Third Avenue will receive a bike lane, bus lane and turn lanes like Second Avenue under DOT's plan | Upper East Site
Third Avenue will receive a bike lane, bus lane and turn lanes like Second Avenue under DOT's plan | Upper East Site

Third Avenue Bike Lane Plan Unveiled, Still Not Good Enough for Some

The Department of Transportation has laid out plans to add a bike lane to Third Avenue on the Upper East Side, which cycling advocates and neighbors both hailed as being long overdue— and slammed for not being good enough.

The plan, unveiled as at Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee Wednesday night, maintains two parking lanes along both sides of Third  Avenue between East 59th and 96th Streets, but would shift left parking lane over to create an eight foot wide northbound bike lane and a three foot buffer— because the DOT somehow believes air and paint protect cyclists from vehicles.

Proposal unveiled to add bike lane and bus lane to Third Avenue on the Upper East Side | NYC DOT
Proposal unveiled to add bike lane and bus lane to Third Avenue on the Upper East Side | NYC DOT

“Paint and plastic tubes is not going to cut it,” said Noah Morris, speaking during the public comment period, “That’s not going to protect us from a three ton vehicle.”

According to the DOT’s plan, along the right side of Third Avenue, a traffic lane will be removed and replaced with an extra-wide bus lane— though its not clear why the agency chose to dedicate the additional two feet of space to buses instead of expanding the bike lane, which many neighbors requested be a two-way bike lane for north to south travel.

“You should have it be two-way to get enough space,” Mr. Morris said.

“There’s plenty of car space we can take away. We don’t need— I don’t even think we need to have three car lanes. We can have two,” he added.

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“We must have— not ‘can we do’— two way bike lanes,” said Cindy, another member of public, adding “those bike lanes should be wide enough that should we have bicycles or even adult tricycles that push children, that pull children behind them— that should be the vision.“

Other improvements include removing parking for painted pedestrian islands and the installation of turn lanes to make the roadway safer.

However, DOT had no plans to share for how to keep those areas from turning into illegal truck parking, which anyone who has walked or driven on the Upper East Side or Midtown knows are primarily used for companies like Fresh Direct and Amazon to sort deliveries, rather than in a warehouse like other delivery services.

The DOT did not present a plan to keep pedestrian islands from becoming illegal truck parking | NYC DOT
The DOT did not present a plan to keep proposed pedestrian islands from becoming illegal truck parking | NYC DOT

The Department of Transportation also had no plans to tackle the rampant double and triple-parking that bottlenecks traffic on Third Avenue from five northbound traffic lanes to two lanes or even one— other than to say the issue was being looked into by the DOT’s parking unit.

“As it stands, we have like Fresh Direct setting up in the second and third lane of traffic,” said Andrew Fine, Vice President of the East 86th Street Association.

“There’s room for bikes, no doubt. However, if we take a bike lane, a bus lane, two lanes for parking, we’re left with three lanes— and three lanes with two lanes have double parking is a nightmare,” Fine added.

“If we enforce traffic laws there’s room for everyone. If you don’t enforce traffic laws, there’s room for nobody.

Triple-parked Fresh Direct Trucks block traffic on Third Avenue as barriers block turn lane
Triple-parked Fresh Direct Trucks block traffic on Third Avenue as barriers block turn lane | Andrew Fine

The new traffic patterns, bus lane and bike lane will have numerous added benefits, according to the DOT, though they could not provide data to back up their claims that it would calm traffic.

Nick Carey from the DOT’s bicycle unit did say that he thought the plan would reduce speeding by actually creating more congestion along Third Avenue.

“That should make it harder to speed,” said Mr. Carey.

“When a road like Third Avenue was so wide and people are driving down it and it’s wide open, I feel like they have the license to speed,” he added, sharing his feelings, not actual facts, “So taking out excess lanes of traffic and narrowing the roadway down can really help decrease speeds.”

The new measures to protect cyclists were predictably not good enough for cycling advocates who spoke during Wednesday night’s meeting. 

Third Avenue will receive a bike lane similar to Second Avenue, but larger | Upper East Site

One of which asked that Third Avenue go car-free with giant sidewalks where no other traffic except buses and bikes are allowed, apparently unaware that businesses and residential buildings require deliveries, trash collection and services— like plumbing or elevator repairs.

Others opined about their bike lane fantasies where they could ride on Third Avenue with their young children, oblivious to the fact that existing bike lanes at First and Second Avenue are extremely busy traffic lanes— not recreation paths like in Central Park— packed with commuters and delivery workers on electric bikes, scooters and mopeds (some gas-powered) traveling at 25 mph or more.

“I have grand daughters and I’d like to cycle with them,” said 50-year Upper East Side resident Hindy Schacter, “Third Avenue is no place to cycle with granddaughters.”

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Strangely, the DOT representative could not provide accurate answers on what types of vehicles are allowed in the bike lane— citing “some complicated law that was passed.”

“There’s like a wrinkle in it about– there’s just a couple different kinds of electric bikes and scooters and it’s hard to define them correctly. But the general e-bikes are allowed to use the bike lanes,” said Mr. Carey.

It’s actually not that complicated. Since he couldn’t provide the answer, we turned to the NYPD, which says the only motorized vehicles allowed in bike lanes are electric bikes with pedals and scooters under 100 pounds. Human-powered bicycles and kick scooters are also welcome.

Larger mopeds that need to be registered with the DMV are not allowed in bike lanes— however, anyone who as seen the First and Second Avenue bike lanes knows that enforcement remains an issue. 

The DOT representative could not describe what vehicles are allowed in bike lanes | NYPD

According to the Department of Transportation, Third Avenue between East 59th and 96th Streets has the highest number of fatalities along the corridor— with six pedestrians and one cyclist killed since 2016. 

That includes two men killed last Christmas Eve by the driver of an out-of-control Baldor Foods box truck that jumped the curb at East 61st Street and Third Avenue, mowing down a delivery worker in the bike lane and a construction worker on the sidewalk.

Weeks later on January 24th, a 51-year-old Lenox Hill woman was struck and killed by the driver of an Audi making a left turn at the corner of East 76th Street and Third Avenue, police say. 

Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee ultimately ended up signing off on the DOT plan, which the agency hopes to implement next year.

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  1. Do any of these city official morons have any common sense and think things thru?? Between bike lanes outdoor sheds citibikes and now adding a bike lane??? Total insanity. Traffic is bad enuf. And wait til the electric car charging stations come. What a joke!!!!!

  2. Good let’s add as many bike lanes as possible. Let’s add 2 bike lanes actually here one going North and one going south. Also add 2 bus lanes and leave 1 car lane. Oh yeah and make the sidewalks wider too.

  3. I’m sick and tired of risking my life crossing every street (with the green light) and having speeding bicyclists zoom around the corners or speed in front of me and missing my feet by about an inch. I’ve worked downtown for years and they think Broadway is the Indy 500! When they hit people and injure them (sometimes dying from their injuries), there is no way to track them down (no license plates, they pay no insurance, registration, inspection, license or parking fees), but yet they seem to be getting more rights than drivers who DO pay those fees .

    • So buy your own bike if you don’t want insurance, Registration,inspection, license, or parking fees , that’s just how it works, bicycles don’t need registration

    • I rather chance myself with a cyclists going probably 15mph than a 3,000 lbs metal box going 60mph, you are over inflating and exaggerating something that rarely occurs. If you think idea is bad then ask for better bike infrastructure, car infrastructure is eating up alot of taxpayers money yet not one peep from you on that

    • Sherri, Cars and trucks kill over 200 innocent New Yorkers each year. Bicyclists kill less than one. Your anger seems very misdirected.

  4. Respectfully, narrowing 3rd Avenue, the major northbound thoroughfare in the neighborhood, from 5 lanes to 3 to add a bike and bus lane is a terrible idea. The results will be predictable: mopeds using the bike lane, FreshDirect and Amazon trucks double-parked in the left-most car lane leading to 2 car lanes, with major construction projects on Third Avenue already blocking off the right-most lane for years to come. We saw a preview of this on Lex & 78th, which was narrowed down to 1 lane for the past 2 years b/c of construction and the bus lane, causing traffic backed up to 86th St daily.

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