Bike Lane Changes For Safety


Bike Lane on Broadway will Change in 2013

Broadway bike and car lanes south of Times Square will be redesigned in 2013 by the Department of Transportation, which cites safety as an issue for pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Qi Chen.

Drivers now have even less reason to drive south of Times Square. The car and bike lanes on Broadway Boulevard, the segment of Broadway that runs from West 42nd Street to West 35th Street, are being moved to make room for pedestrians and parked cars.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will redesign the car and bike lanes on Broadway Boulevard in Spring 2013. A new plan will move the bike lane from the east side to the west side of the street, limit car traffic to a single moving lane, and designate the west side curb a parking lane. The current design has the bike lane wedged between the pedestrian plaza in the middle of the street and the east side sidewalk.

Reactions among bikers are mixed. Richard Dinh, a software developer who works near Bryant Park, has biked near Times Square for over 10 years. He does not like the proposal because it would put bikers next to parked cars.

“Watch for dooring,” he said. “You don’t wanna get doored,” referring to what happens when a driver opens a street-side door without looking for cyclists first.

“There’s too much parking anyway,” Dinh said. “The cars just sit there… For what?” he asked, and questioned whether there was a demand for extra parking. He suggested removing some of the potted plants placed around the pedestrian plazas, because they make it harder for drivers to see the cyclists.

Colleen Chattergoon, the DOT Manhattan community liaison, said that parked cars are what every cyclist needs to be aware of. She also said the potted plants will be moved to different places. The proposed redesign was approved at the Community Board 5 transportation committee meeting in October.

According to the DOT plans, the decision to limit cars from two lanes to one is the result of a decrease in traffic on Broadway, due to street closures around Times Square that began in 2008, for the building of pedestrian plazas. Recent data collected by the DOT show that between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., the maximum hourly traffic on Broadway Boulevard was 257 cars, around four every minute.

The redesign would also solve the issue of cars turning left through the pedestrian plaza onto West 40th Street. In the current system, pedestrians have to cross both a left-turn lane and a southbound lane to cross Broadway. In the new system, all of the pedestrians stay on the east side of the street, which is 20 feet wide. The new bike lane is five feet wide – two feet less than the current design. Chattergoon said the narrower bike lane left room for the addition of a three-feet-wide buffer zone between the bike lane and moving vehicle lane, which will provide more safety to cyclists.

Daniel Dunnam, a designer in his thirties who biked to Manhattan from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said the redesign was an improvement over the current design, which could be confusing for pedestrians. He said that due to the low volume of traffic, tourists wandered everywhere, especially onto the bike lane.

“Cars have to be in one place, and bikes in another, and pedestrians in another; everyone’s safer when they have their own places,” he said.

Nearby businesses were equally divided about the new plan.

“It’s probably a good idea, but there’s always people walking, so it doesn’t make a big difference,” said Heran Biru, the manager of Godiva Chocolatier on the east side of Broadway near West 40th Street.

Dino Eleftheriou, the manager of Crumbs Bake Shop near West 38th Street and Broadway, said it would take time for him to see any impact from the redesign.

“Either way, the traffic will be similar,” he said. His store is located on the west side of Broadway, where a new parking lane will be added. When asked whether the parking would block pedestrians’ view of the shop, Eleftheriou laughed.

“It’s too expensive to park around here. It would be rare to see a whole line of parked cars in front of the shop,” he said.

The redesign was good news to Rohan Sookhai, a street worker from the Fashion Center’s Business Improvement District, which is responsible for keeping Broadway Boulevard clean. He said it is good to have more people walking about.

“No problem, it’s just a job,” he said. The Fashion Center holds a maintenance agreement with the DOT; Sookhai and other Fashion Center workers will be the ones painting the new lanes on Broadway Boulevard, which will take them a week.

Also included in the DOT plan is the addition of traffic signals at some intersections. Although Chattergoon did not give a specific cost, she said, “The DOT in-house crew will be installing these fixtures at a minimal cost.” Broadway will not be closed during the renovation.