HARLEM — The Department of Transportation is planning to extend protected bike lanes along First and Second avenues into East Harlem "in a year or so," according to City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The bike paths "are well on their way as confirmed by DOT," Mark-Viverito said via Twitter. "Very excited."
In 2010, the DOT announced plans to redesign First and Second avenues to allow for easier pedestrian and bus travel. Those plans included protected bike paths — which include barriers to protect cyclists — from Houston Street up to 125th Street.
That section was completed last year and the DOT last month announced work on a section from 34th to 59th streets.
Under the most recent plan for this stretch of East Midtown, however, the lanes won't be enitrely protected. On Second Avenue, the bike path from 34th to 59th streets will be a shared lane, where cyclists will ride in a lane for car traffic marked off by paint stripes to indicate that it's for both forms of travel. First Avenue's cyclists will also share a lane with cars from 49th to 57th streets.
Mark-Viverito said the DOT recently gave her a presentation about the bike lanes and another is planned soon for Community Board 11.
"Now there is a commitment to do protected bike lanes up to 125th Street although it could take a year or so," Mark-Viverito said in an interview. She said the DOT wanted to continue to have conversations with area residents and businesses.
The DOT was more vague.
"We continue to discuss this with the community, but at this time no determination has been made," said agency spokesman Monty Dean.
The news that the lanes would not immediately extend uptown angered had East Side residents.
Census data shows that East Harlem has one of the highest bicycle commuting rates in the city, and a recent NY1/Marist poll found that bike lanes received support from 72 percent of Latinos citywide.
Advocates also discussed the health benefits of encouraging more cycling in East Harlem where obesity rates are high. Although the East Side of Manhattan has 8 percent of the city's population, it accounts for 11 percent of its accidents.
Bike lanes also reduce crash rates for all roadway users, advocates say.
During a November rally on the steps of City Hall, East Side politicians joined with the head of Transportation Alternatives to present 2,500 handwritten letters to Mayor Michael Bloomberg from East Side residents requesting the extension of the protected bike lanes uptown.
"East Harlem has some of the highest bike commuting rates in the city and not a corresponding amount of infrastructure," said Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives.
She said the protected lanes, if completed, would be the first of their kind in East Harlem.
"The fact that there are continuous routes will be important for the city as a whole but also for creating a backbone infrastructure for East Harlem," Samponaro added.
Mark-Viverito said she was pleased by the DOT's plan for "community engagement."
"There is a commitment to bring bike lanes up to the neighborhood and I welcome that," she said.