A favorite complaint amongst opponents of the bike lanes and pedestrian plazas that have popped up in NYC during the Bloomberg administration is that they’re taking room away from cars and slowing traffic down (hi NYP). Even if it’s true, it’s not an especially effective argument–bikes are a valid and important part of transit in the city, just like cars–but new data suggests that bike lanes may actually help traffic move faster.
The latest installment of an annual study by the city’s Transportation Department shows that, at least in Manhattan below 60th Street, the speed of taxis has increased seven percent since 2008. The higher speeds aren’t a function of fewer cars, either–according to the New York Times, the number of cars entering Manhattan below 60th rose from 756,000 to 764,000 between 2008 and 2012.
As DOT deputy commissioner for traffic and planning Bruce Schaller explains, the premise that bike lanes make it harder for cars to move through a street is a flawed one to begin with. “When we put in a bike lane, you think, ‘Oh, you’re taking a lane,’ ” he said. “But that left curb was always taken by the left-turning cars anyway. And the through traffic has the same number of lanes that it did before.”