Eyes on the Street: Whole Foods Takes the Whole Bike Lane (and Sidewalk)

Who needs newly-built loading docks when you can take over the sidewalk and the bike lane? Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter
Whole Foods commandeers Third Avenue. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

The huge surface parking lot and inward-facing, suburban-style design were bad enough. Now the Gowanus Whole Foods Market is taking over the Third Avenue bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke snapped a photo of a Whole Foods forklift and piles of pallets using the Third Avenue buffered bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone earlier this week. One would expect a newly-built food market to be well-integrated with existing infrastructure, but since Whole Foods opened late last year, its loading activities have overflowed onto the street and sidewalk along Third Avenue.

“You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,” Gordon writes. “The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.”

In its 2011 traffic study [PDF], Whole Foods said only that “truck loading docks would be located along Third Avenue” and that all truck loading activity would occur between midnight and 5 p.m. There was no mention of the amount of space needed or required to accommodate deliveries or whether that space would take over the sidewalk and street.

Community Board 6 voted in support of the project in June 2011. According to the board’s minutes, the interaction of loading zones with Third Avenue only came up as a concern briefly during the land use committee hearing on the proposal. As a condition for its approval, the board requested that Whole Foods conduct a traffic study one year after opening.

  • red_greenlight1

    There just some bike lanes that become bus and truck parking all the time. Untill the police actually start towing this behavior will continue.

  • As Doug noted on Twitter, approaching from any direction as a pedestrian is a bad experience considering where the entrance is situated and the traffic flow.


  • ” ‘You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,’ Gordon writes. ‘The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.’ ”

    You can blame them, as the trucks should park flush with the curb. The photo shows that this would be possible.

    Another possibility would be to park in the traffic lane, where cars and trucks belong. This is what happens on Clinton St. in Manhattan, just south of the Delancey St. and the entry to the Williamsburg Bridge. Trucks unloading for the supermarket and other stores there often block the bike lane; but they sometimes stay clear of it by parking to the left of it, within the traffic lane. I always thank those drivers who do this.

  • Jonathan Hawkins

    I’ve also been there when the gate to the pedestrian walkway on the south side of the property has been padlocked.

    I hadn’t been closely following any of the details of this project, so when I first saw it I was stunned by the design.

  • Ben Theohuxtable Garber

    A study that is mentioned in Happy City by Charles montgomery, which streetsblog recently revied in a video, found that the place that pedestrians in the lower east side get angriest is in front of the Houston st whole foods. I wrote to them to let ten know that I concur with those findings, but have not heard back. How can whole foods be convinced that its designs need to be drastically improved?

  • The curb is often occupied.


    And if drivers park in the right-hand travel lane, they cause other drivers to have to weave in and out of traffic in the left-hand lane. That’s not a good solution for motorists either. Separate street functions need separate spaces.

  • I don’t doubt that the curbside parking lane is often occupied, as it always is on Clinton St. in Manhattan. But, in the particular instance shown in the first photo, that late wasn’t occupied. So in that case the driver is at fault for not using the available parking lane.

    It’s true that parking the truck in the travel lane is not ideal, for the reason that you mentioned. However, parking a motor vehicle in the space alloted for motor vehicles is far preferable to blocking the bike lane. This is why the truck drivers on Clinton St. deserve thanks for doing the right thing.

    In any case, deliveries to these big chain stores should be made in the overnight hours.

  • Daniel

    Sadly, this was a usable bike lane until Whole Foods showed up. If this supermarket can’t be convinced to be a good neighbour let them use their own parking lot and front door for loading and unloading. The DOT could simply eliminate the loading zone and if necessary erect concrete barriers to prevent loading and unloading on this street. The whole point of a loading zone is to avoid just this type of problem.

  • Kevin Love

    When people break the law, I can and do blame them for breaking the law. In this particular case, the criminals are causing a serious danger to the public. The law needs to be sternly enforced and upheld by the police.

  • Alan

    It’s definitely a lie that truck loading is only between midnight and 5PM. They have trucks double-parked in the bike lane on a regular basis. This bike lane is a really bad one to block, since 3rd Avenue is a heavy truck route and merging into traffic can be very scary. It’s also annoying, since a speedy bicyclist can keep up with the light cycle and merges will force them out of of sync.

    Here’s a photo of one of there trucks double-parked in the bike lane, despite clear curb space available, at 10PM:

  • iblamepeoplewhoblockbikelanes

    plus, that seafood van could just park in the huge f’ing parking lot.

  • kyle

    I’m pretty sure the amount of work wfm does with every community far outweighs the blocking of a single bike lane, so let’s not jump ahead here and say they’re a bad neighbor. Plus you’ve clearly never worked in any sort of retail business if you believe using the front door for loading and unloading deliveries is a logical solution.

  • I grew up in Austin where Whole Foods is from. I can tell you they don’t care..except for the cash from healthy people’s pockets. They are Republicans.

    We are dealing with the same bs from them in Berkeley where Whole Foods insists on parking its forklift in the electric car quick charging spot. This is more than wrong and underlines how they really just don’t care, except to sell overpriced groceries.

  • Rabi

    Parking in a moving lane is no better than parking in a bike lane. We cyclists might prefer it, but it’s still dangerous and illegal.

    Truck drivers don’t want to park dangerously. They’re just doing their jobs. The problem is that we’ve developed a society dependent on truck transportation without developing the infrastructure for trucks to operate safely.

  • Daniel

    I believe closing them down and sending them back to Texas is the logical solution. I’m just looking at solutions that the city has in it’s power to implement. I do believe they will be willing to fulfill their promises to their neighbors once the process of closing down their loading dock is commenced.

    PS The threat to public safety they have created here is real and I can’t think of a single good thing they have done for the community. Honestly, wouldn’t you rather have a sewage treatment plant here than a “Whole Foods” supermarket?

  • BrooklynLocal

    Back when the people in the neighborhood were opposing this store’s design plans–when the company was seeking special zoning permission from the people of this city, to build this car-oriented food store; the problem of this truck loading conflict on 3rd Ave was brought up and thoroughly dismissed by the WF lawyers/designers.
    Everyone knew there would be problems with this deliver truck design, but the rush to get approval and build was more important that the proper and safe running of the store.
    Whole Foods has not provided benefits to this community that compensate for the what they have taken. Safety along 3rd Ave and 3rd St are just a part of what the community was forced to give up for a store that is all about the automobile/parking lot, while pretending to be “green” with gismo-signs littering the skyline.

  • BrooklynLocal

    kyle, WF doesn’t work with the community AT ALL. They do as they please. The community board asked that the store be more approachable for pedestrians, that it have a street facade presence like typical Brooklyn commercial districts. WF responded by added a silly window on 3rd St, but most pedestrians can’t find their way into the store on their first visit.
    The store was dropped into Brooklyn direct from the suburbs. It is for the automobile/shopping-mall society where loading docks are off in back.
    The building doesn’t belong here and we all look forward to the time when it is removed.

  • BBnet3000

    I thought at first that it was an electric forklift, but the cord isnt plugged in and I think thats a propane tank on the back?

  • BBnet3000

    It looks like the truck could park along the curb there and the forklift could unload without entering the bike lane (if they scooped the curb right at least).

    If cars parking there is a problem, make the block a no-parking loading zone.

  • lop

    >make the block a no-parking loading zone

    Don’t need the whole block. Just enough room for a truck and forklift, and probably only for a few hours a day.

    No store that needs deliveries should be able to open, or remain open, without a loading plan that doesn’t require blocking a bike lane, crosswalk, sidewalk, or general traffic lane.

  • Jonathan R

    Suggest calling 311 and reporting that the business at 214 3d Street, borough of Brooklyn is blocking the bike lane and sidewalk on 3rd Avenue.

    Then take the service request number and call the community board at 718-643-3027 to report that you called.

    Then attend the CB general meeting and take the time to mention it and ask the relevant committee to add it to the agenda.

    Then attend the committee meeting and bring your photos and if you are really dedicated, draft a resolution for the committee to bring before the board.

    Then attend the next CB general meeting and speak up to support the resolution.


  • Mason

    So the hipsters want a wholefoods in Gowanus, and now they complain about a pety bike lane.

  • Propane for sure, electric or fuel cell would be too cool. They are owned by Republicans.


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