Part of the West Side Highway might actually turn into a two-way bike lane

It’s just a proposal for now, but it certainly has caught the attention of New York City bike riders: Manhattan borough president Mark Levine has suggested turning one lane of car traffic on the West Side Highway into a two-way protected bike lane. Specifically, according to the plan, one of the lanes would be repurposed into four miles of cyclable path between Chambers Street and 57th Street.

West Side Highway bike lane
Photograph: Courtesy of Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine’s Office

The politician sent a letter to state and city transportation department heads outlining his proposal, which seeks to reduce congestion on one of the busiest bikeway in the nation, Hudson River Greenway. Levine asked the various agency to check on the feasibility of the project.

“The Hudson River Greenway is one of the most heavily used greenways in the country, but it is overcrowded—bicyclists have to weave around people, pedestrians have to steel themselves for two-way bike traffic, and e-bikes are forced into the highway. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we could do much better,” Levine said in an official statement. “Taking a lane of traffic on the highway and turning that into a dedicated, protected space for cyclists and e-bike users, including delivery workers, so that they all have a safer space to get around the city must be a key component of the city’s work to reduce congestion, reduce emissions, and create safer streets for all New Yorkers.”

The timing of Levine’s proposal isn’t random. In fact, the official explained that he hopes for the eventual opening of the bike lane to coincide with the kickoff to congestion pricing, which is supposedly happening by the end of 2023.

West Side Highway bike lane
Photograph: Courtesy of Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine’s Office

“We are timing this with the implementation of congestion pricing and the need to begin to create the infrastructure that can support and encourage the increased use of non-vehicular modes of travel by New Yorkers,” Levine said. “We expect the decrease in traffic to Manhattan to make this project feasible, and it would be a huge win for everyone traveling on foot and bikes.”

This isn’t the first time a proposal of the sort has been brought forward. In the midst of the pandemic, a number of local officials asked the state’s transportation department to convert one lane of Route 9A (the West Side Highway’s official name) into a bike lane given a reduction of traffic sparked by the pandemic. 

At the time, Streetsblog reported that the letter was ignored by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Transportation.

A more successful attempt was carried forward on the Brooklyn Bridge, where a new two-way bike lane opened less than a year ago, taking over the innermost Manhattan-bound car lane on the bridge.

Officials have recently showed renewed interest in the two-wheel mode of transportation all across the city. Back in May, mayor Eric Adams backed a plan called NYC 25×25, which seeks to turn a quarter of the city’s streets into plazas and bike lanes.

Here’s to hoping at least some of these suggestions will soon become our new reality.

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