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Transportation & Environment

Proposal by Department of Transportation for installation of crosstown protected bike lanes on 38th Street and 39th Streets

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, July 09, 2020, the following resolution passed with a vote of 40 in favor; 3 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, The New York City Department of Transportation ("DOT") has proposed the installation of an eastbound protected bicycle lane on 38th Street and a westbound protected bicycle lane on 39th Street; and

WHEREAS, The Vision Zero program mandates a multi-agency effort to improve safety measures for all road users, including implementation of a connected protected bicycle lane network; and

WHEREAS, DOT has previously installed—and Community Board Five has approved—crosstown protected bicycle lanes on 26th and 29th Streets and on 52nd and 55th Streets, as elements of an connected protected bicycle lane network, with DOT reporting increased volumes of cyclists and maintained vehicle travel times relative to the prior configurations; and

WHEREAS, The 38th and 39th Street protected lanes will complete a grid of east-west lanes throughout Community Board Five’s district accessible every half mile throughout Midtown, making them the final installment of the intended network in the district; and

WHEREAS, Among candidate crosstown streets that would satisfy the half-mile accessibility of the connected bicycle network between the previously-installed protected lanes, 26th and 29th Streets are the only streets that meet the most criteria for the connected network, including: connections to destinations such as Times Square, Bryant Park, the Javits Center, and ferries; continuity across town via uninterrupted routes; connectivity to the 1st Avenue bicycle lane; and the most blocks on the crosstown route with width greater than 36 feet; and

WHEREAS, Typical current conditions on 38th and 39th Street blocks consist of an 8-foot parking lane, a 10-foot travel lane, a 10–11-foot shared shared lane, and an 8-foot parking lane, configurations which exhibit, according to DOT, travel lanes that are narrow for simultaneous travel, excess traffic capacity during off-peak hours, inefficient use of curb access, curbside regulations that could be updated for more frequent turnover to increase availability, and no dedicated space for bicycles, with existing shared lanes frequently blocked; and

WHEREAS, DOT installed a temporary protected bicycle lane treatment on 38th and 39th Streets in May 2020, with materials including barrels, cones, signs, and temporary markings, converting the equivalent of one shared lane to a protected bicycle lane to respond to the need for more alternative transportation capacity in the immediate aftermath of New York’s COVID-19 PAUSE order, which reduced both vehicle traffic and the capacity of the subway system; and

WHEREAS, Previous crosstown protected bike lanes consisted mostly of two typical designs, including a delineator-protected and curbside buffered bike lanes replacing one travel lane, and parking-protected bike lanes replacing one travel lane; and

WHEREAS, DOT proposes here a reconfiguration with the typical block designs—including a 10-foot travel lane, a 9-foot parking lane, and a new 4-to-5-foot-wide bicycle lane protected by a painted buffer zone and the 9-foot parking lane—plus an 11-foot “rush hour” lane allowing rush hour travel, overnight parking, and off-hour loading; and

WHEREAS, DOT proposes to design this infrastructure according to now-standard principles, to paint the newly-created bicycle lane with green-colored paint, accented with white-colored markings to indicate the proper direction of bicycle traffic, and to new turn lanes at intersections, with the specific innovation of the hour-based “rush hour” lane; and

WHEREAS, Specific and legitimate concern was raised concerning the potential for traffic backups en route to the Lincoln Tunnel using 39th Street, as well as concerns around the capacity of the reconfigured 39th Street as an evacuation route in the event of an emergency, which DOT stated meets all needs and requirements; and

WHEREAS, While Community Board Five is generally supportive of the redesign of these particular streets, and has consistently been supportive of the growing bike lane network, board members continue to raise concerns about the degree to which the posted rules and regulations of the bicycle network are followed appropriately, to be addressed by both DOT and enforcement officials as the city continues to upgrade its infrastructure to allow for more cycling activity; therefore be it:

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of DOT’s proposal for the installation of a protected bicycle lanes on 38th and 39th Streets; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that the DOT redouble substantive and long-term efforts at teaching and advocating for safe cycling behavior, including delivery cyclists, Citibike users, cyclists riding at extremely high speeds, and e-bike users; and that these efforts go significantly beyond the current temporary deployment of “Street Ambassadors” for a period of weeks during and after the installation of new bike lanes; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that enforcement of illegal cycling behavior be reconsidered and reinvented by the City, to end reliance on “ticket sweeps,” and to find ways to incorporate regular and predictable enforcement of traffic safety laws for cyclists into standard daily enforcement in Manhattan, via safe and appropriate enforcement on vehicles similar to those being regulated; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that DOT return to CB5 after the installation of these proposed bike lanes as soon as practical after significant data can be collected related to the use of these streets after their redesign, including but not limited to the number of total vehicles (cars and bicycles) using the street after the redesign, compared with the equivalent time period before the street redesign, along with residential concerns, and pedestrian safety statistics.

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