More than 300 volunteers organized by Transportation Alternatives formed a six-block-long “human-protected bike lane” on Fifth Avenue last night, calling on the de Blasio administration to extend the protected bike lane network through Midtown’s busiest streets.
Fifth Avenue has no bike infrastructure above 26th Street, leaving a large void in the bicycle network where there’s huge travel demand. Protected bike lanes can’t come soon enough: Through the first eight months of this year drivers injured 15 people biking and 28 people walking on Fifth Avenue in Midtown, according to city data.
Last month, DOT presented a plan to add a second bus lane on this part of Fifth Avenue, but a bikeway was not included. To date, the agency has hesitated to claim street space for biking and walking on these busy Midtown avenues. DOT has stated a vague intention to extend protected bike lanes through the busiest blocks of Fifth and Sixth Avenues but never backed that up with specific commitments, timetables, or designs.
The hundreds of people taking action yesterday were saying that’s not good enough and took matters into their own hands. The human-protected bike lane occupied two lanes, from 50th Street to 44th Street.
Fifth Avenue functioned perfectly well while the impromptu bike lane was in effect. People biking quickly gravitated to the new space set aside for them, while car and bus traffic continued apace in the remaining three lanes.
In a written response posted on DOT’s Twitter feed, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg framed the campaign for a bike lane as being in conflict with the second bus lane for Fifth Avenue. “We did not want to postpone what we see as a reasonably straightforward improvement for buses,” she wrote.