‘Flip Fifth’ Plan Will Create Protected Bike Lane

A rendering by the city’s Department of Transportation showing how the new protected Fifth Ave. bike lane will be laid out. Image courtesy DOT.
A rendering by the city’s Department of Transportation showing how the new protected Fifth Ave. bike lane will be laid out. Image courtesy DOT.

BY DENNIS LYNCH | The city will create a southbound protected bike lane on Fifth Ave. this spring, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the week of March 20.

The protected lane will run along a roughly 17-block stretch along Fifth Ave. from its intersection with Broadway at Madison Square Park down to Eighth St., one block north of its southerly termination at Washington Square Park. The lane will replace a 5-foot-wide unprotected bike lane — where the bike lane is currently bordered by traveling vehicle lanes — installed along that stretch in 1978.

Transportation Alternatives, a main proponent, is calling it “Flip Fifth” because the existing bike lane and eastern parking lane basically will be flipped.

On the east side of Fifth Ave. between 23rd and 14th Sts., the city will install a green, 6-foot-wide bike lane closest to the sidewalk. Offering the bike path protection will be a 3-foot buffer area, plus an 8-foot-wide parking lane. This will leave three 10-foot-wide travel lanes of moving traffic, and another 8-foot-wide parking lane on the avenue’s west side.

The idea is that the wall of parked cars protects bicyclists from traffic. There will also be some small pedestrian islands between the bike lane and the car lanes. That will shorten the walk across Fifth Ave., but these refuges for walkers won’t be raised or protected by a curb.

Farther downtown, the configuration from 14th to Ninth St. is similar, but with some differences. Going from east to west, there will be a 6-foot-wide bike lane bordering the sidewalk, but with a 5-foot buffer area, followed by a 9-foot parking lane, two 11-foot-wide travel lanes, and another 9-foot parking lane.

There will also be changes to signal durations for vehicles and bikes, including some split-phase signaling at 14th and Eighth Sts. By using split-phase signals, the Department of Transportation (DOT) separates pedestrian crossings and vehicle turns at a given crosswalk to better protect pedestrians.

The DOT said the plan would not reduce Fifth Ave.’s capacity, but would eliminate 38 parking spots — 20 parking spots between 23rd and 14th Sts., 10 between 14th and Ninth Sts., and eight between Ninth and Eighth Sts.

The city identified this section of Fifth Ave. as a Vision Zero Priority Area. One person was killed and two-dozen others severely injured along the stretch between 2010 and 2014, according to the DOT.

Janet Liff, the co-chairperson of Transportation Alternatives’ Manhattan Activist Committee and a public member of Community Board 2 (CB2), said she was “very impressed” with the design. Liff lives on Fifth Ave. herself and has been “doored” by cars on the existing bike lane. She said many bicyclists have nicknamed this stretch the “black diamond bike lane of New York City,” referring to dangerous ski slopes.

“It’s so treacherous. You’re forced in and out of traffic all the time,” she said.

Liff added that many advocates wanted the lane extended the extra block to the park. However, she said, many vehicles turn off Fifth Ave. at Eighth St., making it safer south of there.

CB2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee requested the pedestrian islands between bike lanes and travel lanes be fortified with a curb or concrete barriers. The full board of CB2 has approved the overall plan.

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