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Biking on Amsterdam Avenue in NYC — Now More Like Biking in Amsterdam!

Getting a protected bike lane on NYC's Amsterdam Avenue was an epic struggle. This year, safe streets finally won.

Amsterdam Avenue is a neighborhood street on the Upper West Side, but it was designed like a highway with several lanes of one-way motor vehicle traffic. Local residents campaigned for nearly ten years to repurpose one of those lanes to make way for a parking-protected bike lane and pedestrian islands. They kept butting up against a few stubborn opponents of the street redesign on Community Board 7 (for viewers outside NYC, community boards are appointed bodies that weigh in on street redesigns, among other neighborhood changes).

Fed up with the dangerous conditions on Amsterdam, residents ramped up the activism. They staged silent protests and neighborhood actions to publicly shame the community board members stalling the redesign. Their efforts were rewarded earlier this year when CB 7 voted in favor of DOT's plan for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue from 72nd Street to 110th Street. Although not fully built yet -- 14 more blocks above 96th Street are still to come -- the project has changed the feel of the street dramatically.

It was a hard-earned victory, and yesterday people who fought for a safer Amsterdam celebrated with a ride down the new bike lane. Here's a look at the ride -- a sight we should see many times again as advocates organize for more space for safe biking and walking throughout NYC.

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.

13 Comments
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  • HamTech87

    Thank you to everyone who made this happen!

  • jooltman

    What a beautiful street!

  • Smart Sandwich

    More proof that we need term limits for Community Boards in NYC, or at least smart people to chair them. How many more people could be biking if this had been done 2, 5, 10 years ago? How many more lives saved? How many more businesses flourishing?

  • KeNYC2030

    My main takeaway from this film is that Mark Gorton is not aging. What's his secret?

  • J

    Amazing to see that street transform!

    Now, all DOT needs to do is create better intersections. Here's a quick sketch of how it could be done.

  • KeNYC2030

    That's a good start, but this is what should be done, at least at the major crossroads: https://vimeo.com/86721046

  • AnoNYC

    Why the reconfiguration pause at W 96th St?

  • BBnet3000

    In typical fashion there's a spot on the Kent/Flushing continuous two-way path that goes unprotected at an intersection, exposing people on bikes making a left to possibly being hit head-on by people driving who are making a right.

    Really horrible design. Hopefully the capital project on Flushing will sort this out but it shouldn't have been this way to begin with.

  • Patrick94GSR .

    Looks nothing like what's in Amsterdam, at least not what I've seen on the BicycleDutch channel on YouTube. Notice all the people riding in the buffer area right in the door zone of the parked cars. And just how are cyclists "protected" from turning traffic? Hint: they're not. When you're invisible to motorists mid-block, you're out of sight, out of mind to them, and they're not even thinking about you when turning left. Until the entire dichotomy of motoring in the US changes to put more responsibility on motorists to watch out for and yield for vulnerable road users, cyclists are still going to get injured and die on this type of infrastructure.

  • Patrick94GSR .

    David Hembrow in Amsterdam has analyzed that video before and said that design is not best practice over there, and not very common at all.

  • Aron

    Then David Hembrow has said something untrue. At signalized intersections this is the way we 8/10 do it. We've just got wayyyyy less signalized intersections though.

  • Eli

    "This [protected bike lane] is great - I'll have to think of a new way to die!" -- my favorite quote

  • Koen

    David lives in Assen in the north of the Netherlands. In that area green for cyclists from all directions at once is more common. In most of the rest of NL the video is more accurate. This is a layout that's used all over the Netherlands, for well over 20 years. I'd say, apart from the configuration of the traffic lights, the video above is pretty spot on best practice. If only those traffic lights could have been set up differently (only on the near side of the intersection) it would be even safer.