including children! I’m happy that Erik Bottcher has made this a priority for our district.”
At the presentation’s end, transportation committee co-chair Christine Berthet concluded: “I’m very excited about the bike lane coming up, but I am not there as far as supporting it yet. We don’t have the details. How many more meetings are we going to need to have in order to get the right solution? We can’t be spending our lives going back, and back, and back, and back and asking for the same things that we know work.”