A Lane of One's Own

A Lane of One's Own

Aaron Seward

Cyclists on Ninth Avenue will soon have a lane of their own. Currently under construction, the separated bike lane is adjacent to the sidewalk and buffered by a parking lane, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Modeled on a similar program in Copenhagen, it also includes planted medians at intersections that shorten the pedestrian crossing distance by 25 feet. This so-called “complete street” design is being tested from 16th to 23rd streets where they then connect to more conventional bike lanes in the Meatpacking District and the West Village. “We’re really trying to get quality over quantity, not just more bike lanes, but the best bike lanes in any given situation,” Joshua Benson, bicycle program coordinator for the Department of Transportation (DOT), said.

While the goal of the program is to improve bicycle safety and to increase bike ridership as a part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, the design should provide benefits for drivers as well, chiefly through easier turns at left lanes at 16th, 18th, and 22nd streets. The turning lanes should relieve what DOT calls “back pressure,” a situation in which drivers, for fear of being rear-ended, make hasty turns that imperil pedestrians. In addition to the left turn lanes, which cross the bike lane, intersections will be equipped with special signals for both the turn lane and the bike lane. “There are a lot of pieces to it, but people are adjusting smoothly,” he said. “The key for this project is to study it and learn how it functions.”

Cycling enthusiasts are effusive about the design. “The design was unveiled and it was under construction a month later. In New York, that’s nothing short of revolutionary,” said Wiley Norvell, communications director for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. “I know a lot of planners around the country who are jealous.”