UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Community boards representing the Upper East Side and part of Midtown Manhattan approved a city plan to extend the Second Avenue protected bike lane and dramatically change the street layout near the on-ramp to the Queensboro Bridge.
Community Board 8's transportation committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan during its Wednesday night meeting, just one night after Community Board 6 also backed it. The city Department of Transportation's plan will fill in a gap of the Second Avenue protected bike lane from East 68th Street to East 59th Street.
The gap between East 68th Street and East 59th Street is one of two remaining stretches of Second Avenue without a protected bike lane, DOT officials said. The stretch of road is particularly perilous due to the approach to the Queensboro Bridge were Second Avenue meets East 60th Street.
Between 2012 and 2016 there have been 363 injuries involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicle occupants on the stretch of Second Avenue, 26 of which are considered serious injuries, according to a DOT presentation.
The DOT's plan for this stretch of Second Avenue is similar to the bike lane between East 59th and 43rd streets. The department proposes creating a partially-protected bike lane that would not be protected during peak traffic hours. The way this works is that the lane closest to the bike lane would accommodate traffic between peak hours in the morning and afternoon and would be a parking lane at all other times. Bicyclists will only be physically separated from a lane of traffic during off-peak hours.
The DOT plan also includes sweepings change to the approach to the Queensboro Bridge as part of the bike lane extension. The new design proposes allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the bridge approach on the eastern side of Second Avenue by using a three-phase crossing system. The first phase involves cyclists and pedestrians crossing East 60th Street to an island in the middle of the approach, the second phase involves crossing to yet another island — called "the pork chop" by DOT presenters — and the third phase involves crossing from the second island to East 59th Street.
City Councilman Ben Kallos and Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White voiced support for the plan in an op-ed published Wednesday in Our Town. The op-ed, titled "Let's not wait 10 years for traffic safety," hails the changes to the Queensboro Bridge approach as safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities.
"Any pedestrian who has tried to cross under the Queensboro Bridge on Second Avenue knows it is not safe, and while the new subway runs in both directions, residents of the Upper East Side who travel above ground via bicycle have no safe route downtown," the op-ed reads.
The city Department of Transportation plans to introduce the extension in late 2018 and early 2019, according to a presentation.