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New Bike Lanes Coming to Union Square This Summer, City Says

 Fourth Avenue, between 14th and 15th streets.
Fourth Avenue, between 14th and 15th streets.
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DOT/Union Square Bike Network Improvements report

UNION SQUARE — The streets around Union Square will get a set of new protected bicycle lanes this summer in an effort to fill holes in the neighborhood’s bike network, according to the Department of Transportation. 

The DOT will install a new protected bike lane going north along Fourth Avenue, a protected two-way lane on 17th Street between Union Square East and Sixth Avenue, and a series of unprotected lanes on East 15th and East 16th streets that will allow bikers easier travel between Union Square and the east side, according to Ted Wright, director of the agency’s Bikes and Greenway Program.

The new Fourth Avenue lane will be installed on the west side of the street, allowing cyclists to turn left at East 17th Street without having to leave their bike route or cross lanes of traffic, according to the proposal.

As the bike network currently exists, bikers have a protected lane on Fourth Avenue until 12th Street, where the lane loses its buffer and ends at East 14th Street. The new lanes will extend the protected lane with a buffer of flexible bollards until 15th Street, where an unprotected lane will continue north on Union Square East and connect with the new two-way protected lane at East 17th Street, according to the DOT.

The crosstown lanes, meanwhile, will help cyclists access northbound and southbound protected lanes on First and Second avenues, as well as a new protected northbound lane on Sixth Avenue, which the DOT is set to install this summer as well.

The agency’s goal is to have the lanes completed this summer, according to Wright, speaking at a Community Board 5 Transportation and Environment Committee meeting on Monday.

“That’s how we like to do it, quick and dirty,” he said.

In addition, patching up holes in Union Square’s bike lane network will help calm traffic and give cyclists more options to access other parts of the city’s maze of bike routes, but pedestrians will also benefit from the narrower roadways, Wright said.

“Protected bike lanes do make streets safer,” he said. “We see pedestrian injuries go way down with these kinds of projects.”

There was a 15 percent drop in pedestrian injuries along Second Avenue between 14th and 34th streets from 2010, when a protected bike lane was installed, until 2015, according to NYPD crash data.

Community Board 5 Transportation Committee voted on Monday to recommend approving the DOT’s plan, which was long in the making, according to board member Nancy Aber Goshow.

“We’ve been asking for something like this for a decade,” she said.

Still, some members, including Goshow, raised concerns that the plan could add to traffic problems on 17th Street, where they said a construction site and a bus pick-up zone for the Shield Institute, a school for students with developmental difficulties, regularly snarls traffic.

“Have you thought about how this could complicate traffic on East 17th Street?” Goshow asked. “It’s already a very congested street.”