Hundreds Join Hands in World's Longest Human Protected Bike Lane

Protest in response to Mayor de Blasio’s plan to redesign 5th Avenue without Vision Zero

Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives’ activists, elected officials participate in direct action

On Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, hundreds of New Yorkers joined hands to form a “human protected bike lane” in protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to redesign Fifth Avenue without Vision Zero infrastructure. Following a rally in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, Families for Safe Streets, and Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White spoke, over 350 protesters linked arms in the street. The human chain they formed stretched over 8 blocks, creating a protected lane that hundreds of cyclists passed through. 

The protest and rally was sparked by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s shocking decision to redesign Fifth Avenue without Vision Zero safety infrastructure, and in direct opposition to the wishes of elected officials, local community boards, and thousands of New Yorkers, as well as his own goals to double biking by 2020 and reach Vision Zero by 2024. 

All local community boards in Midtown Manhattan, including Community Board 2, 4, and 5, passed formal resolutions requesting a protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements on 5th Avenue. A majority of elected officials whose districts include Midtown Manhattan, including Council Members Daniel Garodnick, Corey Johnson, Assembly Members Deborah Glick and Dick Gottfried, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, have called for a protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements on Fifth Avenue. Additionally, close to 20,000 New Yorkers have signed a petition asking for this change. 

Human protected bike lanes have been formed in New York City, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, California, Boise, Idaho, Mexico City, and Dublin to draw attention to the holistic benefits provided by protected bike lanes, with the longest-ever clocking in at an estimated 100 to 200 participants. Transportation Alternatives broke that record on October 10th with over 350 participants. 

In New York City, protected bike lanes have been found to reduce speeding, reduce crashes, reduce injuries to pedestrians, reduce injuries to cyclists, as well as make all cyclists, but especially women, more likely to ride a bike, and dramatically reduce incidents of bicycling on the sidewalk. Midtown Manhattan has the highest density of pedestrians and cyclists per square mile of anywhere in the nation. In the past 12 months, 10 people have been killed while walking or biking in Midtown.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said, “It’s remarkable that so many people are willing to stand in the street and risk their lives to protect their fellow New Yorkers. But we should not have to risk our lives to get safety infrastructure installed on our streets. Protected bike lanes reduce crashes and save lives. They should be installed on every dangerous street in New York City.”

Hindy Schachter of Families for Safe Streets said, “Street design is the key to saving lives and the key to achieving Vision Zero.  The City has heard requests from the community and local electeds for safe streets redesigns of Fifth Avenue for years. Midtown is full of vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists, they can’t wait any longer for protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands.”

"Our Department of Transportation is usually at the forefront of innovative, life-saving street redesign efforts, and that record has served Manhattan’s workers and residents well," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "I’m disappointed that the current plan for Fifth Avenue is missing time-tested safety features like a separated bike lane, despite broad support from Community Boards, elected officials, and the public. I join the 400-plus advocates calling for these protections on Fifth Avenue today and urge the Department of Transportation to reexamine their proposal." 

Senator Brad Hoylman said, "As an avid Citi Bike user, I know first-hand the value of protected lanes. Streets with dedicated space for bikes, buses, and pedestrians are essential to creating a safer and more sustainable cityscape. I'm proud to stand with Transportation Alternatives in calling on DOT to develop a more comprehensive approach to redesigning Fifth Avenue, including better accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists alike."

"Cyclists are far too vulnerable on City streets," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "That's why we need to take every opportunity to create protected bike lanes in order to prevent additional tragedies. I urge the DOT to develop a plan to include these vital safety measures on Fifth Avenue. Safe streets cannot wait."

“As Council Transportation Committee chair, my priorities are safety and efficiency,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Fifth Avenue should be safer for all. Creating a protected bike lane and a designated bus lane, lets all commuters coexist with peace of mind and meet our environmental goals.”

“The American Heart Association supports a 5th Avenue street design that makes a clear commitment to safety and convenience for everyone,” states Yuki Courtland, Chair of the American Heart Association New York City Advocacy Committee. “New York City needs safer options for biking and walking in order to create more opportunities to include physical activity in our daily routines. Engaging in daily physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancer.”