Spinning wheels: Adams admin misses legal benchmarks for new bus, bike lanes for second year in a row, DOT data shows

M15 MTA bus pulls into stop
An M15 bus arrives at a bus stop on the Upper East Side.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

The Adams administration missed legally mandated benchmarks for new bus and bike lanes for the second year in a row in 2023, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics.

The DOT built 31.9 miles of new protected bike lanes across the five boroughs in 2023 — well short of the 50 miles legally required by the city’s Streets Master Plan, enacted into law by the City Council in 2019, according to the agency’s 2024 Streets Plan update, released without fanfare last week.

In 2022, the city was required to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes but only built 26.3.

The city came up even further short on new bus lanes, constructing just 5.2 miles of new barrier-protected or camera-enforced bus lanes across the city out of a required 30 miles. Last year, the city built 4.4 miles out of the required 20.

The Streets Plan update notes that when including all new bus lanes, not just protected ones, DOT “installed or upgraded” 15.7 total miles.

The city is required to build 250 miles of new protected bike lanes and 150 miles of new protected bus lanes between 2022 and 2026. With 40% of that timeframe through, the city has completed 58.2 miles of new bike lanes and just 9.6 miles of new bus lanes.

For the second year in a row, the city failed to meet its legal benchmarks for building new bus and bike lanes.NYC DOT

In a statement, DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said that the 31.9 miles of bike lanes last year was still a record, despite falling short of the legal mandate, and contended that DOT is prioritizing public space investment through programs like Open Streets and outdoor dining.

“Over the last two years, the agency has delivered a record high number of new bike lane miles and newly pedestrianized public space,” said Barone. “We continue to work creatively with available resources to deliver high-quality, transformative projects that save lives and create vibrant new community spaces. These achievements come as we deliver on new initiatives that meet the spirit of the Streets Plan — initiatives that New Yorkers deeply appreciate — but are not reflected in the plan’s metrics, like outdoor dining, Open Streets, and bike lane hardening.”

‘The Streets Plan is the law’

But Queens City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, a Democrat who chairs the Transportation Committee, said she was “concerned” by the lackluster progress and promised to grill DOT brass on the topic at an upcoming preliminary budget hearing next month.

“The Streets Plan is the law,” said Brooks-Powers. “And the Department of Transportation is still failing to fulfill its legal obligations.”

Bicyclists in Manhattan
Cyclists travel two-by-two on the new double-wide protected bike lane on 10th Avenue.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Brooks-Powers also bemoaned the extremely laggard progress on upgrading existing bus stops with things such as shelters and benches and a bus time pole.

The city was required to upgrade 500 stations in this manner but only completed 54, still an improvement over the 14 last year. DOT says benches were installed at 320 bus stops, 50 of them having time poles.

The city did exceed the mark when it came to installing Accessible Pedestrian Signals, which provide non-visual cues to cross the street for vision-impaired New Yorkers. DOT installed 866 of those across the city, above the required 500. And 1,464 intersections were redesigned in some manner, well above the required 400.

Transit advocates feel let down

Eric Adams came into City Hall in 2022 promising to be the “Bus Mayor,” but has become more known in transportation circles for intervening to kill or weaken existing DOT projects, sometimes after complaints by his campaign contributors or political allies.

For example, DOT previously planned to build a dedicated busway, exclusively for use by buses, on Fordham Road in the Bronx, home to the Bx12, one of the city’s busiest buses. But the plan was watered down to offset bus lanes following criticism from Bronx institutions like the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and Fordham University, as well as Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a close Adams ally, frustrating transit advocates.

“Right here, on the ground, the Adams administration is letting millions of New Yorkers down,” said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at the Riders Alliance. “Bus riders need our mayor to follow the law and keep his promises.”

The lackluster progress on bus lanes has also proven a stick in the craw for the MTA, which seeks to speed up its notoriously slow buses. Bus speeds increase by around 10% on lines with bus lanes, the MTA says, and can shoot up by around 40% on a busway.

Bike lane projects on McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint and Ashland Place in Fort Greene have been weakened following complaints by local business interests that had contributed to his campaign. On Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights, a plan to build a “bike boulevard” supported by the local neighborhood association is in limbo after the mayor ordered DOT to do door-to-door outreach on the proposal.

“I think [the Streets Plan] is gonna fail every year,” said Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official now leading advocacy work at Bike New York. “It’s just, there may be some people in the admin who support this kind of thing, but there’s also people who seem supremely hostile about it.”

Mayor Adams at the Brooklyn Lantern Festival Parade on Feb. 24, 2024.Violet Mendelsund/Mayoral Photography Office

The city finished a number of marquee projects this year, including bus and bike lanes on Third Avenue on the Upper East Side, a “double-wide” bike lane on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, and a two-way busway on Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn. But the pace of new proposals has slowed to a crawl, down 86% in 2023 compared to the year before, Streetsblog reported, and Orcutt said he suspects this will be a pattern as long as Adams remains in office.

“DOT does good projects, there’s no disputing that,” said Orcutt. “What’s more concerning is the way the mayor has pulled the rug out on a number of projects really visibly. And the fact we haven’t seen much proposed this year concerns us that we’re going into a deep freeze.”

A total of 30 cyclists were killed in traffic collisions in 2023, the highest tally of any year in the 21st century.