A new column in StreetsBlog criticizes the slow, inconsistent pace of bicycle lane development in Manhattan’s east side. As safe streets activist Liam Jeffries writes, New York City’s Department of Transportation has begun turning temporary bike lanes established last year on 61st Street and 62nd Street into permanent fixtures. The temporary lanes were installed as an “emergency measure” after the number of cyclists on the city streets increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. The process of establishing permanent lanes began a few months ago, when the DOT removed temporary lane lines before painting permanent ones. According to Jeffries, reckless driving around the Queensboro Bridge exit on 61st Street and Third Avenue increased at the same time the lane markings were removed, then decreased as the permanent lanes were installed.
While community members have been demanding permanent bike lanes for years, Jeffries notes that the DOT’s slow approach to installing them “has made for wildly inconsistent safety conditions from intersection to intersection as cyclists navigate uncompleted to almost finished stretches.” Tracking the project’s progress, Jeffries observes that the 61st Street lanes are nearly completed “from Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue and Lexington Avenue to First Avenue,” though the lanes don’t yet have green paint or flexible bollards. The nearly finished 62nd Street lanes, meanwhile, extend from the Queensboro Bridge exit to Park Avenue. Unfortunately, Jeffries writes, the lanes beyond those segments “are laughably incomplete”: partially painted or not painted at all and still used by motorists “as de facto parking and turning lanes,” jeopardizing the safety of cyclists.
The 61st Street and 62nd Street lanes are planned to connect with the cyclist and pedestrian pathway on the Queensboro Bridge. As Jeffries notes, this plan remains incomplete too, just like a two-way bicycle lane between First Avenue and York Avenue on 60th Street. His column ultimately concludes that the Department of Transportation has allowed “disappointing” delays in the construction of measures designed to improve safety for the Upper East Side community.