Bx19 bus rides through 149th Street Courtesy of: NYC Department of Transportation

149th Street and Bikes: Concern over lack of safety

As Tom Proctor, 33, starts his routine bike ride through his Mott Haven neighborhood, he thinks twice before riding through 149th Street.

Even if the street directly leads him to the western part of the South Bronx, and gives him a pathway into Manhattan, he tends to avoid it, and instead chooses a detour. The detour often consists of strenuous hills and impatient drivers.

“It’s one thing to be forced to bike in a big car lane when you’re going downhill, it’s a lot harder when you’re going uphill, and all the cars want to pass you even if it’s not really wide enough. It’s not enjoyable at all. Can’t say that I feel terribly safe,” said Proctor.

149th street is one of few streets in the South Bronx that continuously goes from east to west, giving cyclists an easy route towards the Western Bronx, and into Manhattan. However, there is no bike lane there for cyclists to use, forcing them to either take a detour or ride with surrounding car traffic, which can be a safety concern.

Last year, there were 15 reported accidents involving cyclists along 149th Street, none were fatal, but this year there have already been 7 accidents there, with one cyclist dying back in January. These incidents happen along a busy four-lane road that already sees a significant number of vehicle accidents apart from bicycle related ones.

Bike bloggers and advocates, like some members of Transportation Alternative, a non-profit organization that advocates for better walking, biking, and public transit, believe that more blame is put on cyclists themselves in these incidents rather than poor infrastructure.

Last year there was a new bus lane implemented for the Bx19 bus, which covered most of the street from east and west, and also installed cameras to ensure the bus lane is protected. But there was no bike lane mentioned.

In fact, according to the NYC Department of Transportation’s bike maps archive from 2015-2021, 149th street has been deemed a potential bike route of some kind for the past six years.

In that span, there has been at least 100 total accidents only involving bicycles, according to NYC Crash Mapper. But, this number does not include all the other accidents involving only cars, SUVs and trucks on that same street.

Advocates from Transportation Alternative, like Marian Jones, who is the Bronx organizer for the organization, say that there are no current plans for a campaign advocating for a bike route there, but that there is a need for east to west bike routes in the South Bronx, especially for continuous streets like 149th street.

Delivery drivers in the area, most of who are undocumented, say a bike lane there would be safer for them, but would require heavy construction there, something they think would take a long time.

Jonathan Martinez, 29, a delivery driver for Uber who often picks up orders from Mcdonalds, says he isn’t a fan of riding on this street, especially when there is heavy traffic. “I’ve seen a lot of accidents and close calls everywhere, not just here. The roads should be safer for people that ride on bikes,” Martinez said in Spanish.

In 2018, a Department of Transportation plan to create more bikeways across bridges into Manhattan proposed a new bike route along 149th Street that would connect to the 145th Street Bridge. But it remains a proposal.

For Proctor, who’s brother was recently killed while riding his bicycle in Boston, advocacy for adding a bike lane on this street is crucial in getting some action done.

“People were complaining about that poorly designed intersection for a while. I guess, if I compare the political response that I’ve seen around that, to what I’ve at least been aware of here, it’s not the same,” said Proctor.

https://www.motthavenherald.com/2017/02/20/0426/ https://motthavenherald.com/2017/10/23/20210408/