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Bike Lanes to Be Extended on First and Second Avenues

By Amy Zimmer | July 6, 2011 5:29pm | Updated on July 7, 2011 7:15am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — The Department of Transportation is gearing up this week to extend the bike lanes along First and Second avenues.

DOT officials will start changing the streetscape along both avenues from East 34th to 59th streets in "early July" to make room for the new lanes, according to a department flier being circulated in the community.

The DOT had installed protected bike lanes last year along the two avenues from East 1st to East 34th streets. Cycling supporters have been clamoring for the path to be completed up to 125th Street — as city plans promised — ever since.

First Avenue's bike path will be buffered by a lane of parked cars on one side and the sidewalk on the other from 34th to 49th streets.

From there to 57th Street, bikers will have to share the lane with vehicular traffic, as the lane is marked off by paint stripes to indicate that it is for both forms of travel.

On Second Avenue, the bike path from 34th to 59th streets will also be a shared lane.

By law, bike riders are allowed to ride in any lane of traffic as long as they ride with the flow of traffic. Bike riders are provided the bike lanes as an added layer of security.

The area's Community Board 6 approved the changes, but not without controversy.

Bruce Silberblatt, of the Turtle Bay Association, didn't think a protected lane with parking up to East 49th Street made any sense. He worries there's not enough space because of the approach to and exit from the tunnel in the middle of First Avenue.

He also doubted world leaders accustomed to being dropped off at the curb to their missions near the United Nations will be pleased with the changes.

"I know the diplomats would not be very happy," Silberblatt said,

The shared lane, particularly in such congested areas around the 59th Street Bridge and the Queens/Midtown Tunnel, would result in "competition between the bicycle and the car," Silberblatt said. "Something is going to give."

"If you've ever been on the corner of 57th Street and First Avenue during rush hour, there's very, very heavy traffic," Silberblatt said.

He'd rather see certain hours when it's a shared lane and other times when cyclists have to walk their bikes, he said.

The flier calls the changes a "traffic calming project," but Silberblatt said, "Whether the drivers will be calm, I leave that for others to speculate."

But Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for cyclists and pedestrians, said, "The improvements on First and Second avenues will make these streets safer and more livable for everyone."

He added: "Separate spaces for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers keep everyone out of each other's way and out of harm's way."