Fortress New York: In the Name of Safety, NYPD Made Times Square Dangerous for Biking

Security overkill has wiped out the Seventh Avenue bike lane through Times Square.

Is this really the best New York can do in its most iconic public space?
Is this really the best New York can do in its most iconic public space?

In the aftermath of the fatal driving rampage through Times Square on May 18, the NYPD has shut down the raised bike lane that runs on Seventh Avenue between 46th Street and 42nd Street, commandeering it in the name of security.

Advocates and City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez had suggested a different approach: making more streets car-free in the city’s most crowded place to walk. Instead NYPD has made the daily act of biking through Midtown more dangerous in the name of protecting Times Square against rare acts of deliberate violence.

The raised bike lane was installed during the construction of the permanent Broadway plazas, which opened at the end of last year. Now one segment (above) is occupied by a mobile NYPD tent, complete with parked police cars on the sidewalks and in the bike lane.

Elsewhere, police lined the four-block bike lane with giant concrete barriers. When people started using barriers as seating, NYPD blocked them off with fencing:

Is this really the most sensible solution?
Real New Yorkers like to be treated like cattle.

Mayor de Blasio committed to “any all and security measures needed to strength the situation at Times Square,” but these barriers are not the way to go. There has to be a way to guard against car attacks without chunky barriers that hem in pedestrians and push cyclists into dangerous traffic.

  • It takes years of advocacy, planning work, community approvals & construction to get a bike lane placed in NYC if there are no other extraordinary delays or dependencies.

    It takes one week for NYPD to take it over with no notice & zero long-term contingency arrangements. They can’t even be bothered to show up at the following CB meeting to explain their decision & collect feedback on it.

    Activists need to address this double standard as much as they’ve pressured DOT to consider mobility-enhancing designs in the first place.

    (Note: NYPD is now also very much blocking all but narrow slices of the crosswalk along much of the curbs facing the plazas along the side streets, which means the plazas themselves are no longer useful as sidewalks, either; they are purposely creating pedestrian choke points at every block. This is in response to ONE incident by a wildly deranged person that, in the near term, appears to have zero chance of recurring)

  • Setty/Steven

    any way to sue to change this? they can’t just semi-permanently close a public way without review, can they?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s ridiculous how much vigilance it takes to keep this patchwork bike network from regressing.

    For NYPD, any disaster or tragedy is just an excuse to park their cars all over the place, ruin quality of life for urban dwellers, and rack up overtime. They’re not even accountable to the Mayor, not that he cares anyway.

  • Ken Dodd

    I’m sick of government knee-jerkism in response to Bad Things That Happen. The insinuation here is that since one nutjob decided to flip out and run over a bunch of people at Times Square, then Times Square is now more of a “risk zone” than it was before. What’s to stop someone doing the same thing at Union Square, Central Park or outside the Empire State Building? Nothing. They all carry exactly the same risk as Times Square, but the NYPD has to make its symbolic Show Of Force at Times Square so that they can be seen to be Doing Something. It’s all a complete load of bollocks.

  • Ken Dodd

    They don’t need disaster or tragedy, as the @placardabuse Twitter feed shows.

  • Maggie

    I agree with most of this, but disagree with the idea of zero chance of recurrence. On top of the week-in week-out carnage, to me it’s only a matter of time until NYC is hit with a deliberate vehicular terrorist attack, and if we don’t quickly get serious about bollards and getting some vehicular traffic out of high-risk zones, very likely we will take those steps after a preventable mass casualty tragedy. Times Square would be a clear target, but I can imagine the worst on 5th Avenue in midtown, Bryant Park, anywhere.

    NYPD very vocally discounted pedestrian risk in Times Square till now. I’d like to see them putting their muscle into smarter solutions than just “let’s shit on the city’s bike commuters”.

  • All they have to do is place those things on the white line and you have a protected bike lane too

  • I do think pedestrian plaza safety is a long-term concern but in the short-term, there’s no point in blowing up Times Square’s bike lanes and crosswalks to allow police to make it their parking lot. We definitely have time to implement a solution; NYPD doesn’t get to do it unilaterally like this. Especially when many of the bike lanes provide additional protection in the first place. (the cops STILL park in them or leave equipment there long term – they’re doing that in Gramercy right now and there isn’t any local patrols or throngs of tourists to be seen there)

    It’s true that a lot of perpetually crowded sidewalks are now vulnerable as reliable targets for terrorists. How we deal with mitigating that risk says a lot about what kind of character our leaders and agencies have.

  • AnoNYC

    Who the hell is making these decisions? That tent could have been placed at a location where it would not cause a conflict between bicyclists and autos.

    The NYPD needs way better leadership when it comes to urban fortification and anti-terrorism measures. The barricades above could have easily been placed along the white line, in the street.

    The tent could have been placed inside the plaza, where the officers would have actual protection from a vehicle (this statement may be enough to get them to move it).

  • AnoNYC

    Doesn’t look as bad from this angle. I appears they did attempt to give bicyclists some room. The barricades should have been pushed out further however.

    And gates of course ruin it entirely.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    I’m afraid this is human nature at being displayed. They’re boosting their score by taking advantage of a system that can’t regulate them sufficiently.

  • ahwr

    The barricades should have been pushed out further however.

    Isn’t it a raised bike lane with a mountable curb? Point being, is it possible to move it over just a bit? Put it on the auto side of the curb and you probably block a whole traffic lane. Is it really surprising the city chose to block a bike lane instead of an auto lane? Or are the lanes wide enough that they could all be narrowed six inches or a foot to make room for the barriers and still leave room for trucks to get through?

  • BrandonWC

    The lanes are 10′ wide. Trucks can’t legally be more than 8′-6″ wide in NYC. Might be a tight fit for trucks, but the average car is maybe 6′-6″ and would fit fine. Question isn’t closing bike lane vs auto lane. It’s making 1 of 5 auto lanes cars only.

  • BrandonWC
  • The police wouldn’t be able to do that if we had a functioning civilian government.

    But the police act like a military junta, claiming for themselves the right to set policy, while the mayor sits by, unwilling to assert the authority that it his under the law

  • ahwr

    Those dimensions are excluding mirrors. Add them just on the right side and you’re at ~7 feet, ~7.5 feet for minivans/SUVs/wider cars. Jersey barrier is close to 2 feet wide. You’re asking for six inches of clearance on either side. That’s not reasonable when cars are moving more than a few mph. The lane would closed.

  • Bernard Finucane

    America is a police state in the sense that the police flaunt the laws with impunity. Corruption is so endemic that most people don’t even notice it any more.

    For example you can see the police parking illegally at any police station in NYC. In some cases they even repaint the street for their own convenience.

    You can find this literally everywhere you look in NYC.

    Of course part of the problem is the complete incompetence of the DOT, which doesn’t know how to build appropriate city streets. These places should have a woonerf character, as should much of NYC. But that does not justify this behavior.

  • Wilfried84

    More often than not on 7th Ave. in Times Square, I ride on the street anyway, rather than the raised bike lane, since it’s blocked by people (the bike lane wasn’t barricaded as of this week).

  • AMH

    You meant to say that the NYPD flout (not flaunt) the law.

  • Bernard Finucane

    uh yeah, woops. I seem to have those two words muddled together in my head.

  • Peter Patron

    Auto correct strikes again

  • Maybe the police should explain why they are using the bike lane, instead of a traffic lane.

  • wklis

    Next they’ll be searching everyone in case they are carrying a large tube of toothpaste.

  • qrt145

    How long until we start hearing reports of cyclists getting ticketed for not using the unusable bike lane?

  • Rex Rocket

    Is there a more bizarre place to be on a bicycle? It’s good on 42nd St, where you can sometimes ride for blocks in the empty lanes going the other direction. I would never dare go where the Characters are, not even in a Hummer. B’Way south of 42nd to 34th is paradise–no cars, fewer pedestrians.

  • qrt145

    People don’t cycle on 7th Avenue searching for paradise. They do it to get somewhere. Lots of people need to get to places near 7th Avenue. So no, it’s not bizarre at all.

  • Rex Rocket

    I understand that. My point was that it is a very strange place to be on a bike, whether you have to be there or not.

  • prajnainbarrie

    I visited NYC from Toronto two weeks ago and couldn’t get over Times Square’s change since I’d last been. I was excited to see a closed Broadway with all the pedestrian seating – but the guns, barriers, and cattle fencing threw a dark shadow over the entire experience.

  • neroden

    This is flat-out illegal. This isn’t an “emergency”, so they’re not allowed to block the bike lane.

    Since the illegal actions are being committed by the NYPD, someone else with the power of arrest needs to arrest them. The mayor personally has the power of arrest.

  • neroden

    I think it’s past time to reinstate private prosecutions. When the police are the criminals, someone needs to start prosecuting them. Apparently the DAs are much too corrupt. Elect real DAs?

  • neroden

    The Mayor has the power to fire the entire NYPD crime gang at once and zero out their budget. He’s just not brave enough to do it.

  • neroden

    What NYPD is doing is illegal. Criminal activity. However, they are acting like they’re above the law. The only way to fix it is for the mayor to start personally arresting them and for the DAs to start prosecuting (or for private prosecutions to commence).

  • neroden

    The people of NYC need to unite and elect a Mayor who’s willing to shut down the NYPD crime gang. Fire them ALL. Dissolve the police department entirely. It’s doing more harm than good. The state police can handle any residual crimes, if there are any after the crime gang called the NYPD is removed.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The Baltimore police are asking for federal help.