Truck Drivers Confusing New Cycle Track for Unloading Zone


With construction of the new Ninth Avenue separated bike path in Chelsea still underway it is way too early to draw any conclusions about the project. The new medians and planting beds haven’t been built, the markings aren’t done and DOT still needs to install new traffic signals. Once the Muni-Meters are turned on, every other block will be reserved for paid commercial parking — deliveries only. Likewise, DOT says that it is working with the police department on ramping up enforcement but that hasn’t started yet either.

In the meantime, Streetsblog is getting quite a few reports of cars and delivery trucks planting themselves in the cycle track like some sort of invasive species that has found a new niche to conquer. On Friday afternoon Streetsblog reader Mike Epstein took a stroll up the avenue and found that New York City’s nascent cycle track is rapidly becoming Chelsea’s most popular delivery truck unloading zone.

Given the NYPD’s near total disinterest in enforcing traffic laws on behalf of cyclists and pedestrians, is it too soon for DOT to begin pricing out retractable bollards? I don’t think so…

The good news: He’s not double-parked.

This van would look really good impaled on a retractable bollard.

Plenty of space to park an 18-wheeler.

More good news: Lots of new bike parking too.

Photos: Mike Epstein and LFreedman500 on Flickr

  • ddartley

    JK and Momos–important distinction here, and the root of my objection: the SUV doesn’t so much “hit” the bollard; rather, the bollard slides up underneath the SUV.

    A bollard that’s just THERE is not such a bad thing IMO. Maybe even some retractable one that works differently from the one in the video. Just not the one in the video.

    It’s the same as my objections a while back to “homemade traffic calming.” The device should not effectively become a trap. It should be visible, and not at all deceptive–and that includes unintentional deceptiveness, like in the case of the bollard in the video.

  • momos

    ddartley – I agree it’s important to avoid traps. It definitely doesn’t make sense to spring a surprise on anyone — SUV drivers included! — that poses danger.

    I think we read the video differently. I see an SUV accelerating in order to “beat the system.” The driver floors it as the bollards rise; she is knowingly attempting to tailgate a bus into an illegal zone. (If she was unaware of the bollards she wouldn’t accelerate to try to get past them.) But unfortunately for her, she isn’t fast enough to make it.

    Your reading of the video suggests the driver was unaware of the bollards, which sprang out of nowhere to forcefully stop the SUV and potentially cause harm to people in and around the vehicle.

    Although I interpret the video differently from you, your view raises a crucial point. For automatic bollards to be effective, drivers must understand what they are and how they work.

    Bollards on the 9th Ave bike track would be permanently erect except for relatively infrequent instances where snowplows and emergency vehicles would have to pass through. This would mean most drivers would never even see a recessed bollard, unlike those in the youtube video which make way for every passing bus.

  • gecko

    Might be good to have cycle tracks in lots of different locations to learn all the things that can go wrong to provide information for an intensive design effort to determine the best way to solve most, if not all, the problems.

  • gecko

    . . . lead users to include delivery people, NYPD, local business owners beside cyclists, pedestrians — maybe even motion picture stagehands and truckers — should be involved in the design effort.

  • @alex

    I don’t have a problem with fixed bollards, or even some other kind of retractable bollards – manually operated ones would probably be fine, and I would certainly support them for the Ninth Ave. track. And I don’t value the child walking on the street any less than the (well protected in a safety seat) child in the car of an SUV.

    My problem with the bollards in the video was that they were invisible whilst buses were passing over them (presumably there was signage saying “Buses only” but I have no idea if it also said “Retractable Bollards will DAMAGE YOUR VEHICLE if you tailgate a bus”). I don’t know if the drivers in the video knew about the bollards and though they could beat them, or if they were just clueless and/or stupid. The problem is that there are more than enough of the latter, and it’s clearly inevitable that there will be these sorts of accidents if you install these automatic retracting bollards, or we wouldn’t be watching them on YouTube.

    As amusing as it may be for us Streetsblog people to watch the SUVs go boink, setting physical traps that can harm unsuspecting drivers, their passengers and vehicles won’t create any new fans of the bike track. And let’s be real for a moment: while it’s wonderful to see these kinds of changes in the city, not everybody in this city shares our views, and the backlash has already started. Chelsea Now’s current issue ( this week and in the future) has an article claiming that the owner of Dil-e-Punjab has seen business fall off 40% since the lane went in. (Unfortunately, the full text of the article is not available at the site, but you can get it for free at newsboxes thoughout Chelsea). Can you imagine the NY Post or Daily News headlines about “deadly pop-up bollards” if something like the incidents in the video were to happen here?

    Actually, you don’t have to imagine it – you can read the Manchester Evening News article about it at – apparently the driver of the car with the child has spinal bifida and was trying to get to a parking spot reserved for handicapped/disabled. It’s quite interesting to read the comments on the article; most supported the bollards, and blamed the drivers for their damage. But I’m not as sanguine about the likely reaction here in NYC – most would probably be more like that of Sir Fred.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    And I don’t value the child walking on the street any less than the (well protected in a safety seat) child in the car of an SUV.

    If you watch the video, you can see that when these cars bounce, there’s a stroller in the background (I don’t think it’s the same stroller), and they bounce in the direction of the stroller.

  • Dave H.

    I’m not sure this bollard debate really requires the level of soul-searching and political strategy that we’re getting into. Unlike the Manchester bollards, ones on the cycle track would only come down for emergency vehicles. This would be a fairly infrequent occurence. As such, they could be designed with some kind of sensor as not to wreck the cars of tailgaters. So, the occasional inconsiderate doofus will tailgate an ambulance and get through but such occurences would be fairly few and far between and probably, on the whole, tolerable.

  • Jonathan

    I hate to add more to this bollard issue, but just exactly how does Dave H’s emergency-vehicle-only bollard distinguish between emergency vehicles and just plain folks? I can only imagine three possibilities. One, that a man in a booth 24/7 lowers it for ambulances, RMPs, and fire trucks and keeps it up for everyone else.

    Two, that there are garage-door-openers issued to every one of the fire trucks, dozen ambulances and dozen RMPs that regularly patrol the neighborhood, leaving Emergency Services cops or out-of-area ambulances out in the street, and causing no end of accountability havoc with the door-openers themselves getting lost or stolen or not installed in new vehicles.

    Three, using the same lock as the fire keys in elevators to control them, which would require the fire apparatus or ambulance to pull up to the bollard and idle while a first responder hopped out and opened up the bollard.

    If anyone has any other bright ideas for how this sensible emergency-vehicle only plan could actually function, maybe they could mention them here.

  • John Hunka

    There’s a new buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street south of Kenmare. As I was walking back to the courthouse after lunch, I saw numerous cars, trucks and SUV’s double-parked in the bike lane, and numerous police officers ignoring the problem. So, I just sent the following email to Mayor Bloomberg:

    “I am writing to thank Mayor Bloomberg for the new bike lane on Lafayette Street south of Kenmare. In addition, I wish to inform the mayor that: a) numerous motor vehicles are double-parked in the bike lane, rendering it virtually useless; and b) the Police Department is doing nothing about this problem.”

    Please feel free to cut-and-paste my message and deluge Mayor Bloomberg’s office with copies of it at

  • bicyclebelle

    Thanks John. just sent it.

    I was pleased to discover the new lane as I thought it would make a few blocks of my commute more sane, but it’s proved to be almost useless.

  • zilfondel

    Wow, some brilliant folks on this board!

    Ever heard of technology? RFID tags can – gasp! – automatically detect a vehicle that has them installed, and lower ONLY for that vehicle! Anyone else… shit out ‘o luck.

    Remote sensors like this are used extensively in HOV lanes, the Manchester Bollards linked to on youtube, Antwerp, and many other applications, including for inventory tracking by warehouses and for employees to be admitted through secured doors.

  • Jonathan

    RFID tags? Sounds good, but my ambulance doesn’t have one. The reason I didn’t bring that up in my post yesterday is that not having this technology already fielded creates a chicken-and-egg problem.

    In order to install six measly bollards on 9th Ave, you need to create an entire system that involves handing out the RFID passes to every ambulance (FDNY, voluntaries, and privates), fire apparatus, and police car, that might possibly need to operate in Chelsea. And will they work without power, during the next blackout?

    While this bollard thing sounds great, it could end up being a big expensive citywide program (so that identical bollards could be installed anywhere they are needed). I would rather the city DOT focused on smaller-scale solutions that can be implemented more quickly.

  • Ian Turner

    One implementation of the RFID tags we’re talking about would be EZ-Pass. It’s not exactly a new technology. We’re not talking about something expensive here; you could outfit the entire city fleet of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks indefinitely at a one-time minimal cost.

    And yes, electronic bollards can lower (but not raise) during a power outage.

  • ddartley

    Well, Zilfondel Prince of Sarcasm, I think everyone here discussing retractable bollards was assuming that the bollards were controlled by wireless technology in official vehicles–as opposed to controlled by magic. I, for one, thought it was safe not to stipulate that in every comment.

    In fact it’s quite obvious–even to us “brilliant” people–that that’s how the Manchester ones work.

    Despite Ian’s latest comment, I suspect that Jonathan’s worries over expense and difficulty might be pretty on-point. If it were easy and affordable, then BRT lanes would be a great place to roll out ELECTRONIC (okay, zilfondel?) bollards–but along the whole route, not just in bus stops–so they’d be visible to even dumb or dangerous motorists and would not surprise anyone.

    But yeah, sounds pretty expensive and disruptive, doesn’t it?

  • Jonathan

    EZPass is encrypted, so you can’t use the same tags (that ambulances already have) to open bollards.

    And as for “not talking about something expensive,” IMHO a citywide program to create a standard for RFID-controlled traffic furniture is not small potatoes (or won’t be when DOITT and DCAS and DOT get through with it). Let’s focus on small-scale initiatives that can be quickly implemented.

  • John Hunka

    Here’s my message du jour to Mayor Bloomberg regarding motor vehicles blocking bike lanes. As always, please feel free to cut-and-paste, edit accordingly, and send your own personal message to Bloomberg.

    “For the second day in a row, numerous motor vehicles are double-parked in the new bike lane on Lafayette Street south of Kenmare. I urge Mayor Bloomberg to issue a directive to the police department directing the NYPD to: a) ticket all motor vehicles that are double-parked in bike lanes and; and b) use lights and sirens on police cars on a regular basis to clear the bike lanes of occupied motor vehicles.”

  • gecko

    Ever notice all the low-cost “E-Z Up” tents all over the place like farmer’s markets, film shoots and other events?

    Wonder if there could be developed some kind of “E-Z Delivery” device(s) and or systems for facilitating deliveries around the city so truckers don’t have to double park and tie up traffic (including bikes)? . . . and, make everyone happy.

  • gecko

    United States Postal Service seems to make a lot of deliveries using human power; UPS, and FedEx seem to get by . . . just wonder if this know-how and other proven innovative practices can be transferred on a broad scale to a lot of other deliveries around town.

    A very successful solution to AIDS and multi-drug resistant TB treatments included a lot of one-on-one personal involvement. It seems that advance “leg work” including one-on-one personal involvement and planning could greatly limit the amount of time trucks clog our streets, and the city could start establishing and implementing methods to do this.

  • John Hunka

    The cops still have’t lifted a finger to clear the new bike lane on Lafayette Street. Here’s my daily email to Mayor Bloomberg. You know what to do…

    “For the third day in a row, numerous motor vehicles are double-parked in the new bike lane on Lafayette Street between Canal and Franklin Streets. Please ask police officers to use the sirens and lights on their cars to clear the lane while the officers are on patrol. Thank you.”

  • Sproule

    That bollard video never gets old. Love it. While I think it is an outstanding way to thwart selfish and stupid drivers, I don’t think this solution is appropriate for 9th Ave. The Mayor or Police Commish simply needs to put out a mandate for proper enforcement of bike lanes. I know better than most how efficient traffic enforcement cops are – they will have no problem dealing with more scofflaws. All it will take is an order from above and bike lanes (especially the lanes and sidewalks around my local station house at 123rd and St. Nicholas that are currently clogged with cop cars).

    And I don’t mind if John Hunka keeps posting that feedback link. I just sent an email in. I guarantee that if everyone who has posted here sends an email in, there will be a reaction.

  • Sproule

    Correction on the last sentence of that first graph:

    All it will take is an order from above and bike lanes (especially the lanes and sidewalks around my local station house at 123rd and St. Nicholas that are currently clogged with cop cars) will be passable.

  • John Hunka

    Thanks, Sproule! I just sent in my daily email report to Mayor Bloomberg. Today, I’m asking him to direct every member of the NYPD who is on patrol to use the lights and sirens on police cars to clear bike lanes throughout NYC…

    “For the fourth consecutive day, numerous motor vehicles are double-parked in the new bike lane on Lafayette Street between Kenmare and Franklin Streets, rendering it useless to cyclists. Please direct all police officers who are on patrol to use their turret lights and sirens to routinely clear bike lanes on Lafayette Street and throughout New York City. Again, I thank you for installing the new bike lane.”

  • Enough ado?

    All of this talk about the clogged bike lane.. but is it even finished?

  • John Hunka

    First, the new buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street is, indeed, finished.

    Second, I believe we can deliver a loud “wake up” call to Mayor Bloomberg by deluging him with emails calling for a directive to the police department. There is absolutely no reason why police officers in cars cannot use their turret lights and sirens on a routine basis to “sweep” double-parked motor vehicles from bike lanes. If enough individuals exert constant, daily pressure on the mayor through a torrent of emails, I believe this strategy might succeed.

  • gecko

    Rocketeers packed 500 letters into 2′ x 8″ cannisters to go 30 mph in an early 27-mile NYC USPS pneumatic system including Harlem, City Hall, and Brooklyn currently detailed in the main postoffice lobby downtown Brooklyn.

  • Potosi

    Until the city starts enforcing keeping autos out of bike lanes, and adds bollards, the solution for moving cars is simple (if you have the time.) Just block the lane. If a car wants to be in the bike lane, make him stay there. Stand in front of him so he can’t move. Most people will not run your over. I suggest you carry a hammer or a wrench with you so that if the car does tyr to come at you you can smash its window.

  • Jonathan

    Potosi, I may be a minority of one, but in my mind, violent cyclists and pedestrians do not contribute to livable streets. In addition, threatening damage to property, unlike double-parking, is a crime and can lead to your arrest.

  • Mitch

    Potosi —

    I wouldn’t say that violence never solves anything, but in this case, the guy with the car has more powerful means of violence at his disposal; not just the big hunk of steel he’s sitting in, but the police he can call.

    My own fantasy would be a bit of street theater: instead sitting in front of the car, sit behind it, and get others to join you, waiting for the path to be unblocked. When the driver finally comes to move the vehicle, give him a round of sarcastic applause.

    I don’t seriously expect that anybody would actually do this, but that’s my fantasy.

  • JF

    Even better: why not sit at the entrance to the block before the trucks come? Be your own retractable bollard, and only let bikes and emergency vehicles in.

  • anon

    How can I when I spend all my time on this frigging blog?


Plan for Grand Street Cycle Track Features New Design Treatment

DOT has unveiled plans for a Grand Street cycle track [PDF] that bear the fingerprints of Danish planner Jan Gehl. It would be Manhattan’s first cross-town protected bike path. Grand Street is narrower than Ninth Avenue, where the existing protected path runs. Whereas the Ninth Avenue cycle track uses signal timing to prevent conflicts between […]