The bike infrastructure of NYC (Photo Gallery)

Fresh kermit in Brooklyn. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

During my time in New York City last month, I soaked up a lot of different bike infrastructure. You might have seen it make cameos in some of my previous videos or photos. But there were a bunch of images that I hadn’t shared until now. This post has 60 or so photos of the various types of bikeways you’ll find in Manhattan (with a smattering of images from Brooklyn).

Overall, I was impressed at the quantity of bike infrastructure and the clear priority NYC’s DOT is giving bikes (and buses for that matter). But the quality of the bikeways was often unpredictable and navigating most parts of the network still demands a level of riding ability and risk-aversion that unfortunately puts a ceiling on the number (and demographics) of folks who will ride. As I look through the images below and think back to my time there, I think what’s hurting NYC from a cycling perspective is less about the quality and volume of bike-specific infrastructure and more about the fact that — despite laudable efforts at traffic calming, large-scale pedestrianization, transit priority lanes, daylighting, and so on — there are still simply way too many drivers and cars.

The big lesson from NYC (which holds true in Portland and every American city), is that until you reach a certain tipping point in street design and network permeability that forcibly keeps drivers and cars out of the system, almost no amount of bike infrastructure will feel safe for the majority of people.

Scroll down to see how bikeways are looking in NYC these days. I think you’ll be simultaneously jealous and appalled. (Read captions for more information about each image.)

Hope you appreciated this little tour. For more stories and content from my New York City trip, see more coverage here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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rick
rick
18 days ago

South Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island needs a street buffet (road diet). It was not pleasant walking in the soaked grass when I lived there. I enjoyed using the trails, though.

Fred
Fred
15 days ago
Reply to  rick

Sorry you had to live in Staten Island. Did JM go there? I didn’t see any photos from there.

dw
dw
18 days ago

I think you did a really good job capturing the range of designs and level of safety of NYC bike lanes.

Every time I’ve visited, I’ve felt like if you live in New York, as soon as you loosen up, so to speak, the whole place is just waiting to swallow you whole. I think part of that is the grind culture and astoundingly high cost of living.

As I’ve thought about it more, I’ve realized that a lot of that anxious feeling I get comes from the streets themselves. Loud vehicles, constant honking, overly aggressive drivers, and a minuscule amount of space leftover for people outside of cars. It feels like the second you stop paying attention when crossing the street, you’ll just get swept away under some investment banker’s SUV, never to see another day.

I’m really surprised – but not all that surprised given political context – that NYC doesn’t already have world-class bike infrastructure. If there’s one place where everyone should be in agreement that biking and walking are healthier and more efficient means of getting around, it should be New York.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
18 days ago

Reminds me of Chicago.

Matt
Matt
17 days ago

Great series of pics that captures the changing streetscape of NYC. Definitely some of the same old issues of car encroachment and delivery driver issues, but I’ve been blown away by the amount of actual separated and protected lanes there. We just don’t have that here.

9watts
9watts
17 days ago
Reply to  Matt

Hard not to agree with that assessment.
I’ve not been there since ‘98.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
16 days ago
Reply to  Matt

One mid Oct 2011 ride on a folding bike from Amtrak station north past Central Park to a hostel, a glorious blue sky Friday. That night a storm blew NYC with blowing rain with snow that remained til late Saturday. Sunday morning, no traffic! Just enough snow left to stop mooselike motorists at their doorstep. Bike ride return to station a little chilly but dry and invigorating along the Hudson.

mc
mc
17 days ago

As a former upstate NY’er who grew up with no, zero, nada bike infrastructure save the shoulder of any given road, I’m far more impressed than appalled. In some areas, they’ve outdone PBOT. Admittedly, not a very high bar recently.

In some places, in a massive city like NYC, you’ve only got so much space and land to work with. Everyone just has to slow down, share, take turns and navigate those tight, crappy, dangerous areas safely.

Which can be a tall order, with so many people, trying to get some place on time. However, I’m very encouraged by what I saw.

Great reporting! Thanks Jonathon! =)

Watts
Watts
16 days ago

Great photos! Some great facilities, a lot of awful ones, and hardly the low-car nirvana some folks here make NYC out to be. Glad I’m here and not there.

dw
dw
15 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Agreed. Urbanists always pretend like all roads lead to NYC but when you actually go there it’s just cars all the way down.

John V
John V
15 days ago
Reply to  dw

This doesn’t surprise any urbanists. Everyone knows about induced demand, people will drive as much as the roads and infrastructure allow them to, and beyond that they’ll use alternatives. More people live without a car and even more commute without a car than, say, Portland. https://edc.nyc/article/new-yorkers-and-their-cars

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  dw

NYC is silly with cars. What may be surprising to people who haven’t lived in a big, dense city, is that even the people who own cars don’t drive them much compared to people who live in less dense cities, like Portland.

People in Manhattan who own cars use them, for example, to get to their weekend place outside of the city. Or to drive to the Costco in Queens every couple of weeks. Nobody uses their car to get around within Manhattan. (Except weekend mornings when, if you time the lights right, you can cover about 20 blocks without hitting a red.)

People wealthy enough to own a car in Manhattan walk and take transit just like everyone else (or cabs).

Fred
Fred
15 days ago

I had to laugh about the “So 1990” comment. I cycled there in the 90s and it was every cyclist for himself – almost no protected infrastructure but wild and even fun, in a crazy way. I was almost killed on a weekly basis.

socially engineered
socially engineered
15 days ago
Reply to  Fred

“Fun…” If you’re young, able-bodied, and have nothing to lose, that is.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Are you saying that youth and health are privileges?

socially engineered
socially engineered
13 days ago

My point was that dangerous, thrill-seeking activities are more fun if you’re young and strong. That shouldn’t be controversial.

But yes, health is definitely a social privilege as long as medicine and healthy food cost money, and healthy sleep depends on your work schedule and whether your home environment is chaotic or peaceful, among other factors that are largely outside your control.

Watts
Watts
13 days ago

The biggest social privilege is probably luck. It’s entirely out of your control, and it does more to shape your life than any other factor.

Some of us have it, some don’t, and I sure know in which group I’d rather be.

James Donohue
15 days ago

Correction: East River ESPLANADE on the east side,
Hudson River GREENWAY on the west side.

Ken
Ken
15 days ago

Id say your photos show more of the good than bad (we have a lot more bad). In an ideal world, every few streets would have protected lanes. Other than in manhattan, theyre pretty uncommon.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
15 days ago

Really good point about sheer volume of traffic being a major culprit for cycling safety. In addition to the points made, volume and its resultant driver frustration leads drivers to make much more risky driving decisions. Example: in Bend, for over six months the major east/west arterial in NE Bend (Neff Rd.) has been closed to install a roundabout (don’t get me started about roundabouts). As a result, traffic as been shunted to two parallel streets, Butler Market and Hwy 20. Hwy 20 in particular has seen a dramatic increase in congestion, because it does directly Downtown. As a result, drivers who don’t want to go Downtown now head into residential districts to get away from Hwy 20. The result is, based on my unscientific survey, a tripling of back-street driving, usually way over the 25 mph speed limit.