New Places to Double Park on Upper West Side

Staying on the cars-parked-in-bike-lanes theme…

w_90th_street_cleaning_low.jpg

Bike lanes are popping up faster than you can say "community involvement" these days, like on West 90th and 91st Streets, where the final stripes have yet to be laid. (Shown above: West 90th between Columbus and Central Park West.)

I like:

  • The lanes connect Riverside Drive and Central Park West, which has a north-bound bike lane on the street and a south-bound bike lane in the park.
  • The lanes are on the left (i.e., car passenger) side of the road, where there’s a lower chance of being doored.

I don’t like:

  • Double parkers! The photo above is from street cleaning day, but even on blocks not being cleaned there are cars aplenty in the new bike lanes.
  • The proximity of the lanes to parked cars, placing cyclists who ride in the middle of the lane squarely in the door zone.
  • The mixed message the city gives us about riding on the left, which is usually not allowed on relatively narrow streets like these. It should be!
  • The lack of connection to the East Side.
  • Anyone have a year-end number or estimate of the bike lane mileage installed since the city announced “240 new miles” in September?

  • Mitch

    It looks like there is no parking on the right side of the street. Wouldn’t it be better to put the lane on the right side, where drivers are conditioned to expect slower traffic, and the chances of being doored are infinitesimal?

  • This is the street I grew up on!

    26W 90th, right on the left in the photo.

    I loved hearing the horses go by every day from the stable to the park. I wonder if this lane (and the one of 91st) was conceived for the horses first — in which case there should be painted pictures of horses as well!

  • ddartley

    Trying to get motorists to stop abusing current NYC bike lanes is like chasing windmills. I still sincerely applaud the efforts of mybikelane.com, but after posting there myself a few times, I’m like, “whats the #@$%@#% use?”

    **There needs to be a different design.** (Still working on one, sorry to drone on with a hollow sound. I am working on it!)

    I really fear that this “240 mile” project is going to be a setback rather than an improvement: the current design is useless, and I’m afraid that after DOT installs the 240, it will be a long time before they do anything else for us.

  • I can share that frustration. Every day I snap photos and get people to move out of the lane, but they are right back in the lane as soon as I leave.

    As long as the city subsidizes parking in the bike lane, it will be a problem.

    I am also with you on the new 240 miles of bike lanes. I worry that it is really just a way for the city to create more space for people to park in.

    However, doing nothing is not an option for me. So I keep snapping pictures, uploading them to http://nyc.mybikelane.com/, and trying to get people to move. I may be “spitting into the wind”, but doing nothing does not help either.

    Also, the more content we get on sites like mybikelane, the more evidence we have to show to press and to politicians, which is where ultimately, the battle has to be fought. That said, the on the ground efforts to get people to move don’t hurt, and occasionally work.

    Just the other day I had a gentleman tell me “I guess I never considered the implications of my actions” after I asked him to move his car from the bike lane as it forced cyclist out into traffic. Assuming he was not being sarcastic, that is one less person who can claim ignorance.

  • Steve

    I agree with ddartley that design is a key issue, but enforcement by NYPD and “informal enforcement” of the kind documented on MyBikeLane.com would be necessary under most designs due to substantial lack of enforcement. When it comes to “incidental” non-commercial double parkers (not the alternate side parkers in the picture above), informal enforcement by bicyclists can make a real difference. It’s no different than the shift in mores in the NYC subway system during the 1980s and 1990s in which people began speaking out against others invading their space, the inconsiderate others began to stop, and then (finally) the city implemented rules years later against putting a package on the seat next to you, etc. Plus, in my view, these types of interactions are part of the “Streets Renaissance” and should go forward even if the cops were enforcing the bike lanes (which they are doing only sporadically which is not likely to change). Check out MyBikeLane and videos here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=lfreedman500 .

    I think it is appropriate to distinguish between the alternate side scenario depicted in this post, the double parking by parents at schools in the morning, and the double parking by commercial vehicles (who may be participating in Dep’t of Finance program that forgives 75% of their bike lane violations). Trying to get the double parked cars in the picture to sit in the lane that is about to be cleaned just won’t work unless you reform the alternate side rules and policies. Double-parking by commercial vehicles I believe is driven by the DoF’s misguided “Stipulated Fine Program that reduces the fine for parking or traveling in the bicycle lane to ~$29.00; that program has to be modified and NYPD enforcement efforts have to stepped up because commercial double parkers have a strong incentive to violate the law and can’t be persuaded by bicyclists to stop.

    On ddartley’s design point (which I agree is important but not all-encompassing), there is not one monolithic “design” for either Class I (physically separate) or Class II (painted lane) bicycle lanes. With Class II lanes like these in the West 90s, the location and mix of uses on the particular street where the lane is installed is important. As I recall, these lanes go by a busy school (just like the new lanes in the West 70s) and that tends to result in blockage of the bicycle lanes. I wonder sometimes if DoT selected the streets it did for the UWS crosstown lanes because they had a number of schools, and consequently residents of those streets were accustomed to a certain level of traffic from outside the block (plus the simple fact that schools mean fewer residents). However the location may just reflect the fact that Park Drive West has ramps at both West 90th and West 77th Streets. In any event, DoT should consider the mix of uses on the street in question and plan ahead for conflicts among the users. DoT could use sharrows in conjunction with Class II lanes, but their attempt to do so at West 78th makes no sense (see : http://www.flickr.com/photos/43954081@N00/309639048/ )

    I also think that bicycle lanes by themselves may not be enough in some cases–DOT should lower speed limits, and install warning signs at the mouth to the street with the lane “Caution-Bicycle Lane Ahead–15 MPH Zone.” This would keep a lot of the a-hole motorists out in the first place!

  • David Chesler

    riding on the left, which is usually not allowed on relatively narrow streets like these. It should be!

    What’s the rule there, for one-way streets?

    I wish I’d brought my camera yesterday, even though I wasn’t in New York — I walked past a car that was double-parked next to the empty space in front of a hydrant. I suppose technically he was 10 feet from the hydrant. (The parking on the street in question is restricted to police and municipal employees.)

  • ddartley

    Here’s my proposed rule for one-way streets (not Avenues):

    Ride in a car lane.

    Heck with squeezing yourself into a dangerous corner. Honking doens’t hurt you as much as doors and bodies do.

    I must say I wrote my objections above hastily, and I should have pointed out that I know there are different classes of bike lanes, and I was speaking very generally. And so, since the subject above is cross-town streets, not Avenues, I should also point out that I DON’T have any ideas about how those bike lanes should be fixed. My only idea is to take care lane.

    I DO have ideas for Avenues, though, which is the “design” I keep saying I’m working on.

  • I am all for the theory of taking a lane, and in fact I do do this when I am on streets w/ no bike lane, or an otherwise useless bike lane. However, it is not as effective as it is touted in this city. It is pretty common for cars to buzz me as the pass me in my lane. If I stay far to the left, they will buzz me on the right. If I take the middle, they will straddle the double line or buzz me on my left. This is irritating and unsettling, but I agree that I know I am seen by the driver. This does not make it implicitly safer. I consider myself to be a pretty experienced urban cyclist, and I feel safer and have less real close calls in bike lanes, even a category 2 lane.

  • Biker H

    To answer two questions:

    The reason no cars are parked on the right is that they’ve moved for street cleaning. Usually they’re over there.

    The rule about where to ride on one-way streets is in Rules of the City of New York §4-12(p)(3):

    Bicycles permitted on both sides of 40-foot wide one-way roadways. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway that carries traffic in one direction only and is at least 40 feet wide may ride as near as is practicable to either the left or the right hand curb or edge of such roadway, provided that bicycles are not prohibited from using said roadway.

  • steve

    Hey dd-

    I appreciate your consistent advocacy for “taking the middle.” But I have never seen evidence that bike lanes undermine the “right to the middle” in practice. I’ve never had anyone tell me or force me to move into the bike lane. Motorists try to force me out of the middle when there is open road in front of me they want, but that happens regardless of bike lanes. Yet I have been yeilded to by cars in bike lanes plenty of times. What infrstructure do you want instead of bike lanes from DOT?

  • ddartley

    Steve–what I want are lower speed limits, or at least lower speeds via serious traffic calming. As I commented in the previous post about cops parking in bike lanes,* there is no reason for 30mph to be allowed anywere on City streets (excluding perimeter highways), because 30mph is the speed at which motorists AND pedestrians start dying in significant numbers from impacts (if I remember my high school driver ed correctly, and I think I do). I think those speeds are the deepest root of many of this community’s problems. When cars CAN flow freely in NYC, they hit 30mph and higher, which makes for a scary sight that intimidates would-be cyclists, and slows the growth of the cycling population. Those speeds also make drivers feel they have a right to accelerate like lunatics, and they’re not thinking of how the traffic lights are (insufficiently) timed to keep them from maintaining high speeds.

    Further, steve, I hope to sell the DOT a new design for bike lanes (specifically for Avenues), when it’s finished.

    *(I have a photo of six cop cars in row double parked in the 8th Ave. bike lane in Manhattan, hence my sarcastic reaction to that post. As I wrote there, I have tried all sorts of cute, kind, and formal approaches to changing driver (cop and civilian) abuse of bike lanes. Some of those efforts met inspiring success, e.g., a phone call from that precinct’s community affairs officer, saying that the CO was going to spread the word to “the troops,” I believe he called them. Months later, I don’t see six anymore, but every day I see at least one, usually two! Sometimes I get re-inspired to address the problem, but by now I mostly feel hopeless about driver behavior. (But I do appreciate everyone’s encouragement to keep working on motorist awareness.) Some other alternatives, including reducing speed limits, are needed.

  • ddartley

    Biker H,

    Thanks, I have read that rule before, and for all the bloviating I do, I should be more familiar with the rules.

    First, I once heard a city cycling “coach” type person say that that word “practicable” gives a lot of flexibility. He said his personal practice is that if the lane is not clear for TWO blocks ahead of him, he stays in the car lanes, because, among other correct reasons, it’s safer to stay in a straight line than to keep weaving.

  • Steve

    Just to follow up and reinforce what in my personal lay opinion is best available practical interpretation of the NYC bike lane rules:

    1. You are not required to stay in a bicycle lane unless one is provided available and in your view it is “reasonably necessary” to depart the bicycle lane to avoid conditions making the bicycle lane unsafe.

    2. The law provides a non-exclusive list of conditions that justify departing from the bike lane and there is no reason per se why the two block rule ddartley describes would not pass the test as a justifiable basis for staying out of the lane.

    3. Full text of applicable rule is pasted in at the bottom.

    Given the flexibility of the rule, the advantages for minors and seniors of bike lanes and the further advantages for experienced bicyclists of having at least a potentially free open lane when the traffic lane becomes completely impassable, why oppose bicycle lanes? And I’m all for reduced speed limits–but wouldn’t it be more politically feasible/less burdensome for everyone if lower speed limits were introduced as part of a comprehensive new “traffic-clamed streets” concept, where particular streets and avenues were designated 15 MPH, no commercial traffic but local deliveries, and had bicycle lanes and other traffic calming measures installed and enforcement stepped up?

    I would roll out the plan on selected 30′ one-way side streets and selected avenues (including WEA, CPW, 5th, maybe York). The package would be marketed as an improvement of neighborhood quality and safety. You might get some pushback on the bicycle lanes, but you can overcome that by explaining that even those who hate/fear urban bicyclists should favor the trade-off of bicyclists for dangerous, noisy and pollutions-spewing off-block commercial traffic/speeders. Offer a calmed street as a take-it-or-leave-it package, and I guarantee a lot of residents would go for it. THEN ENFORCE THE 15 MPH LIMIT. Motorists would just avoid the traffic calmed streets to pedestrians and bicycles. That’s my preferred bicycle lane design, because it’s integrated with existing uses, puts residents and pedestrians on the side of bicyclists, and gives bicyclists options other than contending for the middle of the street with the most aggressive of drivers.

    —————————————————————-
    34 Rules of the City of New York § 4-12(p)

    Bicycles.
    (1) Bicycle riders to use bicycle lanes. Whenever a usable path or lane for bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except under any of the following situations:
    (i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    (ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue within such bicycle path or lane.

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