Why Does the 90th Precinct Allow Illegal Parking in the Kent Ave Bike Lane?

This tweet thanking the 90th Precinct for permitting parking in the Kent Avenue bike lane was quickly deleted after Streetsblog called attention to it.

The two-way protected bike lane on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg is one of the best bikeways in the city, but every so often it’s occupied by a phalanx of illegally parked cars. It’s never been a huge secret that the cars belong to the neighborhood’s Satmar Hasidic community, which gets to appropriate the bike lane with the tacit approval of NYPD during big events. Neither has it been out in the open much. Last week, though, an account affiliated with the Satmars openly flaunted the arrangement on Twitter.

The account thanked the 90th Precinct for allowing angled parking on Kent Avenue between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Clymer Avenue for the wedding of the grand rabbi’s granddaughter. Streetsblog retweeted it, and whoever runs the account pulled the tweet after it started to draw more unwelcome attention.

It wasn’t the first time @HQSatmar has tweeted its gratitude to the 90th Precinct for allowing illegal parking on the strip:

We reached out to the 90th Precinct to find out how often NYPD allows illegal parking on the Kent Avenue bike lane, and why. We have not heard back.

One would hope that the bike lane, which is a preliminary section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, would be enough to warrant 24/7 enforcement of cyclists’ right of way, but evidently that is not that case. If the city actually pulls off its proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar, which is slated to run along the same blocks, illegal parking on Kent Avenue could bring the line to a screeching halt. Would NYPD still allow this to happen?

  • Andrew

    I hate to break it to you, but there’s a place in the city’s transportation network for bicycles. Even if you personally don’t choose to ride one. (I don’t either.)

  • FlatbushFred

    The resulting congestion would increase air pollution, slow emergency vehicles, slow bus routes, increase the cost for truck deliveries (and then the cost of the goods sold), etc. All that for bicycles? I don’t think so.

  • FlatbushFred

    I agree. But the amount of space currently allocated to bicycles is way out of proportion to the demand for their use. The NYCDOT should establish standards for throughput for bicycle lanes and then count the bicycles using each lane. If a lane doesn’t meet the standard, it should be removed. If it does, fine.

  • Brian Howald

    Actually, it was for the streetcar…

    1. Have you ever heard of Braess’s Paradox? You can remove capacity from a traffic system and end up with better travel times for everyone even without a decrease in vehicles.

    2. There is no bus on this portion of Kent Ave, though there is a bus on the street through its section in Williamsburg. No reason why buses and streetcars can’t share a ROW.

    3. There are few, if any businesses, that require truck deliveries that do not have off-street parking on this stretch of Kent.

  • Brian Howald

    The majority of transportation space in this city is devoted to cars, despite the fact that only about 30% of this city’s trips are made by car. By your logic, most of that should all be transit space.

    Cycling accounts for ~1% of city trips. There are thousands of streets in this city and very few have bike lanes. What percentage of street space (sidewalks, car lanes, bike lanes) do you think are devoted to bicycles?

  • bolwerk

    Don’t see why we need to be so anal and doctrinaire about it. A poorly used bike lane can still have utility for traffic calming, and much like a poorly used street can still contribute to the network. As the bike network expands, bikes can become more and more of the modal mix. That’s a good thing.

  • Andrew

    There are network effects at play. As the network of bike lanes expands, pre-existing bike lanes become more useful. Bike use has been growing tremendously in recent years and it will continue to grow as the network continues to grow (again, even if you and I don’t personally take part). A bike lane that isn’t terribly busy today may become much busier as the network around it increases.

    In many cases, new bike lanes are tied to safety improvements – reductions in lane widths or counts to better meet demand without promoting speeding, shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, better traffic organization at intersections, and the like. If a safety project leaves behind enough space for a bike lane, why not put in a bike lane?

    The public space devoted to bicycle facilities is negligible in comparison to the public space devoted to car facilities. I’ll take it a step further – the public space devoted to bicycle facilities is negligible in comparison to the public space devoted to car storage. In a city in which most households don’t even own a single car. In neighborhoods with car ownership rates of 25% or less. In neighborhoods with severely overcrowded sidewalks, with slow buses, with inadequate parkland, it isn’t bicycles that are gobbling up too much space.

    If you’re worried about disproportionate allocations of public space, there’s an elephant in the room, and it isn’t bicycles.

    What is your objection to bike lanes? Spell it out.

  • Andrew

    He missed an apostrophe and you can’t figure out what he meant?

  • ahwr

    30% of this city’s trips are made by car

    In 2009 private auto trips were ~32.6% of all trips by NYC residents. Public transit ~22.1%. Walking 38.7%.

    Should length of trip get any weight? By PMT – 59.8%, 24.0%, 6.49%.

    Are work trips more important than other trips? Mode split for commutes – 27.6%, 47.7%, 17.5%.


  • Brian Howald

    That info is fascinating! I have never seen the modal data for anything other than commuting. Thanks for posting it.

    I’m curious, though. What is other on the modal splits? I don’t think cycling alone is 6.5% of commuting trips.

  • ahwr

    Here’s the full report.


    On some of the earlier charts they define other:

    The mode “Other” includes commercial and private air, commuter/school/charter /city to city bus, water, taxi, limousine, airport shuttle, bicycle, and other non-specified vehicles.

  • Bobberooni

    > Your “better idea:” Sounds like you reached the
    > end of your rope…..

    It’s called sarcasm… You seem to have missed the humor of the entire post.

    Along with the humor is the deep truth that public transit sucks. There are really only two good ways to get around: driving and biking. They are both good for similar reasons: they get you WHERE you want to go, WHEN you want to go, in a PREDICTABLE fashion. Replace “bike” with “car” in my post above, to see what I mean.

    > 7. That’s true, in countries where fuel is very
    > expensive and it has become built into the design
    > of the cities to accommodate other forms of
    > transit. Unfortunately, such is not the case here.

    This is circular logic… “our bike infrastructure is crap, so no one bikes, so we shouldn’t build bike infrastructure.” Sorry… not everyone wants to ride transit.

    I’ll point out one final flaw in your “argument:” a MetroCard is about $100/mo, more now I believe. Even at half price ($600/yr), you can own and maintain a bike in style. That’s about what I spend to buy and maintain my ELECTRIC bike, which is even easier to pedal.

  • Bobberooni

    Networks always grow by building out new features that don’t immediately pay for themselves.

  • Bobberooni

    Work trips are more important because they tend to happen at peak hours. Nobody cares about network capacity when spare capacity is available.

  • Guy Ross

    You know how many cars were on the streets of L.A. and NYC in 1915? There are myriad studies to prove that the participation rates steadily increase the more the system is built and the safer it is.

    You are harking back to yesterday. The changes being made are for the future.

    Just as an aside, how many miles per person per bicycle of total miles traveled within NYC would you propose as justifying a bike lane?

  • Frank Kotter

    Note to the corrupt: Keep your head down when engaging in corrupt behavior.

  • JoshNY

    I don’t know… I’d just call it dereliction of duty. It’s only corruption if the NYPD is getting something in exchange.

  • Joe R.

    By this reasoning we should remove sidewalks which are hardly used. Same thing with seldom used roads. You fail to grasp the concept of whether or not you have an entire connected, useful system. Suppose we built two miles of subway here, three miles there, and so forth? It wouldn’t be very useful, so hardly anyone would use it. Right now we do pretty much exactly this with bike lanes. We put bits and pieces of a network here and there. You can’t judge the value of any of these individual bits and pieces until you have a full network. If you had your way though you would never get to that point. You would decree these small segments as useless, then remove them.

    Even if we had a largely complete bike network some parts will be used more than others. That doesn’t mean the lesser used segments aren’t still important. NYC has lots of little shitty side streets which often don’t see much traffic. Should they be removed? If not, why not? In order for cycling to be useful, a person has to be able to get from virtually any place in NYC to any place else. That by its nature will mean you’ll have lots of bike lanes which don’t see much use, and lots of others which see very heavy use.

  • Bobberooni

    The most problem with FlatbushFred’s “idea” is I don’t know of any transit vehicles that can fit in a bike lane.

  • FlatbushFred

    1. Braess’s Paradox is disputed by other scientists. If you want an example of what happens when a bike lane (in which, by my own non-scientific observation, serves very few bicycles) takes up scarce streetspace, check out Prospect Park West, and watch the traffic, which used to flow freely, sometimes back up into Grand Army Plaza. I would hate to be waiting for an ambulance stuck in that traffic.
    2 and 3. My comment wasn’t limited to a specific stretch of any one street. If traffic congestion results from bike lanes, truck deliveries will be delayed, and costs will increase. Doesn’t matter if there are off-street parking exists or not.

  • FlatbushFred

    “There are really only two good ways to get around: driving and biking.” Again, for you. Believe it or not, you aren’t everybody.

    “Sorry… not everyone wants to ride transit.” That’s true, but over 6 million people do, every weekday. Richard Ravitch said it best: “Not everyone wants to ride bikes.”

  • FlatbushFred

    Wrong metric – bicycles per hour or per day or some such.

  • FlatbushFred

    Parklands, sidewalks, etc. don’t use streetspace. We are talking about the most efficient use of limited streetspace. And you said it yourself: “In neighborhoods with car ownership rates of 25% or less.” That says to me that we should be investing in more and better transit that everyone can use, even in the coldest of winter or the hottest of summer. But regardless of how much bicycle use expands, it still serves a very limited % of New Yorkers, and too much streetspace is devoted to them. Amsterdam, which is probably the most bike friendly city in the industrialized world, is compact (more than NYC), densely populated and flat, with mostly very narrow and curvy streets perfect for bikes and less so for cars, with a year-round temperate climate and expensive fuel, all factors contributing to an extensive bicycle culture. These factors do not exist here. If they did, and we could develop such a bicycle culture, I would totally agree with you.

  • FlatbushFred

    The majority of transportation space is devoted to VEHICLES (cars, taxis, buses, trucks, ambulances, fire engines, police cars). Where would you have all these vehicles go?

    “What percentage of street space (sidewalks, car lanes, bike lanes) do you think are devoted to bicycles?”

    Too much.

  • Brian Howald

    Ah yes, the community board approach: personal anecdote trumps established research.

    From http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/prospectparkwest.shtml:

    “The path has rapidly become one of the most popular cycling facilities in Brooklyn with more than 1,000 cyclists using the path on a typical weekday, more than triple the number that cycled here before the project was completed. DOT continues to monitor the performance of the project.”

    “Crashes resulting in injuries went down by 63%”

    “Speeding on the corridor is down from 74% of cars on Prospect Park West speeding to just 20%.”

    “Dangerous sidewalk bike riding is down from 46% of bike riders on the sidewalk before the project to just 3% after, many of whom are children and legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk”

    Silly safety, always causing drivers to go slower. When will pedestrians and cyclists learn?!? Their lives are meaningless in comparison to the extra 47 seconds I’d gain if their needs weren’t taken into consideration.

  • Brian Howald

    Bicycles are vehicles, silly.

    If we limited road use in New York to buses, construction, delivery, paratransit, emergency, and for-hire vehicles, that would be fine by me. Charge high fees to use a private vehicle and free up the space for the vehicles that need the space.

    The simple idea is: if we provided less space for cars, fewer people would drive. If we had fewer subway lines, fewer people would ride them. If we had fewer bike facilities, fewer people would bike.

  • Bobberooni

    > Richard Ravitch said it best: “Not everyone wants to ride bikes.”

    Hey… I’m not the one suggesting that we rip out the NYC subway tracks and replace them with asphalt bikeways.

  • Bobberooni

    Better yet would be some sort of lane to allow people to drive unimpeded by car traffic.

    But seriously… such bike lanes already exist. I commute 15 miles to work, 2/3 of it on bike paths with no obstructions for miles.

  • Bobberooni

    People only ride transit in large numbers in places where driving has become so miserable, expensive and inconvenient that paying thousands of dollars a year to wait out in the cold and then pack onto a crowded bus or train actually seems like a better idea. Even in such places, large numbers of people STILL drive, and are willing to wait through interminable traffic instead of riding transit.

    The worst public transportation of them all is the airlines. The only reason people ride them is because they’re about 10x faster than anything else. But they’re still miserable.

  • fdtutf

    The majority of transportation space is devoted to VEHICLES (cars, taxis, buses, trucks, ambulances, fire engines, police cars). Where would you have all these vehicles go?

    A substantial share of the VEHICLES in your first category can go to a very simple place: Away.

  • fdtutf

    I think Fred was referring to this:

    Not everyone can drive either, and it’s a lot less space efficient than driving.

    But it’s still obvious what BBnet meant.

  • neroden

    There’s so much wrong with the NYPD — it seems to be an utter cesspool of rampant criminality, basically a crime gang — that I think it’s necessary to fight it directly. Needs to be shut down with RICO or liquidated by the mayor. The whole barrel is rotten and the good guys who join get treated like Adrian Schoolcraft or Frank Serpico.

  • neroden

    Is there a reason the commander of the precinct hasn’t been arrested and thrown in prison yet — along with Patrick Lynch?


Eyes on the Street: Drivers Retake the Kent Avenue Bike Lane

DOT reconfigured the southern part of the Kent Avenue bike lane this spring, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from taking over the lane and the sidewalk for personal parking. A reader took this photo earlier today. He writes: I bike from LIC to Clinton Hill every morning and use the Kent Ave bike path. Luckily […]