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Amid a series of cyclist deaths and injuries in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has started work to fortify bike lanes with four-ton protective Jersey barriers, as Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez vows to secure half of the city’s lanes by the end of 2023.
“New York City’s cyclists deserve to be safe everywhere, but especially in protected lanes — where drivers will too often disrespect and block that critical space,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “We have an actionable, concrete plan to protect cyclists and we are going to deliver on this work to keep our lanes clear. We thank our friends in the advocacy community for helping us identify top targets – and we know that these 20 miles of barriers will make a real difference.”
Ydanis and the Adams administration had initially promised completion of the project in their first 100 days — there was no mention, however, of the updated timeline in the press release. Included in the initiative are Hell’s Kitchen blocks W40th St bw 11/12th Ave and 11th Ave bw W39/40th St, which as some observers noted, were already announced in a separate October 2021 DOT project entitled, “Biketober.”
The 11th Ave stretch of barriers (and bike lane) just misses W37th Street, where Hell’s Kitchen cyclist Kwok Kwan was struck and killed earlier this year. Local activist Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS told W42ST, “We hope the New York City Department of Transport will extend the protected bike lane on 11th Avenue from W38th to W23rd very soon,” though she was encouraged by the recent addition of new barriers.
Neighborhood advocacy for enhanced bike safety continues to grow, as City Council Member Erik Bottcher, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and transportation safety activists held a press conference this month to demand tangible action from city and state officials in prioritizing the installation of Jersey barriers and pedestrian refuge islands, reducing speed limits, and enforcing congestion pricing.
City Council District 3, comprising Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, the Theater District, the Garment District and Columbus Circle, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Flatiron, and Hudson Square has the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries in the city, according to NYC Crash Mapper data from the past two years.
Representatives from Transportation Alternatives, some of whom spoke at Bottcher’s press conference earlier this month, were heartened by the DOT’s announcement. Said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris — “Real protection, not just plastic or paint, is needed to keep people riding bikes safe. The announcement by Commissioner Rodriguez to upgrade 20 miles of plastic-marked bike lanes will save lives.”