The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) presented an update on its plan to revamp Third Avenue during Community Board 8’s October 12 Transportation Committee meeting. The redesign will install bike and bus lanes along the busy corridor from Cooper Square to East 128th Street to enhance safety for all road users.
Nick Carey from the DOT’s Bicycle Unit led the presentation and attempted to relay the city agency’s understanding of the safety concerns that the current traffic patterns pose: Third Avenue is 70 feet wide which seems to lead drivers to increase vehicular speeds more so than they do on narrower streets; there is no dedicated space for cyclists and no bus lanes; and it is a traffic corridor that constantly struggles with double parking.
Further complicating these concerns is the fact that bike usage is on the rise, including in Community Board 8. So too are injuries and fatalities, none more than on the stretch of Third Avenue between East 59th and East 96th streets. This area has the highest number of crashes resulting in fatalities, specifically pedestrian fatalities, according to the DOT.
To address these concerns, DOT will be transforming the west lane of traffic into a bike lane and the east lane into a bus lane. The DOT believes that pedestrian benefits will be immediate once the redesign is implemented. Specifically, the city agency feels it will be harder for drivers to speed on the narrower street and the installation of the bike lane will cut the crossing distance down by 20 feet.
DOT rolled out some stats to back up these beliefs and reported that protected bike lanes have improved safety not only for bike users but for all road users. It cited statistics that those injured or killed/seriously injured were down 22% and 39%, respectively, amongst the senior population, and 9% and 24%, respectively, amongst the non-senior population.
Many in attendance felt the measures DOT discussed were a good start but did not nearly go far enough to ensure safety. Some feedback offered included the need to enforce the current traffic laws, wider curbs, and non-specific vehicle barriers that would involve more than a raised curb to cordon off the bike lane.
Carey confirmed that the installation of the bike and bus lanes are expected to begin in 2023 and that the DOT remains committed to working with the community to making improvements along the Third Avenue corridor.