Paul Steeley White
With the successful launch of North America’s largest public bike share system, Citi Bike, it is increasingly apparent that New Yorkers are embracing bicycling as an everyday mode of travel, especially for trips of two miles or less. But, for longer commutes, New Yorkers still lack adequate infrastructure. With the exception of the Hudson River Greenway and a few other continuous bicycling rights-of-way, long bicycling trips are hampered by frequent stopping, unsafe intersections, and circuitous routing.
Bike superhighways, or ‘bike rapid transit,’ present a welcome solution to speed long-haul bike journeys in New York City. Already emerging in other world-class cities, bike superhighways are wide, continuous protected bike lanes with prioritized, unbroken rights-of-way. In Copenhagen, bike superhighways are supported by stoplights that are timed by bicycling speeds of 12-13 mph. With this kind of infrastructure, bicyclists could travel on longer, faster, and safer bike trips into the central business district and between boroughs.
One potential candidate for bike rapid transit is Queens Boulevard. The wide median along the boulevard’s 7.2 mile length is ideal for housing a wide, two-way bike superhighway. With bike-friendly signal timing, this corridor could speed thousands of commuters a day between Manhattan and the easternmost reaches of the city.
While the Bloomberg administration has taken huge strides in improving our city’s streets, the Department of Transportation has only begun to consider bike rapid transit as an option. We will need the help of the next mayor to make this a priority for our city’s infrastructure.
Paul Steely White is the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, the leading local advocacy group for bicycle, pedestrian, and transportation reform in the United States.