Stringer Calls for NYPD, TLC to Protect the Integrity of Bike Lanes

Photo: Ben Fried
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, with Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh on the right, at today's presser. Photo: Ben Fried

With the new protected bike lane on Second Avenue as a backdrop earlier today, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called for a stepped-up campaign to keep bike lanes clear of obstructions and show New Yorkers how to use their re-designed streets the right way. While many Manhattan streets have been re-engineered for improved safety, he said, enforcement and education aren’t keeping up.

Stringer staffers measured bike lane violations at 11 locations during the morning and evening rush between October 5 and October 7. Motorists blocking bike lanes, wrong-way cycling, and pedestrians wandering into the lane were the most widespread types of misuse. Out of 275 motor vehicles blocking bike lanes, 35 were part of the city’s fleet. Of those, 19 were cops.

On average, observers found that protected lanes were twice as likely to be clear of cars or trucks as painted lanes. But I think most people would agree that driving in a protected lane is at least twice as egregious. Among the blockages Stringer’s staff witnessed: police cars “in apparent non-emergency situations cutting through protected bike lanes to circumvent traffic stopped by a red light.”

The Borough President is recommending that NYPD crack down on bike lane-blocking motorists. He suggests putting traffic enforcement agents on bikes to patrol lanes and issue summonses to both motorists and cyclists. He also wants to see the TLC launch an awareness campaign to cut down on dooring. Stringer said he sent the report to NYPD and the TLC and hasn’t heard back from the agencies yet.

You can see the tally of bike lane violations and Stringer’s full set of recommendations in his report [PDF].

It’s going to be interesting to see how the press picks up this story. We’ve seen an awful lot of sensationalized coverage of the new bike lanes lately. Stringer’s report endorses the infrastructure — it’s mainly concerned with behavior and enforcement. Here’s how it’s being reported in the Daily News, NY1, the Observer, Transportation Nation, Gothamist, and — really, really terribly — on CBS2.

  • Doug G.

    I’ve been wondering forever why they can’t simply paint “Cyclists: ONE WAY” on the ground to held reduce, even by just a tiny bit, salmoning. It would give credence to those of us who follow the rules and play nice.

  • Not bad. I think the only group missing from this report was the number of cyclists observed actually using the bike lane correctly – riding in the right direction, stopping for lights, and even (gasp) yielding to pedestrians… or even the total number of cyclists observed although I suspect they may be the minority.

    Of course the bottom line is that NYPD just isn’t enforcing traffic laws – not cracking down on salmon, wandering pedestrians, trucks, venders and others who block the lane. Not ticketing anyone for running red lights. And to make matters worse NYPD often blocks the bikelane themselves. On a recent trip up the 1st Avenue Bike Lane I was actually cut off by an NYPD Cruiser who decided to make a last second turn west towards the precinct without signaling the turn. Maybe a new recruit learning how to drive? If NYPD doesn’t know the law then how can we possibly expect them to enforce it?

  • ChrisC

    Usually it’s the police cars that are blocking the bike lanes.

  • Wow. Manhattan’s Borough President sounds like the Anti-Markowitz. As a Brooklynite I’m kinda jealous. I wish we could get a Scott Stringer out here.

  • Steve Vaccaro

    Last night, I and a few other members of Transportation Alternative’s East Side Committee did a Biking Rules Messaging Ride on the East Side Bikeway, 34th to Houston and back again. We had signs on the handlebars reading “Hey Buddy, Wrong Way,” and on the back of the saddle reading, “I Brake for Peds.”. We drew some really great, supportive reactions from cyclists and pedestrians alike. Such as “so do I,” from a passing cyclist, and “good for you” from a passing pedestrian. Plus, of course, a “tough s#%!”- or two from the counterflow riders. At one point, a rider passing us fortuitously joined in the remonstration with us. We were extra careful to to obstruct the path and keep things upbeat, and it seemed to work very well. And, of course, we politely let pedestrians and motorists blocking the path know that what they were doing was unsafe, discourteous and illegal. Most pedestrians were immediately responsive, every one of the motorists was not.

    While making our rounds, we encountered a DoT crew installing very prominent red signs stating “WRONG WAY” with a picture of a bicycle, facing southbound on First. So the hoped-for signs are coming.

    I’d prefer to spend all of my advocacy time on extending the bike lanes, but we’ve got some housekeeping to do right now with fellow cyclists. The Stringer report and our experience last night tells me it’s not going to be all that hard.

  • Steve Vaccaro

    I meant above, of course, that we were careful NOT to obstruct the path.

  • David R.

    This is all nice by Stringer, but why has no one called him for not cycling himself? He likely hasn’t been on a bike since he was a child in Washington Heights.

    I’ve seen him arrive at several times at events in a town car with a driver on the city payroll.

    He should practice what he preaches.

  • jackie

    police enforcement really is key for any successful bike lane…at least until everyone learns how to behave. but how can we count on cops to enforce anything if they don’t have any respect for this to begin with? they’re the worst bike lane offenders!

  • LF

    The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted an observational survey of bicycle lane safety in Bedford-Stuyvesant last summer. The results can be found in the following report:
    http://nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/dpho/dpho-brooklyn-bike-bedstuy.pdf

  • Pete

    Here in California we have weather conducive to cycling, and plenty of bike lanes painted with big white arrows indicating direction of travel. One would think that to be sufficient, yet they’ve added pictures of cyclists with red slashes and “Bikes Wrong Way” to the back of street signs to help. Still on a daily basis I see people in the lanes riding the wrong way (sometimes onto and off of the sidewalk, which is a death wish around here). Bottom line? No amount of signage will eliminate Darwinism. Education and enforcement help.

    Good work Steve!

  • Steve Vaccaro

    Thanks, Pete. I think we’ve communicated effectively with a lot of these people through these rides, not just cyclists but also pedestrians. Whether we’ll change behavior remains to be seen.

    NYC cyclists, check out the photos, and join T.A. East Side Committee members on one of these rides!

    http://flickr.com/photos/61729844@N00/sets/72157625001092671/

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