So I’m waiting to walk across 2nd Avenue at 56th Street this past Saturday afternoon at the left-hand lane, which is on the east side of the street, when a cyclist — not wearing a helmet — careens past me with a frightened look covering his face. He’s in a newly painted NYC bicycle lane and a NYC taxi is trying to pull over to let out a passenger. Chaos ensues.
Turns out that NYC DOT (Department of Transportation) has just painted bicycle lanes on 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue from 34th – 59th Streets. These NYC bicycle lanes are being treated as regular lanes, though, unlike the other bicycle lanes which are protected from moving cars and NYC taxis by a lane dedicated to parked vehicles. These photographs show the difference between a ‘protected’ and a ‘painted’ bicycle lane. Obviously, a protected bicycle lane shield cyclists from moving vehicles and doors opening into them, plus dedicates that lane solely to cyclists. A painted bicycle lane, on the other hand, means that vehicles can use that lane along with cyclists and many vehicles see a painted lane as an opportunity to double-park or stop to pick up and let off passengers.
Why all these new NYC bicycle lanes? According to CBS2 News, Joshua Benson, Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs for the NYC DOT, says that where bicycle lanes have been installed, they’re seeing 10% of the traffic coming from bicycle users. NYC has added 250 miles of bicycle-only lanes in the past four years and these bicycle lanes are popping up all over NYC, which means you need to be extra careful if you’re doing any NYC driving.
And there’s still a whole lot of confusion out there if bicyclists are supposed to follow pedestrian or vehicle traffic rules.