311 Is a Joke: NYPD Ignores Bike Lane-Blocking Big Rigs in Red Hook

In the space of a few hours this afternoon, one cyclist’s experience, chronicled in real time on Twitter, summed up NYPD’s indifference to keeping bike lanes clear of motor vehicles.

At 8:00 this morning, Anna Zivarts encountered a flatbed tractor-trailer parked in the two-way Imlay/Summit Street bike lane in Red Hook. When that truck and a second rig were still blocking the lane four hours later, Zivarts tweeted photos.

Prompted by a response from DOT on Twitter, at 2:15 p.m. Zivarts filed a complaint on the 311 web site. (There is no “vehicle blocking bike lane” option on the 311 site, so DOT advised her to select “double parked blocking traffic.”) An hour later, Zivarts received an emailed response that read: “The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.”

When she checked the street minutes later, however, the trucks were still parked in the bike lane. “Why bother?” tweeted Zivarts.

Though this isn’t one of NYC’s most hectic streets, in the video, taken by Zivarts, you can see the truck is forcing cyclists into an oncoming lane around a corner, where visibility is poor.

Apparently that’s not something the police care to prevent.

  • I had the same problem reporting sidewalk parking on 4th Avenue to 311. Far too frequently the 311 report would be closed out with the same “police action was not necessary” even though the car that caused me to call 311 hadn’t been moved in hours.

    To be fair, when I brought the problem directly to the higher ups at the local precinct the problem was dealt with swiftly. But most people don’t have the time to attend precinct meetings or do the whole advocacy thing as a hobby.

    It’s hard to know what to call this — Corruption? Incompetence? Laziness? General apathy? — but reform is desperately needed. The NYPD should not be able to ignore clear violations of the law. It inspires little confidence.

  • As Doug and quite a few others on here will know, I recently had a run-in on the two-way bike lane on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg with a person who claimed (convincingly) to be an off-duty cop who couldn’t see a problem with blocking the lane: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/05/an-angry-off-duty-police-man-rainy.html So I’m not terribly surprised to find the police don’t care about other vehicles’ bike lane parking. Streetsblog also recently ran a story on how ten days ago I found police essentially supervising the parking of minivans blocking the sidewalk and bike lane on another part of Kent Avenue: http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/06/02/eyes-on-the-street-new-bike-path-same-old-illegal-parking/ Furthermore, the blocked bike lane about which Anna Zivarts complained is, as far as I know, fairly close to where Nicholas Soto was killed eight days ago. The police seemed to rush to exonerate the driver involved there. Presumably, police from the same precinct have decided no action is necessary in this case.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that few New York City Police Department officers care about road safety. Insofar as they do care about it, they seem to regard the priority as being to rein in troublesome pedestrians and cyclists so that they don’t get in the way of law-abiding motorists. This view urgently needs to change. But no-one seems to be addressing the need to make this cultural change or planning for it. I would hope we would soon hear that the mayor is telling his police commissioner in no uncertain terms that his department can’t continue this way.

  • Guest

    I recommend calling the local precinct commander or community affairs officer. I’ve found them to be pretty responsive. You don’t have to wait for a meeting!

  • @FtGreeneCyclist

    …I recommend calling the local precinct commander or community affairs officer. I’ve found them to be pretty responsive. You don’t have to wait for a meeting! (Apologies for the double-post; new to this!)

  • Stanley Greenberg

    I have a similar problem with cars parked on the sidewalk on Ninth Street near Third Avenue in Brooklyn. I’ve made many 311 complaints, and each time get the same “police investigated and found no violation” responses. I finally called 311 to complain about the lack of action and was advised that the complaint I needed to make was about police inaction. So I did that. Still no action though.

  • I’ve done that as well. Always effective. I feel lucky to live in a neighborhood where the precinct commander is so responsive. But getting the police to enforce the law shouldn’t depend on luck and/or perseverance.

    The larger point stands: either the practice of parking in bike lanes or on sidewalks is illegal or it’s not. And if it is, the police need to ticket or tow when they see it happening, especially if it’s reported directly to them via 311. Otherwise, what is 311 for other than just data collection?

  • dave “paco” abraham

    @Stanley Greenberg:disqus… for the 9th & 3rd ave issue, I also suggest using this… http://map78.makebrooklynsafer.org/

  • 311 user

    NYPD regularly lies about 311 tickets. I’ve had first-hand experience this type of situation.

  • BBnet3000

    Yep, ive reported cars parked on the sidewalk and the ticket is closed without them doing dick.

    I did this months ago and the car is STILL there on the sidewalk in my neighborhood, with no plates or registration and flat tires.

  • I once had the same problem with enforcement responses to illegally parked trucks in my neighborhood, and remembered a 311 operator told me there was a process to deal with that. I just spoke with 311 operator “Ernesto”, and was told there are two steps you can take to address the problem.

    First is to file an agency complaint against the precinct (or any city agency) with a 311 operator. The agency will have to explain (to whom I don’t know) why they addressed the complaint the way they did. Or didn’t, I suppose.

    The second is to file a complaint with the Public Advocate’s office by phone, email, mail, fax or in person. Contact information below…


    I would guess the only excuse for not addressing that illegal parking would be the precinct being too busy. If somebody’s saying they actually responded and saw no violation, and you have evidence the violation was still there, somebody at the precinct might have to do some explaining.

    Hope this was helpful, and a big thank you to 311 operator Ernesto !!

  • dave “paco” abraham

    You call the precinct?

  • HamTech87

    Although this didn’t happen in NYC, have to tell:

    a local gas station near me repeatedly parked their truck on the sidewalk. I spoke to them and got nowhere, so I called the local precinct, and the officer tried to say that it was probably just temporary. When I said the truck was almost always there, the officer agreed to look at the spot on Google Maps Streetview. And there was the truck, parked on the sidewalk at an earlier, random date and time. Suffice to say the gas station no longer parks its truck there.

  • Andrew

    Given that police officers don’t see anything wrong with parking their personal vehicles on sidewalks and in bike lanes, why would you expect them to see anything wrong with other people parking their vehicles on sidewalks and in bike lanes?

  • Jesse

    I bet that street gets more bike traffic than car traffic. It shouldn’t even be a wide car street with a bike lane. It should be a bike street with a car lane, or maybe just a loading zone.

    And still the city won’t do shit.

  • petercow

    Exactly. NYPD sees drivers as “Us”, and pedestrians and cyclists as “Them”.

  • avidcylcist

    I’d normally agree with the sentiments here, but, seriously, in *red hook* with practically no traffic, and a street *that wide*, to complain about this? That’s why we cyclists (and I’m one too) get saddled with the “entilted” stigma. Sometimes you have to let things slide and share the street.

  • KillMoto

    Funny, I usually hear “entitled cyclist” from people who in the same breath claim cyclists never stop for red lights.

    Adherence to the law is not optional. Not when the red-road is ‘clear’, and not when the lazy trucker feels like blocking the road.

    Law enforcement exists to do one thing: enforce the law.

  • KillMoto

    Couple of these babes and a strong friend will cure that problem.


  • KillMoto

    I’m not one to suggest vandalism, so don’t misconstrue what I’m about to say.

    But I bet if the truck was on fire, the police & other city services would be on scene, right quick.

  • J

    If the Nypd said “yes, this is illegal, but it’s not a priority at the moment” I would be annoyed but I get it. There are bigger fish to fry, but when they get a sec they’ll check it out. We do have standing army of cops, you know. The NYPD, however, basically said that this type of behavior is completely acceptable. This is legally wrong, condescending, and lazy. It says volumes about how the nypd, and by extension the mayor, view cycling in the city. In short, they could give a crap and that pisses me off.

  • J

    I talked to my local precinct about how they park all over the sidewalk and they said, “these are our sidewalks”. How do you respond to that without getting arrested?

  • I don’t know how familiar with Red Hook. But some of those streets can be pretty intimidating – particularly given how big many of the vehicles using them are.

  • bedstuy

    Similar experience this morning on the Kent Ave lane. Reported using the 311 app at 8am. Police responded over seven hours later and reported that upon arrival those responsible were gone!! These unprotected two way lanes are potentially deadly.

  • Andy

    Truck blocking the bike lanes? No problem!
    Cyclist having to leave the bike lane due to parked vehicles? Ticket them!

  • Joe R.

    Those are my feelings exactly. I’m willing to let stuff like this pass with the caveat that the same police officer who won’t ticket vehicles parked in a bike lane will turn a blind eye when I roll a red light at an empty intersection. If we demand all laws be enforced to the letter, it will eventually come back to bite us in the behind. Look at the jaywalking ticket blitz after pedestrians complained about motor traffic violations, for example. This is a case where selective enforcement makes more sense. Ticket only when a vehicle is parked in a high traffic zone such that cyclists are forced to mix it up with aggressive auto traffic outside the bike lane.

  • Andres Dee

    Certain places (like this one) are treated by their adjacent businesses as “alleys”. Activity comes from multiple directions. Through traffic is relatively sparse.

    Striping bike lanes here is futile and leads to inflated figures of how many actual miles of decent bike infrastructure there is. Far better (IMHO) to make this a slow zone and post signage for all to share the road and proceed with caution.

    This is as close as you can get to one of those streets that supposedly exist in Belgium, or Denmark or Holland, or Somewhere, where there are no signals and people work it out.

  • Southerner

    Cops: Dumber than rocks.

  • Not only did they say it’s acceptable, but in this case they said it wasn’t happening when there was clear evidence to the contrary. So either they checked it out and decided not to do anything or didn’t check it out at all. In either case, some part of “The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary” is a lie.

  • Matthias

    I’ve reported cars on the sidewalk so many times (126th/Park in Harlem) and I get the same “no action required”. It’s incredibly dangerous because pedestrians have to walk in the roadway to get around the parked cars and drivers speed like maniacs on 126th.

  • jeff

    I used 311 this morning to register a complaint about a parking garage fully blocking the sidewalk last night during the Celebrate Brooklyn concert. The drop down menu doesn’t have that as an option, so I also had to choose “double parked blocking traffic”.

    Perhaps after the city figures out how to fix the 911 system, they can take a look at 311.

  • Eric McClure

    If that’s the case, let the truck park all day in the car lane, and let cars go around when there are no cyclists coming and it’s safe to do so.

  • Greg Costikyan

    Wouldn’t it be nice if you could send a pic of a violation, showing the issue and the license plate clearly, and that would be used as prima facie evidence that the violation occurred? In fact, why doesn’t this happen? It should be pretty open and shut as far as proof goes, would be a nice revenue earner for the city, and would likely change behavior as it happens more often?

  • Wilfried84

    Enforce the law? Just tonight, I saw a cop car parked in the bike lane on Broadway just south of 34th St., wedge just past pedestrian island, so completely impassible. So into the street I went. It’s almost not worth posting about, seeing as we all know it happens all the time.

  • Andrew

    But people driving cars are important people with important places to go, and what you suggest might slow them down a little.

  • Guest

    When is the Inspector General going to finally start working?

    It seems like putting an end to the false reports to close out 311 complaints should be one of his first tasks. With such a rampant and obvious lack of integrity, it’s hard to have much public faith in anything they do.

    If he ever shows up???

  • Nathanael

    It sounds like you need to set up a citizens’ militia to start arresting the police for their crimes. Seriously, this is bad.

  • Nathanael

    Texas plates. Would be difficult to prosecute, unfortunately.

  • Nathanael

    If your photos have time and date stamps and prove the crime, it’s probably worthwhile to go straight to the DA’s office. (If the DA is in the pocket of the corrupt police, you’re going to have to replace the DA anyway… best to figure this out as soon as possible.)

  • Nathanael

    Those are both good starts, and should be done in order to assemble a paper trail. I really suspect nothing is going to happen until the DA’s office is contacted directly, probably by certified mail. Even then, probably nothing will happen until the DA is replaced, but it’s worth a try.

  • Nathanael

    First: get their response in writing or on videotape. Second: take it to the district attorney’s office and ask for them to be prosecuted. Third: start running a campaign against the DA for allowing the police to be criminal lawbreakers.

  • Nathanael

    Yow. It would be appropriate to call the cops on the cops. Too many NYPD officers are a bunch of criminals. Of course, you can’t expect criminals to police themselves.

    The question is how to get some accountability. My guess is that you need DAs who will prosecute cops. Only time in the slammer will stop this “I can break the law” attitude among the gangsters in blue.

  • FreeManNYC

    The problem is with the police department not 311. I recently had an interview at 311 and the topic of the NYPD came up. Both persons I spoke with just smiled and said “no comment” when I mentioned my own frustrations with a church that places a speaker on the sidewalk every Sunday and broadcasts its services.

    I actually watched the police stop look at the speaker and then drive off. Later I got an email that said “The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.”

  • Jorge O

    #MyNYPD doesn’t give a shit. That’s the real problem. If there’s no special opperation going on they won’t lift a finger unless the car hit you and you’re already dead. And even then it’ll take them a half hour to make it to the scene.

    Maybe if you report there’s possibly abandoned pot in the car. All they care are confiscating drugs and guns, officers get paid personally in cash for it thanks to our anti-drug paranoia and the so called “war on drugs”, which btw –completely unrelated, and yes I realize this is a stupidly long sentence– keeps us as the country with the highest population percentage incarcerated.

    So as you can see there’s more severe problems to focus on…

  • Jorge O

    I’m in.

  • Jorge O

    They’re smart, they know where the money is. Not in enforcing the law.


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