On Monday, the Department of Transportation announced, “It’s the Summer of Cycling in NYC.” The enthusiastic proclamation signaled a broad range of changes on the Upper East Side – geared towards increasing safety on Third Avenue between 59th and 96th Streets.
With implementation slated to begin as early as next week, the Upper East Side can expect a protected bike lane, dedicated bus lane, pedestrian islands, and other safety measures spanning the length of Central Park.
These changes were discussed in October 2022 at a Community Board 8 Transportation meeting. There, the DOT Bicycle Unit’s Lead Engineer, Nick Carey, presented harrowing statistics regarding safety on Third Avenue. The stretch that has been designated for updates has a significantly higher rate of fatalities caused by crashes than nearby spans, as well as high rates of injury and severe injury. At 70 feet across, Third Avenue is wider than surrounding streets, and data suggests this can lead to faster driving.
Referred to as “Complete Streets,” the safety update program will put everyone in their proper place – bikes, buses, and cars will each have their own lanes. Similar changes have already been introduced along First Ave, and there is a long term goal of extending Complete Streets down the entire length of Third – and elsewhere in the city. While two car lanes will be lost, separating buses out of general traffic may be well worth it for motorists too.
The project will also introduce newly re-designed bike lanes – a far cry from the street that has been described as “a relic of now outdated best practices” by CB8. Long term, the DOT plans to monitor usage patterns and make adjustments as necessary. Per the Riders Alliance’s Jolyse Race, this will “prove a concept relevant to over a million riders citywide.” Pending its success, Complete Streets on Third Ave may very well provide a blueprint for a new New York.