Without Wide Sidewalks, People Will Walk in Bike Lanes

During rush hour in Manhattan, you’re likely to encounter just as many pedestrians using Eighth Avenue’s protected bike lane as you will cyclists.

The problem isn’t necessarily that people are unwilling to walk on the sidewalk; it’s that the sidewalks on this busy midtown avenue cannot accommodate the volume of pedestrian traffic, especially between Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This creates a rather chaotic — and potentially dangerous — environment for both pedestrians and cyclists, as the video illustrates.

The situation on Eighth Avenue should be instructive for the New York City Department of Transportation as a study on protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements for Fifth and Sixth Avenues moves forward.

The City has been making steady progress on creating a robust network of bike routes that minimize conflicts between cyclists and vehicular traffic. The next step is to ensure that street redesign projects also provide ample sidewalks to accommodate New York City’s most prevalent travel mode — even if it means losing vehicular travel lanes. Doing so would discourage people from using protected bike lanes as extensions of the sidewalk, thereby minimizing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.

6 Comments on "Without Wide Sidewalks, People Will Walk in Bike Lanes"

  1. Couldn’t agree more. As a cyclist who occasionally passes through this area, I don’t get mad at pedestrians for using those bike lanes: the sidewalks simply aren’t big enough to hold all of them.

    DOT and the city really need to reclaim a lane or two of traffic and let the planning reflect real life use.

    As with Times Sq, people will quickly realize how unnecessary it is to drive through these ultra-high density intersections.

  2. Tyson White | May 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm |

    Eighth Ave was designed at a time when there wasn’t much pedestrian traffic. Time for a redesign with wider sidewalks!

  3. Andrew J. Besold | May 22, 2014 at 7:09 am |

    I don’t know. Yes there are places in this video where the sidewalk was too narrow for the volume of pedestrian traffic but there were plenty of times where people were walking out in the bike lane and there were few to no people on the sidewalk.

    Agreed that the sidewalk needs to be wider but pedestrians also need to respect the bike lane. I sure if the sidewalk were wider, they’d still walk in the bike lane with the current volume of pedestrian traffic.

  4. anonymous | May 23, 2014 at 9:33 am |

    Actually, in watching the video, I noticed people walking in the bike lanes at the following times:

    1) when there were sidewalk sheds
    2) across from the port authority bus terminal
    3) when there was a barrier between the sidewalk and the street
    4) at intersections
    5) for no reason, when there was plenty of room on the sidewalk

    The solution for #1 is to adopt the “urban umbrella” sidewalk shed for the 8th avenue corridor.

    The solution for #2 is a focused re-engineering of the sidewalk in front of the port authority bus terminal.

    #3 is a tough one, probably mostly enforcement, although I suspect tickets are unnecessary, just a reminder to pedestrians (as if the NYPD would actually do that).

    For #4 and #5, unfortunately, the solution is enforcement.

  5. anonymouse | June 17, 2014 at 10:26 am |

    Easiest solution to finding more space: get rid of the parking. Have travel lanes, then bike lanes, then sidewalk. Ideally with low curbs between cars and bike and between bikes and peds. That’s how Copenhagen does it, and it works for the most part.

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