Merchant Ire Over Deliveries, Placards Dominates UWS Bike Lane Meeting

The new Columbus Avenue protected bike lane drew the wrath of local merchants angry about curb access last night. Image: Clarence Eckerson.
The new Columbus Avenue protected bike lane drew the wrath of local merchants angry about curb access last night. Image: Clarence Eckerson

Columbus Avenue merchants on the two blocks between 81st and 83rd Street led a chorus of complaints against that avenue’s new protected bike lane at a raucous meeting of Manhattan CB 7’s transportation committee last night. The committee co-chairs limited the discussion only to criticism of the bike lane, which runs from 96th to 77th Street, in an attempt to address specific complaints, but opposition quickly flew out of control. About half a dozen merchants spoke at the packed meeting, which at times descended into an anti-bike screaming match.

Those who tried to offer constructive criticism focused on the need for loading zones that function as intended. With passenger cars and placard-bearing vehicles clogging delivery areas, NYPD enforcement will be critical to smoothing out the curbside conflict.

The decision to allow only criticism started the meeting out on a sour note. “If you’re here to tell us how wonderful the bike lane is, you’re here on the wrong night,” said co-chair Dan Zweig. For general comments for or against the bike lane, they urged people to either e-mail the community board at “office [at] cb7 [dot] org” or to attend tonight’s public session of the full community board. That meeting will be held at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, at Tenth and 59th, at 6:30 p.m.

The co-chairs tried to make clear they wanted the meeting to be a productive session about specific fixes that could be made to the street design rather than a general referendum on the lane. “We’re evaluating it over the course of a year,” said Zweig. “Solving the problems will aid in making it a successful bike lane.”

Even as the committee leadership tried to emphasize substance, bike lane opponents in the audience turned it into a shouting match, routinely interrupting other speakers, community board members, and the DOT representatives who were there answering questions. Profanities flew a few times. At one point co-chair Andrew Albert could be heard muttering under his breath, “This is insane. This is not what it was supposed to be.”

The merchants who asked the community board to hold the meeting were most concerned with parking and loading in front of their businesses. “I can’t get deliveries,” claimed Ricardo Zingone, whose family owns a grocery store on Columbus and 83rd. “It took me three weeks to get an Entenmann’s cake.” Zingone has three commercial loading spots in front of his store, but complained that if someone parks in the middle space, trucks can’t fit anywhere.

Notably, some influential bike lane proponents are now tempering their support. Barbara Adler, the director of the Columbus Avenue BID, has been pushing for pedestrian and bike infrastructure on Columbus for five years. In May, she told Streetsblog that she was “extremely supportive” of DOT’s plan for a protected bike lane and that deliveries wouldn’t be a problem for the businesses she represents.

Last night, however, she criticized DOT’s implementation of the project. “What has happened now is a huge embarrassment and humiliation to all of us,” she said. She lambasted DOT for taking away far more parking spaces on certain blocks than original plans had suggested. “We thought we knew what we were getting.” She also said that plans to add back two parking spaces between 81st and 82nd Streets, where a left-turn lane removed almost every spot on the east side of the street, were insufficient.

Adler specified that her problem wasn’t with the bike lane itself, which she still supported, but the related effect it had on parking. “They have to be done right,” she said of bike lanes.

DOT revealed last night that the design installed on Columbus Avenue differed from the plans that were presented to the community in two ways. First, the plans only called for four pedestrian refuge islands, but 28 were installed. That’s a surprise victory for pedestrian safety which came as a result of additional funding, according to DOT’s Naomi Iwasaki.

The installed design also added a number of long left-turn lanes, so that the three moving lanes on Columbus wouldn’t be obstructed, Iwasaki said. Those lanes took the place of the floating parking lane when installed. Only 12 additional parking spaces were removed as a result of those changes, but those 12 were concentrated on only a few blocks, angering particular merchants.

The removal of additional parking spaces infuriated previously supportive community board members as well. After Iwasaki said that only a few parking spaces had been taken away, committee member Linda Alexander whipped around in her chair to face her. “How can you say that? How can you say that?” Alexander shouted. “I was a proponent. This is crap!”

There might be less of a problem with deliveries if the police department stepped up its enforcement, particularly of parking placards. The first merchant to complain about the lane was Nick Bazas, the owner of Quality Florist. As Streetsblog previously reported, Quality Florist’s vans have repeatedly parked in the bike lane to load and unload. “I had to park somewhere,” he said. “Either you double park or you park in the bicycle lane.”

Bazas admitted that under the street redesign, he has a commercial loading zone in front of his store where previously he’d only had metered parking. But he said the loading zone is usually filled with cars parked for hours at a time sporting parking placards from the police, the fire department, schools, the handicapped, and the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. “What do you do when someone parks with a plaque?” asked Bazas. “Is someone above the law?” DOT said to take it up with the police.

Police intransigence is also blocking an effort by DOT to free up some additional space for parking or loading on 82nd Street. The local precinct parks on that street, including a number of private cars belonging to officers, and DOT hasn’t successfully persuaded the precinct to disperse that parking. Council Member Gale Brewer endorsed those efforts, saying “this would be the time not to have PD private cars parking in that area.”

  • To repeat what I said earlier, I think this kind of bike lane on Columbus would solve a lot of the problems discussed:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/10798592@N08/1414440531/

  • Larry Littlefield

    That would just be another motor vehicle lane, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t have a child ride in it.

  • Doug

    ddartly: How would it solve the problems discussed? In your example, you have completely removed a lane from general traffic use; a bike lane only narrows the existing lanes in this case (which I can attest has slowed speeds on Columbus). The issue as Streetsblog has reported it is almost exclusively regarding lack of commercial loading spaces and metered parking spaces (with a smattering of nuts who hate anything lacking a motor).

    You also do not address the actual or perception of safety in the lanes you discuss versus curb-side lanes. Whether your lane proposal does actually improve safety is clearly a matter of debate; it certainly decreases the perception of safety, and therefore does little or nothing to increase biker safety. This is something anyone who has tried to merge across a wide road can agree on. There are many other problems which I think preclude it from being a practical approach.

    On your site you say, “I present this as an OPTION for times/places when the big project of renovating into “sidewalk–>bike–>car parking–>street” is not practicable/desirable.” That does not apply here.

  • Doug

    More succinctly said, Larry!

  • Driver

    ddartly, Even if motorists obey the crossing over rule, it would still subject the center lane to too much auto traffic to be safe. Vehicles would have to basically make 2 lane changes, one to enter the bike lane and one to exit into the traffic lane, and perform this at vehicle traffic speed. You would end up with fast moving cars in the bike lane paying attention to changing lanes, and not the possible cyclists in the bike lane. This would likely be more dangerous and more unpredictable than the current turning lanes that intersect the protected bike lanes.

  • Driver: “Vehicles would have to basically make 2 lane changes, one to enter the bike lane and one to exit into the traffic lane”

    Yes, but only if they need to cross the avenue. Not all vehicle trips on an avenue involve that.

    But importantly, this is a *benefit* of the design; not a flaw: it would slow vehicles down.

    But let’s say you’re totally right: then I still think the design would work, but just farther into the future, at a time when the cycling population has grown even more, and perhaps city speed limits have been reduced.

  • Joseph

    Boohoo, cry me a river. They can all get deliveries, they are just being lazy and don’t like change. All of Europe and the rest of the civilized world gets along just fine with their bike lanes.

    How is this even an issue? Why do we even have to care what a “half a dozen merchants” complain about? TOO BAD. That’s life. The lane was highly supported prior to being built, and highly supported after. It’s just too damn bad. Join the 21st Century already! If you can’t make business ends meet with the lane there, then there are plenty of businesses that can, and would love to, take your place. Just leave already.

  • Doug G.

    I’ve shopped at Zingone’s for years and my wife works nearby. Her office routinely orders food for work events from the grocery store. I’ve always thought it was nice to support a long-time, local business.

    How many Zingone customers are arriving by car? It’s a small grocery store, hardly the kind of place you pull an SUV up to to stock up on provisions for a month. Most of his customers are probably neighborhood people who arrive on foot, or, in my case, bike.

    Zingone said he had to fire one worker already because of the bike lane, although I’d like to see his proof that it was the bike lane and the loss of parking that did it and not, say, the ups and downs of economy. Understanding causality is not typically a strong point of street safety opponents.

    Mr. Zingone, how’s this for causality: you’ve lost a customer. I won’t shop at businesses that don’t support traffic calming and bike lanes. An Entenmann’s cake is not more important than protecting lives.

  • reallynow

    curbside bike lanes are problematic..i predict these will fade away in favor of traditional bike lanes

  • Marco

    I think the need for “traffic calming” on 83rd and Columbus is a little overstated. Maybe up near the rise at 94th and Columbus, but supporting “traffic calming” at 83rd and Columbus really just means that you support lots of traffic. 🙂

    I do struggle to understand why some people are so dismissive of the veracity of the concerns of business owners. Why would they lie? What benefit would accrue to them from correcting the wrong thing?

    Liveable streets are as much about the retail, communal and cultural experience as the transportation utility. Liveable streets is not exclusively on promoting safer cycling. We should be supporting these local storeowners and integrating them into the fold, not demonizing or threatening them.

  • Marco

    Sorry – sentence should read: “Liveable streets is not exclusively focused on promoting safer cycling”

  • Driver

    Joseph, take a ride down Columbus and look at all the illegally and double parked and ticketed delivery trucks. These deliveries are being made, often at a cost of $115 a stop. Smaller business have a hard time getting vendors to continue to deliver to them when the vendor cannot make a profit due to these parking tickets.
    It’s not simply laziness. There were not enough loading areas before, and there are even less now with the new lanes. Parking illegally often becomes the only practical way to make deliveries, as costly as it may be.

  • Doug, (didn’t see your comment till now) maybe instead of “problems discussed” I should have referred more specifically to the merchants’ complaints. With my design they would not have any parking or loading zone changes to complain about.

    As for safety, I address that broadly in my comment on Today’s Headlines (which I probably should have saved for this thread), but very briefly, cyclists would be more visible to drivers, would never be near any door zone, and would have their own lead green signals to enter and exit the lane ahead of cars. Also, as you mention, cars would be slowed down.

    The last thing, the “this is an OPTION” comment, er, of course doesn’t apply here, because they now HAVE installed a bike lane! I don’t understand the objection.

    Anyway, I’m glad you guys took such a serious look at the design and cared to discuss it.

  • “I do struggle to understand why some people are so dismissive of the veracity of the concerns of business owners.”

    I’m with you on that, Marco. I think the dismissiveness happens because bike lane proponents get defensive when they see the press very loudly covering the complaints of maybe just two or three merchants, and because those complaints often contain numbers that sound maybe made up (“20% of my business”), and that can’t fairly be pinned on bike lanes alone. The good news, I think, is that DOT does listen to those complaints (even if we readers of this blog don’t) and try to address them. I think.

  • Doug G.

    The bike lane, as usual, is a red herring here. It’s a side benefit to traffic calming, not the sole purpose.

    Columbus most certainly needs traffic calming, with or without a bike lane. It, like many of the North-South Avenues, is a speedway. I’m confident a study would show few vehicles observing the speed limit most of the time. There’s a school at 83rd and Columbus. Kids need to cross safely, and drivers, mostly taxis and delivery vehicles, need to slow down.

    If we can eliminate a lane of traffic to achieve that goal, great. If there’s space left over for a bike lane, that’s great, too. I cycle, but if forced to pick either slower traffic or a bike lane, I’d pick the former. Thankfully, I’m not forced to choose between the two.

    I agree: it’s about livable streets, not bike lanes exclusively. But if you create streets that are calm and inviting, for a variety of users, business goes up. It’s a win for everyone.

    I’m not dismissive of opponent’s objections, provided they’re based in verifiable facts and data. PPW is a good example. Separate studies have confirmed that speeding is down and cycling is up since the new design went in. Opponents say they’ve see” more accidents or are afraid to cross the street or never see anyone using the bike lanes. I can dismiss these arguments if they can’t point to a single piece of data to back them up. What’s wrong with that? If someone claims that the new health care bill features death panels, can’t we dismiss that argument if they can’t back it up. We have to be polite, but not to the point of letting every ridiculous claim gain traction.

    I’m sensitive to any local business that can explain how it’s affected by a change in the street. If a business is negatively affected, no one wants that. What I think a lot of people here are reacting to is the reflexive resistance to change. It’s suspicious when the answer, over and over again, is “NO BIKE LANE.” Well, no. Let’s talk about changes in the design that will balance everyone’s needs. But we can’t go back to the way it was.

    I want locally owned businesses to thrive, and that’s why I’m disappointed by the likes of Zingone. They should understand that in the long term, traffic calming — and, yes, that includes bike lanes — are good for everyone.

  • Marco

    With due respect, is the statement “Columbus most certainly needs traffic calming” “based in verifiable facts and data?”

    For the life of me, the only traffic fatality I can remember is the guy who got hit by a turning bus at 86th Street. That’s not a calming issue, although the fact that they changed the light soon after leads me to believe that it could have been a signal issue.

    I actually find Columbus between 86th and 77th to be among the most pleasant and humane pedestrian stretches of the UWS. Slowing traffic to a crawl would just pointlessly slow traffic to a crawl.

    Listen – it’s easy among cycling enthusiasts to be dismissive of these business owners, but these shopowner guys who do this day-in-day-out might actually know what they’re talking about.

    I think increased enforcement would do wonders, actually.

  • Joseph

    I actually feel bad for the Zingone guy, cause he’s a really nice guy. I buy my Christmas tree from him every year, and other things here and there. But perhaps he’s pissed because he’s an older man, and can’t accept modern change. He’s just gonna have to figure out a way to deal with it, and that’s that.

    This is NYC. Shit happens that, and it can’t always please everyone. Things change. Either change with them, or you lose. Bitching about something widely supported by your community is simply bad business practice. If I have to pay a couple of extra dollars for my Christmas tree this year because of delivery problems, then so be it. And if that’s not an option, then bye bye. You had a good run, now it’s time to go. You’ll be missed. End of story.

    This isn’t even entirely about bike lanes. It could have been anything. For example, some other widely accepted change to the neighborhood could have caused an inconvenience or slight profit loss. So what? Do we have to constantly halt progress and change to please a few people who can’t learn to cope? I mean, every other business on Columbus Avenue from 96th to 77th Street gets their damn Entemann’s cakes just fine! ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!

  • Joseph

    Besides, who the hell still eats Entemann’s cake??

  • If theres no space to make deliveries at 3pm, why not schedule deliveries at another time when the parking isnt full?

  • Driver

    Jass, parking is difficult at any time. The West side of Columbus (79 st & south, not sure how far uptown this extends) is no standing 7 to 10 am, and is quickly filled after 10 am. The east side of Columbus has significantly fewer spots, and one car in the right spot blocks all the spaces to any trucks. What would help would be to make Columbus metered parking for commercial vehicles only during the day. That comes with its own set of problems though, and would probably elicit more community uproar.

  • Driver

    I’m not that familiar with Columbus, but I’m pretty sure what is refereed to as commercial loading zones near the affected businesses are actually regular metered spaces available to cars as well. There is a big difference between that and loading zones.

  • J

    There has to be a way to allow legal deliveries AND have the bike lane. It has been done in Chelsea and on Grand Street, and seems to be working OK on 1st and 2nd Avenues. Maybe delivery zones, shortened turning bays, raising meter rates, a placard crackdown; I’m not sure.

    If DOT works with those businesses involved, it shouldn’t be too big an issue. DOT’s presence at the meeting and history of working to tweak and refine designs is crucial. Next time, though, more planning should be done with businesses before installation, in order to prevent this type of scenario.

    As for the businesses, I wouldn’t rush to boycott a business because it wants to get deliveries legally. It is a legitimate concern, which can hopefully be addressed while keeping the bike lane. However, if they are unwilling to find solutions that keep the bike lane, then I am all for a boycott.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I’m all in favor of dedicated metered loading zones restricted to commercial vehicles, wherever they are needed–including zones on residential blocks for Fresh Direct, Fedex, etc. Free parking for non-commercial parkers on the spurs of residential streets adjacent to commercial strips should be converted for this purpose. Non-commercial curbside parkers have been foisting congestion due to double parking and passed-through ticket payments onto their neighbors who don’t own cars for far too long, and getting free parking for no good reason in the bargain, for far too long. Zero tolerance enforcement on placard abusers. Handicapped parkers should have one reserved space per block. Everyone else pays market rates to park on a residential street a block away from their commercial destination.

  • Joseph

    No, they are referring to strictly loading zones. They are complaining that when their vendor comes to make a delivery, there is someone already in that loading zone (since they are now somewhat smaller), so they have nowhere to go.

    In the case of Zingone, there is a perfect spot for a loading zone on the corner of 83rd street, almost at Columbus. If you look at googlemaps streetview, you’ll see it. The problem is that it is reserved for police personell. The article mentioned this. I would suggest Mr. Zingone gripe about that wasted space, which is perfect for his business, instead of calling for the removal of the bike lane.

    Or another option is to remove metered parking all together and make all of Columbus a loading zone (on the outside of the bikelane of course.) Really, no one shops at these places with their cars, and if they do, they can park on a side street and walk 50 feet. It’s good exercise anyway. But really, truly, no one does.

    I really do want all of these businesses to be happy. I lived in this neighborhood for a very long time and like some of these quircky old-school shops like Zingone. But the answer is not remove the bike lane. Take your gripes up with the DOT for more loading zones and the Police Department (for what I mentioned above) if need be. And if that doesn’t work, work something out with your vendors. If that doesn’t work, see ya.

  • J

    Driver,

    The lane runs from 96th to 77th. You are correct that the west side of the street is No Standing 7am – 10am. On the east side, again you are correct that there is metered parking, not loading zones, and anyone can pay to park there.

    It should be standard practice for DOT to look at curb usage and regulations as part of any project that significantly affects curb usage, such as this one. That way they can anticipate problems, instead of scrambling after the fact. Let me first say that I love the new bike lane. This project does aggravate the already poor curb management situation in the area, and the businesses are feeling it. I know DOT is starting to address curb management elsewhere with the ParkSmart project, which is great but small. The curb usage issue has been a problem on a number of cycle track projects, and often ends up unnecessarily pitting bike riders against businesses. As such, DOT should address it directly.

  • utalways

    I’ve never heard of someone dying or being injured from failing to get a delivery on time.

    However, I have heard of many people dying because of unsafe streets and lack of bicycle infastructure.

    Let’s see:

    This bike lane may cause some late deliveries, but it may prevent death or injury.

    Why is this even a discussion?????????????? Human life vs. Entenman cake? Um . . . you get my point.

  • Joseph

    J, that’s not the case on every single block. Each block is different. There are plenty of loading zones on the east side as well.

    For example, the florist guy in the article actually even admitted that he gained a loading zone from the bike lane, but complains that it is being illegally taken up by placard holders who shouldn’t be there. But how is that a bike lane issue? The answer is not remove the bike lane, it’s enforce the law.

  • Shemp

    Who is the guy who keeps talking about “traffic slowed to a crawl?” The Columbus project did not take a travel lane away – the lanes were super-wide before the project and so just got trimmed a bit.

  • Joseph

    And in case anyone is wondering, most of the metered parking spots are usually taken up by Columbus Avenue business owners/employees, who you can regularly see run out and put quarters in the meters. It’s cheaper than parking garages, and they consider the metered parking cost of doing business which they pass on to us. Have you noticed that a damn 6-pack of beer is 14 dollars at some of these bodegas?

    Saying that less metered parking is driving business down is bologna. It’s extremely rare to see car shoppers on Columbus. Besides, they can’t get a spot cause they’re taken up by the owners/employees!

  • Larry Littlefield

    On the Zingone issue, there isn’t much he can do if placard holders are parked in the loading zones.

    Ultimately in Manhattan the stuff needs to be brought in the same way the trash is brought out — overnight. That’s tough on a small business, unless it has employees it can trust, but I don’t see another way. In fact, one of the things congestion pricing would probably have done is encourage overnight deliveries by having much lower charges for trucks.

  • Michael Steiner

    While i would agree that merchants should have a legal way to make delivery (although that wouldn’t necessarily mean any time any place; as others have mentioned shops in other city’s easily can deal with limited off-peak delivery hours …), i think nobody has mentioned here so far a crucial aspect: Even before the bike-lane the deliveries had to be made mostly illegally by double-parking. As far as i know there are now more loading zones than before. So the delivery problem really has nothing to do with the bike lane and maybe merchants notice only now assuming (the unlikely case) that there might have been stricter law enforcement since the bike lane …

  • Doug G.

    Marco, I’m fairly confident that a study of traffic speeds on almost any stretch of Columbus Avenue, if one hasn’t been done already, would show that the overwhelming majority of cars are speeding.

    However, if a study is done that proves that not to be the case, or if a study is done that proves that adding pedestrian islands and bike lanes has no impact on the number of injuries and accidents to all users, then I, like many people here, would reconsider my position.

    The opposite of this is what I’m trying to point out. Do you think Zingone or any other person who is against the Columbus Ave redesign would change his position if it was proven that speeds were down without truly causing congestion or that pedestrian, cyclist, and auto accident rates went down? I think they’d somehow still see it through the lens of how it affects their business, which is understandable, but not how we base decisions for the broad array of people who use our city’s streets.

    Additionally, it’s not about slowing traffic to a crawl. That hasn’t happened anywhere a bike lane or pedestrian refuge has be installed. It’s about getting people to obey the speed limit and drive at speeds appropriate to mixed-use roadways, not highways. On Prospect Park West, cars are not crawling at 5 miles per hour, they are going about 30 mph. Before the redesign many were exceeding 40 and 50 mph.

    For facts and figures, the study can be found here: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/10/22/results-of-the-new-ppw-speeding-down-cycling-up-big/

    On PPW, more drivers are obeying the speed limit not because they feel like it or suddenly decided to be nice, but because the design of the street has forced them to slow down. That’s what we’d like to see on more streets in every borough, with or without bike lanes. Again, bike lanes are a residual benefit of traffic calming, not the sole purpose.

  • Joe R.

    This is glossing over the real cause of lack of loading zones ( and for that matter the real cause of the congestion ) – namely too many unnecessary trips in private vehicles. Manhattan consists of highly dense, very expensive real estate. As such, zero on-street space should be devoted to parking of private vehicles. Futhermore, other more important users should get first priority over road usage. Given the plethora of other transport options in Manhattan, private passenger cars at best are a convenience, not a necessity. It’s high time DOT planning treated them as such, basically severely limited what roads they can use, what times they can use those roads, and where they can park. I fully sympathize with the problem delivery vehicles are experiencing but the bike lane isn’t the cause. Rather, it’s too many suburbanites ( and also well-to-do city residents ) who insist on using a mode of transport better suited to Nebraska than NYC when they have a bunch of other ( often faster, almost always cheaper ) options available to them.

    Incidentally, the using the bike lane for deliveries problem is easily fixed. Have bollards spaced about 4 feet apart all along the length of the bike lane in the striped zone so as to make it physically impossible for motor traffic to enter. As a plus, this negates the need to divert police to keep the bike lanes clear of cars.

  • Greg

    Double parking to make deliveries is just a fact of life in Manhattan. Take a trip down Lexington or up Third any day and you’ll find double parking by trucks on every single block. But it’s NO BIG DEAL because all the traffic is used to it. Through traffic simply treats both curb-side lanes as parking. So there’s no reason to ticket trucks that double-park making deliveries.

  • Amy

    Greg – Double-Parking in Manhattan may be the status quo and “all the traffic” may be “used to it” but that doesn’t mean that “it’s no big deal.” Double-parking is a big deal and the fact that people routinely break the law and are used to it doesn’t mean that we should all just accept it. Double-parking and other routine practices that block streets and the flow of traffic are a serious problem and since enforcement either hasn’t solved the problem (or doesn’t happen) it seems to me that the smart move is to try to incorporate new designs into our streets that will influence (or force) vehicles (motorized and non-motorized) as well as pedestrians to behave in a safer way so that we can try to improve the overall quality of life for people in our neighborhood.

    As for this delivery issue – we certainly need to continue to work on ways to improve deliveries in the city. Further restricting private cars is essential. But what about delivery businesses? For example, why does UPS have to drive around in such large trucks? These huge corporations seem to be so narrowly focused on a one-sized-fits-all business model that they seem incapable of adapting their businesses to the local environment. I still think that streets should be designed with commercial traffic and deliveries in mind, but at the same time, if delivery trucks can’t find parking and choose to pay parking fines rather than looking for ways to adapt their business to the circumstances then it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

  • JK

    This Columbus Ave lane outcry is a “head bone connected to the neck bone” issue, and highlights how any change in the dysfunctional, but familiar, status quo lays bare systemic problems. The city’s curbside parking system is screwing up things for all but a few street users. It does not work because of political entitlements to special interests. Here, it’s placard holding cops but it’s also because there is so little metering on nearby residential side streets — the political priority is keeping curbside parking free for the handful of people who can spend hours moving their cars around — and because of a ridiculous commercial parking adjudication system which gives volume discounts on parking tickets for commercial fleets. The whole thing is an irrational mess. Unfortunately, it’s a mess way beyond the power of DOT to sort out.

  • Marco

    JK – I’m with you 100%. I really wonder if these fights to reduce parking lot capacity (like at Riverside recently) are really productive in the context of the reality that manifests in areas like Columbus Ave.

    I’ve seen some of the sound and fury above about how unrealistic and unfair it is to drive cars in Manhattan, and that zero space should be devoted to parking. That’s just never going to happen. My suburban parents aren’t going to take the bus to visit their grandkids, and they shouldn’t have to.

  • Chris

    Marco, so you’re saying we should give preference to out-of-town suburban drivers over people that live here? That makes no sense. How about driving to Metro north and taking public transportation into the city.

  • Marco

    I am saying that people from out of town should be able to drive into the city if they choose as long as they contribute to the infrastructure that they impact. I’m not sure how that gives them “preference.” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with people driving in from Nyack or whatever to visit family on the UWS.

  • BicyclesOnly

    My suburban parents take the bus (Rockland Coach) to visit their grandkids on the Upper East Side.

  • Marco

    That’s one heck of a trip. I admire their patience.

  • Perhaps the stores should consider pressing their distributers to deliver by bicycle?

  • The big takeaway is that the DOT has yet to learn how to do change management, a practice with proven techniques which includes intense communication with users about all changes as they happen and adjustments to the plans. It also includes not letting the engineers run the show or interface with the users.

    the second take away is the DOT is still relying mostly on models, tools and engineers that are car centric. These long turn lanes were created because of the fear of “cars backing up”. Well you can be sure that if delivery trucks double park, there WILL be car backups Who in the DOT is in charge of advocating for deliveries and businesses and residents.

    We should not be surprised because it has been only four years since the changes started and it is an enormous enterprise. But we should wonder whether the DOT can scale: we are past the early adopters here, and mass production requires a different approach.

  • Driver

    Aaron, delivering goods by bicycle would be ridiculously labor and time intensive, enough to make the idea economically unfeasible, and in many cases impossible. Most goods delivered in the city come from the outer boroughs, Long Island, NJ, and beyond. One or two people in one truck can deliver thousands, even tens of thousands of pounds of merchandise in a day to many locations. The scale of operations in distribution companies is way beyond what could be accomplished on bicycles.

    Amy, UPS does not deliver in large trucks, they have fairly small trucks that are often packed to capacity. Smaller trucks would just mean MORE (smaller) trucks.

    JK, the commercial adjudication system is no bargain either, I think a $115 ticket is reduced to about $90 or so, still a steep price.

    How much do these tickets add up to?
    “For the company’s fiscal year of June 1, 2007, to May 31, 2008, Mr. McCluskey said, FedEx paid $10.7 million to the City of New York to settle its parking and traffic tickets.”
    That’s just one company! We are all paying for this.

    Source: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/when-a-fedex-truck-is-absolutely-positively-towed/?scp=3&sq=fed%20ex%20tow%20%20parking%20tickets&st=cse

  • J

    Joseph,

    Thanks for the clarification. If the merchants are hogging their own delivery spaces, then tough luck. If police placards are hogging the loading zones, then take it up with the police. In either case, it’s a use and enforcement issue, not a design issue. JK is spot on, that this project has simply highlighted existing issues that were never resolved.

    I suggest that DOT attempt to resolve existing loading issues as an integral part of any cycle track project. Then instead of businesses complaining about losing parking, they may actually support cycle tracks, since the project would end up saving them time and money.

    This same strategy has worked miraculously with the ped refuge islands. People with no interest whatsoever in biking are supporting bike lanes for the pedestrian benefits they bring. This same effect could be achieved for businesses if DOT was really able work with businesses to solve curb use issues on cycle track routes.

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