BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Midtown will soon become easier terrain for cyclists.
At its April 11 full-board meeting, Community Board 5 passed a resolution in favor of two protected crosstown bike lanes in the 50s — one eastbound on 52nd St. and one westbound on 55th St.
The proposed bike lanes would be 4 to 5 feet wide and protected by a small buffer zone, plus an 8-foot-wide parking lane. Creating the bike lanes would require the removal of 41 commercial parking spaces on the south side of 52nd St., plus 25 on the south side of 55th St. within C.B. 5, which stretches from Eighth Ave. to Lexington Ave.
Along with painting new green bike lanes on the two streets, the Department of Transportation would improve intersections for pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists by installing Leading Pedestrian Intervals (giving pedestrians a few seconds head start at crosswalks) and vehicle-separation zones with delineators (white plastic flexible posts).
According to studies by D.O.T., narrowing driving lanes and creating “floating” parking lanes (set at a distance from the curb) calm traffic and result in slower and safer driving. Streets with protected bike lanes have 15 percent fewer total crashes and 21 percent fewer pedestrian injuries than streets without them, according to D.O.T.
According to C.B. 5, the number of cyclists currently using both streets without a protected bike lane is more than 100 during peak hours, which is an unusually high number of cyclists for streets without protected bike lanes.
But giving advisory approval for a bike lane resolution was atypical for C.B. 5. The board also called on D.O.T. to do a better job educating the public about and advocating for safer cycling behavior. The efforts must go beyond the agency’s current “Street Ambassadors,” the board added.
“It needs to be more than the current plan that happens right now because what is currently going on doesn’t seem to be effective,” said board member David Sandler.
C.B. 5 only represents the middle portion — between Eighth and Lexington Aves. — of each proposed bike lane. Community Boards 4 and 6, which represent the other sections to the west and east, respectively, have both also given their advisory approval.
According to D.O.T., construction on the bike lanes will begin this summer.