Monday, October 08, 2007

My Bike NYC Master Plan

Instead of just complaining, I thought I'd actually be constructive and show what we want (that's the royal we, of course).

[Before you go on, take a quick and wild guess as to how many north/south traffic lanes there are spanning the width of Manhattan at 57th St.]

As it stands now, every time I bike, I am never in a bike lane. Not even the paint on street kind. There just aren't any coming from Astoria and going anywhere in the city. There's just not there. Screw the city's master bike plan. It won't happen and even if it did, it's not that good. Lines of paint don't cut it.

I don't need miles and miles of disconnected bike lanes. I want a few good lanes: separated from parked and moving cars, free of pedestrians (the dirty secret of good bike lanes is that as soon as you make them good, people start walking their dogs in the bike lane, making it a bad bike lane).

Here's what I want. I added all the orange lines to the map. Those are my two-way dedicated bike lanes. Each one would replace one lane of traffic. Notice it's not much.

On north/south streets in Midtown, there are 109 lanes for cars! Wow. I counted them (thanks to Google Earth). I had no idea. That's a lot of pavement, about the width of 7 football fields smooshed together. And they say there's no space! Bullshit. Two lanes for bikes is nothing. If it weren't so much work, I'd draw a third lane on my map just on moral principle.

I don't need a bike lane door-to-door. But I do need a bike lane for the bulk of my ride, the part though high-traffic areas. For the short parts, I can manage on each end. For bikes to be the answer, people have to be able to commute on a dedicated bike lane for most of their journey.

Here's the beauty of my plan: it's easy. It doesn't take much. In Manhattan, basically two north and south bike lanes and a couple of cross-town lanes. You don't *need* a bike lane every block. It would be nice, but I'll settle for never being more than a mile from one. Then you can get where you're going. That's the key.

Here's what's important:
1) They've got to be two-ways. Because that's what bikes need. And that's what delivery bikes do (why don't more people care about the safety of all the Mexican and Chinese bikers who bring you dinner?). It takes up less space to make one two-way lane than two one-way lanes. And going a long avenue out of the way is too much to ask a bike going a few blocks.

2) Bridge access is the most important thing for getting into Manhattan. You need to cross the East River safely and legally (and in style). How is a novice biker supposed to exit the Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan and do something planners apparently never though of, head south? It can't be done legally and safely.

Ironically, heading South can be done somewhat safely but illegally, as most bikes do, by going the wrong way under the bridge on 1st Ave and then going west to Second Ave. Avoid the secret car entrance and heading briefly into traffic (usually there's very little). Here again there already is space for a bike lane, if only they could find somewhere to store those Jersey Barriers blocking the way.

Legally, you have to bike too many blocks out of the way and then risk your life and slow down traffic by biking through the main car entrance to the bridge. Crazy. Even by car-planning standards.

3) Allow bikes to actually commute through Central Park. Not just bike around the loop, like bikes and cars do. But bike both ways, like people want to bike. I bike by Central Park every time I go to work and I don't ride through the park. I can't. This fact shocks even jaded non-biking New Yorkers every time I tell them.

You're only allowed to bike through the park clockwise. To go west, I have to go up to 72nd St., so of course I don't. To go east, there's no bike entrance to enter the park from Columbus Circle. So I don't enter. And remember this park is one those "green" lines on the official map. Ha.

4) Access to the West Side path. It's a good path. But between pedestrians, cars, and bikes going very fast (like me), it's not ideally. Still, the problem is there's no good way to get to and from the path, especially down the Village where I'm usually going if I'm on it.

Last but not least, can we stop bike maps from printing any lines where there is actually nothing to help bicyclists? The official NYC bike map has lots of dotted red lines, implying you should bike there routes. You shouldn’t. The map “borrowed” and photoshopped above has red lines around the U.N., giving the illusion that there’s some reason to actually bike on this route, like a bike lane. There isn’t. I understand that it’s nice to pretend the route is complete. But it’s not. That’s the point.


Hi, I'm Rags said...

Good post.

These "super bike lanes" you describe would also attract bicycle traffic away from the surrounding streets. Maybe even car drivers would support that.

Anna said...


I like bikes said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I'd love to meet up with you, maybe get some orange vests and cones and other legitimate-looking gear and paint these lanes on our own!

Zach said...

This is very well thought out. Have you submitted this to anyone? I like the map a lot. I hate the fact that theres no bike lanes to cross midtown, the most dangerous and congested part of manhattan.

PCM said...


I don't think NYC needs another master bike plan right now. But I'd be thrilled if some of this were taken into account.

But no, I haven't submitted it to anybody nor do I plan to. But I'd be thrilled if someone else did.

Anonymous said...

Should update this now that there are many new bike lanes built...and thanks to the idiots that constructed them, Ive had my first accident as Im sure the engineers probably never have ridden a bike

PCM said...

It's September 2011. I'm happy to have this post from 2007 be slightly out-of-date. It reminds us of the progress that has and has not been made (the bike lane on 1st Ave by the UN is good example of progress... on the flip side, the inability to bike through Central Park is still a pain in the ass).

And I still stand by my bike master plan.