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Mapping Your NYC Bike Commute

Regardless of age or ability, everyone deserves the right to a safe and convenient bike commute. In New York City, every day the DOT is making that more of a reality - thanks to an incredible diversity of bike facilities. The city has moved past simple, striped bike lanes and on to refreshing configurations like curbside, floating parking-protected, physically separated, two-way bike paths.

Bike riding is on the rise. Commutes that were unthinkable years ago, are becoming attainable. Riders are more confident in their knowledge of the street grid. One resource that helps is the NYC Cycling Map. Use this cycling freebie to not only link up to the best routes in your neighborhood, but also to find alternatives and experiment with your riding. You'll be amazed how easy - and safe - it can be.

So for inspiration and major cajoling, I decided to hop on my Batavus Dutch crusier and show you my new commute from Jackson Heights, Queens all the way to the Streetfilms offices in lower Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge. It's a hardy 11 miles each way, and yet almost 90% of the journey is on some sort of bike facility or marked bike route.  Furthermore, about 5 miles of it is on completely separate car-free bicycling paths, its no wonder that many days I arrive at work in a zen-like state.

Streetfilms would like to thank Bicycle Habitat for sponsoring this film.


[music] 

Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [00:16] Statistically, visually or anecdotally, whatever way you want to measure it, bicycling is way up in New York City in the last few years, and I’d like to do whatever I can to keep that trend going and I thought, what a better way to do that than to convince you to bike to work.  Now I recently moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, and if you look at where that is in relation to Lower Manhattan where the Streetfilms headquarters is, it might seem a little daunting to get there by bike.  But I’m here to say that if you use a little moxy and the New York City DOT Cycling Map, it’s really not that hard at all.  I figure out a few different ways to get to work from here, but my safest and most enjoyable option takes me through Brooklyn using the Manhattan Bridge.  At eleven miles each way, it’s a few miles longer than my other options, but I enjoy coming into Manhattan with only about a half mile up you’ve got to go to work.  Plus by going this way I get to enjoy some of New York City’s most diverse bicycle facilities.  Let’s go.  I start my commute by riding one mile on the 34th Avenue bike lane in Jackson Heights, Queens.  It’s one of the city’s oldest bike lanes.  One of the nicest features about it is it has a green medium with trees and plants, and it helps calm traffic.  For the next two miles I ride a complementary series of sharrows and bike lanes which weave you safely through the Sunnyside neighbourhood.  Sharrows are a Class 3 bike facility and feature big bike stencils on the ground that show the rider where to safely ride out of the door zone, and also tells drivers they should be looking out for cyclists here and to share the road.  Eventually the bike lane on Skillman does end, leaving me with about a mile of riding on streets with no bike lanes, but nothing dangerous here at all.  Next up we reach the Pulaski Bridge.  It’s an integral link in the cycling network and connects the communities of Green Point, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens.  Sometimes during rush hours it can get quite crowded with pedestrians and bicyclists, and what I would like to see someday is to see one of the lanes on the roadway taken back and given exclusively to cyclists. 

 

[music] 

Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [02:13] So here we are at the Kent Avenue bike lane, and this has got to be one of my favourite bike lanes in all of the city.  It’s a Class 1, two-way, floating parking protected, separate bike path which runs for a few miles along the Williamsburg Waterfront.  I love this path.  It’s swift and safe.  It’s remarkable.  Beautiful.  And it’s always packed with cyclists most of the day.  A popular route and works well with this type of facility. 

 

[music] 

Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [02:44] The Kent Avenue bike lane eventually deposits you on Flushing along the Brooklyn navy yard.  This time the physical separation is done with concrete barriers instead of the floating parking.  When the two-way bike lane ends, on the westbound side it becomes a kerbside lane, which I particularly like and have been impressed that few people have been parking in it.  Approaching the Manhattan Bridge, you’ll get to use another incredible bike facility on Sands Street.  Check out how innovative this physically separated centre median, two-way bike path works.  One part is safely physically separated right down the middle of traffic while another long block has a raised bike path in the median. 

 

[music] 

Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [03:23] At this point it’s over the Manhattan Bridge, and if you know anybody who rides a bike over it, they’ll tell you how packed it is with cyclists just about any time of the day, but particularly during rush hour, much like what you would see in San Francisco on Market Street or on the Hawthorn Bridge in Portland.  It’s just totally cool to ride with this many cyclists. 

 

[music] 

Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [03:44] So once I get off the Manhattan Bridge it’s only about a half mile of riding on Manhattan streets to get here to work.  And I’m here and I’m happy.  Now to recap – that was almost an eleven mile trip all the way from Jackson Heights to Downtown Manhattan.  The breakdown goes as follows – we had 1.6 miles of roads with sharrows, we had three miles of roads with bike lanes, almost five miles of parking protected, physically separated bike facilities, and only 1.6 miles which had no bike lanes at all.  So we hope by showing you my commute I may have encouraged you to try to do the same.  I mean use that New York City bike map experiment, try to link up some of the safest routes and get yourself to work.  Hope to see you out on the roads. 

[music] 

Transcript Divas Transcription Canada

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    I just wanted to leave the first comment to answer the # one question:  Why do I not choose another route?  

    Answer: I have at least five different routes I can use to get to work (using 3 different bridges) and I find this way easily the safest and sanest, and at 11 miles (versus 8.5 using QBB, and 9.7 miles using WB) it gives me more exercise, but doesn't take me much longer because most of it is uninterrupted riding, I only get to work about 5 to 8 minutes faster using the WillyB.

    I also enjoy riding my heavy Dutch bike and find the approach to the Manhattan Bridge less steep.  On the days that I ride my purple Friday, sometimes I'll take the WillyB, but that's only once or twice per month.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    Slllick. Thanks to Bicycle Habitat, too.

  • Sean

    Clarence's enthusiasm and optimism is infectious. Thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one who devours the city's cycling map and tweaks his or her commute. Everyone has their own goal: speed, scenery, shortest distance, etc. I choose safety. I don't mind riding a longer distance if it makes the trip safer and, therefore, more enjoyable. I'm lucky. Most of my commute is along the Hudson River Greenway, which is very nice. But when I turn to head to my office in mid-town, the good times abruptly stop. There's not a bike lane anywhere in sight and traffic is intense.

    My hope is that one of the DOT's next projects will be installing bike lanes that run crosstown through mid-town Manhattan. It seems warranted. Many people work there and, like I mentioned, the traffic is intense. The lanes have been stenciled on bike maps for a while now as "proposed." It would be wonderful if they became a reality.

  • Herzog

    One of my favorite Streetfilms!

  • Bev

    very cool!

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-epstein Joel Epstein

    Great film with lots of lessons for DOTs in other cities like LA.  Love the floating parking lanes and barrier-separated lanes. Thanks for creating!

  • Marcus

    Welcome to Jackson Heights. I moved to JH 2 years ago, and the presence of the bike lane network prompted me to start biking to work this spring...now I can't imagine commuting any other way.

    My commute through Queens is easy and feels very safe with the bike lanes and sharrows (and I can't wait until the BQ Bridge approach is reconfigured - I can see the new separated bike lanes being built now). Like commenter Sean, I too wish there was a good bike lane option to cross midtown - fighting across Manhattan to the Broadway bike lane is a lot less satisfying, no matter which route I take from 1st Avenue across town. There is no connectivity from the Bridge to any of the other bike lane networks in the city, which is a big shame, as there has been so much effort in Queens to connect the networks there.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Doug Doug

    Thanks, Clarence! This is such a great, positive piece. It makes me want to get up from my computer and go for a ride!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/subtle116 paco

    nice video clarence.... this could be a whole series documenting the commute of your average rider, that will entice more people to become riders. can i be next!?

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/inwoodist Urbanis

    Agreed with Sean that we need more midtown cross-routes. Also, I think we need more downtown lanes running through the central parts of midtown--we've got 8th and 6th running uptown, but to go downtown we only have 9th (quite far to the west) and Broadway (which runs diagonally eastward, so not helpful for many situations). How about a lane on 7th Avenue? And how about extending the 5th Avenue lane (which stars at 23rd St) through midtown and alongside Central Park (similar to how the 8th Ave/Central Park West lanes work)?

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    How about two-way bike lanes on all the Manhattan Aves., 20 mph limits and possibly bike lanes on all the major crosstown streets and 15 mph limits on all one-way narrow crosstown streets along with contra-flow possibility?

    I don't understand why direction of bike lanes has to be mandated by bad design of motor vehicle lanes. Best would be make the Aves. two way for all vehicles... but at least make them two-way for bikes as they are for peds... take more space as necessary. If DOT is serious about increasing cycling and not putting its head in the sand about "bike salmoning" it will do this.

  • Terry Vanderkooy

    Great film and narrative and graphics. Every biking city (including my native Portland) should do something similar to show the "casual" rider that a commute is simpler, safer and more enjoyable than they imagine.  Good job!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/ BicyclesOnly

    Commutes like Clarence's make me sorry mine is only ~5 miles (at least on nice days!)

  • http://brooklyncyclist.com BrooklynCyclist

    @BicyclesOnly -- you're so right! My commute is only 3.5 miles. Makes me wish I lived further out in the boroughs!

    Great video, y'all.

  • Clarence

    BicyclesOnly & BrooklynCyclist:

    Funny my commute went from a 9 mile round trip to 22 and I actually like it more!

    I totally know what you mean.

  • Philip

    Fantastic! Having only read about the rising cycling rates in NYC and the addition of cycling infrastructure I did not fully appreciate it. Seeing is believing. I am so jealous.

    Philip in Florida

  • andy padre

    My commute went from an 1 hour roundtrip to 15 minutes. it was great exercise and I miss it. BTW my hour commute was on westside bikepath, now i'm routed thru Times Square ped hell

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    Hey you GUYS who are preferring longer commutes.. if you need more exercise pull a cargo trailer with goods on your way in and/or go dancing at night.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/wompedy Daniel Dunnam

    Such a great video, as always. Like other commenters I'd love to see this become a periodic series. I'd love to see other people's routes as well.

  • Chris Morfas

    Superb video, Clarence!

    Is it safe to say that the two-way paths are working better where there are limited intersections or cross-traffic? My sense from 3,000 miles away is that the Kent Ave and Prospect Park facilities thrive in part because there isn't much vehicular traffic crossing them.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/inwoodist Urbanis

    @Chris Morfas, that's also why the Central Park West northbound bike lane (which isn't protected) works well--for a 3-mile distance there are very few cross-traffic interruptions.

  • Karl

    Openstreetmap.org has cycling map rendition.
    User created.

  • http://www.martymathisclothiers.com Marty Mathis

    Way cool. I can't wait to try out some of those bike lanes next time I'm in New York on business.

  • natasha

    nicely done!

  • Nicky

    Sorry to ask, but where's the film? There is no film in my web browser just a picture of a cycle lane.

  • BluePompelmous

    What a great film! Thanks!

    I have a 10 mile ride from Flatbush Brooklyn to 53rd St Midtown. The midtown bit is tough, but the bike lanes the rest of the way are great.

    Have you tried the bike directions in Google maps? These maps actually suggest routes where the bike lanes & sharrows are.

  • http://www.google-directions.com Maps

    definitely a great fillm, yep i've also used g maps

  • ChristineTheQueen

    Hey there - awesome video!! Thanks for sharing. You ROCK (and roll). ;)