Protected Bike Lane Pitched at Queensboro Approach

A city DOT graphic showing the benefits of its proposal for changes in traffic flow and control on Second Ave. near the Queensboro Bridge access. | Courtesy of NYC DOT

“Really, in one word, terrifying, to bike through that intersection,” said Ryan Smith, a graduate student in biology who has lived on the Upper East Side the past four years. “As [the intersection] stands right now it literally interrupts the only way to bike downtown safely on the East Side.”

Bike volume along the avenue has more than doubled at Second Ave. and 86th St. and increased by 36 percent at Second Ave. and 50th St. since 2015. At the Queensboro Bridge intersection, the DOT estimates more than 5,400 cyclists use the existing bike lanes every day between April and October.

“It’s more urgent probably than any other bike safety [issue] and I should say pedestrian safety in the city,” Smith added about the turning point onto the bridge.

At the Queensboro Bridge, the east side of Second Ave. has no pedestrian crossing, forcing southbound pedestrians to either cross seven lanes to the west side of Second Ave. or jaywalk across nearly a dozen lanes to get to 59th Street. Multiple people at Monday’s meeting noted that pedestrians cross despite the lack of a crosswalk.

Cyclists, who are merged with the auto traffic turning left onto the bridge, must navigate through those motorists to continue traveling south.

“There’s a lot of tricky things, obviously,” said Chuck Warren, co-chair of CB8’s Transportation Committee. “I think in the end, it may be hard to find another solution easily.”

To mitigate the problem, the DOT wants to add a crosswalk at the precarious intersection and install a bike lane protected during off-peak hours when the easternmost traffic lane would be devoted to parking and loading instead.

A pedestrian and cyclist island known as a “porkchop” for its shape would be added to create a waiting space within the crosswalk between the bridge entry’s midway and the south side of E. 59th St. That island would also serve to separate left turn lanes onto the bridge from through traffic. Left turns from Second Ave. onto E. 59th St., beyond the turn onto the bridge, would be restricted under the proposal.

Despite some community pushback against bikes overall at Monday night’s meeting, protected bike lanes have been shown to decrease injuries by 15 percent overall, according to the DOT. Two-way paths around the city saw a 29 percent decrease in pedestrian injuries compared to 21 percent on one-way paths. Although cyclist injuries increased by three percent, that is compared to an overall biking volume increase of 61 percent.

The committee won’t be drafting a resolution on the plan this month, but Warren expects the DOT plan will ultimately be accepted.

“It’s always hard to predict these things, but people didn’t feel as strongly against [it] as they did on the crosstown lanes,” he said. (See here.)

Concerns raised regarding protected lanes in the corridor leading to the Queensboro Bridge largely hinged on people’s general concerns about bikes, particularly cyclists who don’t follow the law and sometimes injure pedestrians. Some asked whether more bollards could be added to the island to prevent vehicles from driving over it, and only one audience member complained that one lane of traffic would be set aside for parking during off-peak hours.

“It’s sort of an interesting clash,” Warren added. “You have a biking community that certainly exists in our area, and then you have people who don’t bike but are concerned about bikes in general and the threat they believe that they pose from people who just don’t obey the laws.”

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