A pilot scheme to make a section of New York's famous Broadway thoroughfare motor vehicle free appears to contain mixed blessings for cyclists.
Times Square and Herald Square, both on Broadway, are set to get rid of motor traffic and welcome pedestrians. A cycle lane already runs up much of Broadway, although the scheme will extend this. Noticeably no mention was made of cycling provision in the two squares themselves.
New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said she expected that the extended bike lane that is part of the scheme would mainly be used by tourists and pedicabs.
“Fast cyclists are not going to be interested in going through this. Messengers will be directed to use 7th Avenue," she added.
The US$1.5 million scheme follows on from “Broadway Boulevard”, a project from last summer which narrowed part of Broadway from four lanes to two and used the extra space for chairs, tables and benches and a bike lane.
The current scheme makes much of the three acres of new 'open space' it will create but little detail is given of which particular areas cyclists will be allowed to use. One detail that may cause concern to cyclists is the possible use of a soft gravel-like material for parts of the scheme on the two squares.
The effect on average New York motor traffic speeds is expected to be negligible. Green light times for traffic will be longer at the simplified junctions and on some streets travel times should improve. One computer software model predicted the effect of the scheme would be to slow traffic from a current average of 10.35mph to 10.34mph.
Work is due to begin on the changes in late May and be completed by September, the pilot lasting at least until the end of the year.
Traffic volumes have been generally flat over the last few years in New York in contrast to the 11 percent rise of the 1990s and public transport and cycling have accommodated all growth in travel. Bikes are the fastest-growing means of travel into Manhattan, with a 70 percent increase since 2002. The City has committed to installing 200 miles of bicycle lane between 2006 and 2009 as part of its 1,800 mile master-plan, scheduled for completion by 2030.