The Investigators test NYC's claims that bike lanes ease traffic delays

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Jim Hoffer puts it to the test. (WABC)

The New York City Department of Transportation is boasting about a new traffic analysis which claims traffic delays have dropped significantly on major avenues in Manhattan where bike lanes have been added.

On Columbus Avenue, the city says delays have dropped 35% since the opening of bike lanes.

We decided to put their findings to the test.

"We passed the three-minute mark and we still have nine more blocks," we found.

Over the course of three days, we tried to duplicate the DOT's claim that motorists on average can travel from 96th Street to 77th Street during peak morning hours in three minutes, 35% faster, the city claims, than before bike lanes were added.

Before bikes lanes, the DOT says it would take more than four and a half minutes to go from 96th to 77th streets during the morning rush hour.

Now, the DOT says with added bikes lanes and separate turn lanes, motorists can now drive the same 19 blocks in three minutes on average.

"Here we are 77th, and here's our time, five minutes and five seconds, nowhere even close to the three minutes DOT is talking about," we discovered along the way.

Despite repeated attempts to duplicate the three minute average reported by DOT, over three morning rush hours, we never came close.

In eleven trials, it took us on average six minutes and 11 seconds to travel the same 19 block route, twice as long as the DOT claims it should take and nearly two minutes longer than before bike lanes were added.

The quickest trip took four minutes and 18 seconds, but most of the runs took more than five, six, even seven minutes with the longest one taking more than 10 minutes. Our times raise serious questions about the DOT's three minute claim.

Instead of fewer traffic delays as the DOT report claims, we found more gridlock caused by the bike lane, which has pushed morning delivery trucks into traffic lanes to off-load their goods.

Cabbies we spoke to say it's not news to them that morning gridlock along Columbus has increased since the bike lanes.

"People double park and then only one lane is open," said one cabbie.

"They say the bike lane has made it so you can go faster," Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer said.

"I don't think so because we are driving and we cannot go faster," he said.

"Not in three minutes?" Hoffer asked

"Certainly not in three minutes," the cab driver said.

Even the head of the Upper West Side's Community Board, which supported the bike lanes, is skeptical about the DOT's fewer traffic delay claims.

"I was surprised to hear the results of the analysis because I do think with the number of fines that we've been hearing about with the trucks that it's actually potentially stalled traffic," said Elizabeth Caputo, chair of Community Board 7.

In 11 trips down the same route at the same peak hours that DOT claims they did on average in three minutes, that same trip on average took us six minutes and 11 seconds, more than twice the DOT's boast and a minute longer than the before-bike lanes average.

"You can't do it in three minutes, can you?" Hoffer asked.

"No, no I'm sorry," the cab driver said.

The DOT released a statement to Eyewitness News saying, "Our study found that on corridors with protected bike lanes traffic flow was maintained or improved on average because of the enhanced organization of the roadway. On any given day, conditions in New York City are always changing and traffic flow can vary as a result."

Related Topics:
trafficbicyclebike lanesnew york city newsinvestigatorsUpper West SideNew York City
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