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Advocacy Group Exploring Bike Lanes for Fifth and Sixth Avenues

By Alan Neuhauser | May 9, 2013 9:44am | Updated on May 9, 2013 10:24am
 Transportation Alternatives is developing proposals to make Fifth and Sixth avenues safer for cyclists and pedestrians, plans that could ultimately call for protected bike lanes, communications director Michael Murphy says.
Bike Lanes Could be Slated for Fifth and Sixth Aves.
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MIDTOWN — An influential cycling advocacy group is weighing proposals to install protected bike lanes on two of Midtown's most heavily-trafficked thoroughfares.

Transportation Alternatives launched a website and petition titled "56Forward" last month, urging New Yorkers to share their ideas on how to make Fifth and Sixth avenues safer for both bikers and pedestrians. The group has also been quietly soliciting local officials for their input.

"We're not really being prescriptive," said Michael Murphy, the group's communications director.  "We're working with local stakeholders, residents, business, community leaders to sort of determine what the problems are and what can be done to fix them."

Transportation Alternatives ultimately plans to develop proposals for two corridors running from 5th Street to 59th Street, according to Murphy and the 56Forward website, a roughly 2.5-mile stretch that connects Washington Square Park and Central Park.

The organization has so far avoided offering any specific ideas, but based on the reactions it says it has received from residents, commuters and officials, Murphy acknowledged that Transportation Alternatives' eventual proposal may include "protected bike lanes on Sixth [Avenue]."

"We have heard that they are especially needed there," he said. "Anecdotal information kept trickling to us about these two particular corridors. We looked at the data and found that they have indeed been high-crash zones."

If protected bike lanes are approved — a prospect that remains months if not years away, Murphy and local officials said — they would be only the second and third protected lanes to run through the "meat of Manhattan," as one official described, after the green-painted bike lanes that run along Broadway through Times and Herald squares.

Most of the proposed corridors on Fifth and Sixth avenues go through Community Board 5, led by district manager Wally Rubin, and City Council District 3, represented by Speaker Christine Quinn, who is vacating her seat and running for mayor.

Neither Quinn nor Community Board 5 has taken a stance on the proposals, and are instead waiting for more specific proposals to be introduced.

District 3 candidate Corey Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.

Johnson rival Yetta Kurland, however, argued that bike lanes on Fifth and Sixth avenues would take "a big step toward" making "our neighborhoods safer and healthier for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, while reducing our carbon footprint."

"It's important that bicycles along with all forms of transportation have a safe route through Manhattan," she said in a statement.

Candidate Alex Meadows offered a similar opinion, arguing "anything that can make New York a more commuter-friendly city is a move in the right direction."

He urged the city's Department of Transportation, however, to ultimately develop a "comprehensive strategy" for determining where it will install bike lanes.

"DOT would consider a proposal for protected bike lanes or other enhancements on these avenues if supported by the local community board," the agency said in a statement.