Records Show New York City’s Bike Lanes Project Is Falling Short



Cyclists crossing the pedestrian lane near Penn Station. Photo by Lai Jiang

A bike lane tracker shows New York City has installed only 7.2 miles of protected bike lanes this year, out of 30 miles required by law.   

Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit organization that advocates for street safety, launched a map recently to track the city’s progress on its bike lane projects. The tracker shows that 27 miles of bike lanes are still under construction, despite the NYC Open Street Plan’s pledge that 30 miles would be finished by the end of the year. The bike lanes under construction are mostly located in the Bronx and Queens, with no data showing expected completion dates. Now cyclists and other street safety advocates are concerned the lanes won’t be installed anytime soon. 

The report also says 42 miles of new bike lanes have been planned, including 1.2 miles from East 57th Street to 34th Street on 5th Avenue and 0.1 miles from West 33rd Street to 31st Street on 9th Avenue. According to the data, the bike lane project on 5th Avenue was delayed in December last year and has had no status update since then.

“Biking in Midtown is good but frustrating. Too many people are competing for a too small space,” said Eden Weiss, a long-time cyclist and blogger in New York City. 

A 2019 bill requires the Department of Transportation to issue and implement a transportation master plan every five years. The NYC Streets Plan, released in December 2021, requires DOT to install 250 miles of protected bike lanes in five years and at least 30 miles in the first year. Mayor Eric Adams, known as “the bike mayor,” pledged even more in his campaign – 300 miles of bike lanes in four years. 

Jacob deCastro, the senior communications coordinator at Transportation Alternatives, said the tracker is a “grassroots effort,” adding that “the city doesn’t actually publish this data publicly.” The non-profit group gathers data by collecting DOT’s Twitter posts, biking around the city to check progress, and attending community board meetings, where the transportation department presents bike lane projects to the public. 

Brandon Chamberlin, a New York City attorney and cyclist, started collecting data in 2021 and launched the tracking project with Transportation Alternatives in September. 

“There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of coordination [among contractors] to try to really start projects and then get all the elements together and completed,” said Chamberlin. He saw lines being painted for a 0.6 mile bike lane on East 62nd Street last year, but he said the contractor didn’t set up flexible posts until this September to complete the project.  

Bikes lanes aren’t the only project that is delayed. The Department of Transportation released the NYC Streets plan in December 2021, outlining a goal of having more bike lanes, new bus lanes and cleaner streets. The plan outlined 54 protected bike lane projects,  including 13 in Manhattan, 12 in the Bronx, 13 in Brooklyn, 10 in Queens, and six in Staten Island. But the plan described a need for more resources in order to complete these goals. 

“Meeting these benchmarks—and the other key parts of this plan—will require increased staffing, funding, facility space, and new implementation strategies. Some items also require changes to contracts, increased support from the contractor community, and other ways to build capacity. We will work aggressively towards meeting these targets, within the limits of the agency’s resources,” as stated in the plan. 

Besides the bike lane projects, the Department of Transportation has not updated statistics and documents for cyclists this year.

“I noticed over last fall and winter that the city has been doing a less good job than they had in previous years of putting out their own reports and metrics for bike infrastructure,” said Chamberlin. On the Department of Transportation’s website, the latest report on projected bike lanes and ridership statistics were last updated in September 2021. The bicycle crash data has not been updated since 2020. 

The Department of Transportation recently completed two bike lane projects in Brooklyn. In early October, Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez led a ribbon cutting celebrating the Schermerhorn Street project in Brooklyn that included 1.2 miles of protected bike lanes. 

Chamberlin said the Schermerhorn Street project started at the beginning of September. “This is one project where they have moved really fast and are able to just get one step after another without big delays. So they seem to have the ability. It just doesn’t usually happen.”

The Department of Transportation released the Mayor’s Management Report showing 32 miles of protected bike lanes were installed in fiscal year 2022 – from July 1, 2021 to June 30. But that total includes bike lane projects completed in calendar year 2021, said deCastro, clarifying that the number of bikes lanes installed this year is falling short.

Vin Barone, a DOT spokesperson, said the Transportation Alternatives’ tracker “is not representative of the mileage we’ve finished so far,” but did not share any data on the numbers of bike lanes that have been installed this year. 

“We’re extremely confident in the data in our tracker. But you know, it shouldn’t be up to advocates like us to publish this data, this data should really be coming from the city itself,” said deCastro.