DOT Won’t Take This Simple Step to Keep Police Cars Out of the Union Square Bike Lane

Plastic posts were supposed to prevent NYPD officers from parking in the bike lane the east side of Union Square.

The protected bike lane around Union Square is frequently blocked by parked NYPD vehicles. Photo: Paco Abraham
The protected bike lane around Union Square is frequently blocked by parked NYPD vehicles. Photo: Paco Abraham

Ever since DOT added a two-way protected bike lane around the northern and eastern edges of Union Square last year, the project has been marred by NYPD parking near the intersection with 15th Street. Plastic posts were supposed to keep cars out where police park, but it looks like DOT has jettisoned that idea and has no plans to revive it.

Police typically park on a section of the bike lane on the east side of Union Square where there are no plastic posts. Their vehicles block the bike lane at a critical location where southbound cyclists approach the hairy crossing at 14th Street and northbound cyclists face oncoming car traffic as they try to access the two-way bikeway.

DOT’s plan called for posts all the way through the intersection with 15th Street [PDF], but the line of posts stops short and creates an opening that police continue to exploit.

Image: NYC DOT/Paco Abraham
A DOT slide annotated by Paco Abraham

Dave “Paco” Abraham says plastic posts would go a long way to solving the problem.

“DOT does its best when it has self-enforcing lanes,” he said. “But when it allows the entrance/exits to protected lanes to so easily get clogged, it’s a recipe for useless infrastructure.”

When Abraham contacted DOT about installing the posts, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez told him they cannot be installed because DSNY trucks “require curb access to collect garbage from Union Square Park.”

Something’s off with that explanation, since, as Abraham noted on Twitter, the Parks Department puts its trash out where there are posts:


Sanitation workers can still load this trash, which suggests the posts are not the barrier to curb access that DOT suggests. How much trouble would it really cause to add a few more posts and cover the whole length of the bikeway?

  • Vooch

    all animals are equal

    some animals are more equal than others

  • bolwerk

    Do I smell a pig reference?

  • bolwerk

    Weird how there’s no other viable option, like maybe docking the pay of city officials who block bike lanes.

  • Transformation Agent

    Needs plungers.

  • vnm

    . . . then there’s the hopelessly naive notion of asking the NYPD not to break the law.

  • Bob

    Walk past this every day – and every single day, NYPD cars are in the bike lane (or, even worse IMO, on the sidewalk). NYPD shows a total lack of interest in protecting pedestrians.

  • William Lawson

    I have seen them blocking the sidewalk 100% with vans and cruisers at this location, to the point where pedestrians had to walk out into the traffic in order to pass. And of course the bozos are all just standing around talking with each other while all this is happening. Let’s have some police officers with triple digit IQ’s please.

  • Unanimous

    Streetsblog – you’re better than this. You think some flexi-sticks are going to stop the police from parking here when they park all over the sidewalk. Let’s get a real issue or focus our reporting on the real problem.

  • snobum

    So it took years for the bike lanes to get repainted after they paved the street. Then the changed the implementation by not installing the flex posts. Where’s the 20 CB meetings to remove the flex posts?

    Side note, there HAS to be a better place for that garbage (like…i dunno…. a dumpster?). Even when it’s not there (which is rare), it stinks. You can see how the garbage soup has taken over the lane markings. Between this and the cops on the sidewalk, it’s a disgusting obstacle course.

  • AMH

    It really is appalling the way we treat our sidewalks as garbage dumps.

  • c2check

    Perhaps they have not yet heard of these technological advancements called “dumpsters”
    In the worlds cutting-edge cities—like, say, Ljubljana, Slovenia—they have some ideas that we might find useful.

  • c2check

    Start leaving notes on their cars for passers-by to see.
    Include contact info for the precinct or such so people can complain.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    hey Unanimous… Have you ever seen NYPD cars park on top of any flexi-sticks? I haven’t. They look like garbage and break when hit, but do seem to block parking effectively to me. Also… are you implying parking on the sidewalk is a ‘real problem’ but parking in a bike lane is not? Or is neither one a ‘real issue’ for Streetsblog to cover?

  • JarekFA

    Honestly, if Vision Zero were actually a policy and not a slogan, people would be fired for this shit. How can you make effective public policy if one of your largest and most important municipal agencies does not want to cooperate at all and actively undermines the polices goals with absolutely no accountability.

    And yes, heads at the NYPD should fucking roll for this. Why the fuck do they need to park all over Union Square. It’s a fixed location. What is the actual advantage of parking on fucking Union Square. Perhaps there’s too much street parking in the area and we should set aside an area for NYPD only street parking. That’d work. But instead, they shit on the very people they’re supposed to protect, for no real fucking reason. They’re not parked there because of an emergency. And for areas like Union Square, if you want to “police it,” or “monitor it,” you sure as fuck are more nimble and able to on bicycle.

    They park there, because they’re fucking lazy and are told all day, from all corners, that you’re the Finest and Keep Us Safe. You Deserve These Entitlements.

    God. I didn’t grow up “fearing cops.” Or “hating cops.” But the NYPD has absolutely done their best to try to make sure I fucking hate their lazy asses.

  • William Lawson

    The cops catch you leaving a snarky note on one of their vehicles I’m guessing it’s a swift and brutal arrest with no room for ambiguity or confusion.

  • Jeff

    NYPD makes me feel like a teenager again. I’m a fully-grown adult. I shouldn’t feel angsty at the sight of police. Yet here we are.

  • Wilfried84

    I’ve seen SUVs parked in bike lanes with posts, having simply driven around them. Nothing will stop those sociopaths. And the number of posts I see that are now no longer there is appalling. That said, I agree that bendy posts are certainly better than nothing, and this is a very legitimate issue to raise.

  • Wilfried84

    Would it be inapt?

  • Adrian Horczak

    I’m afraid there will eventually be a fatality because of parked NYPD vehicles forcing people to walk or bike into traffic.

  • Unanimous

    I have many times, here in fact. How is a safety stick more of a deterrent than a 7″ curb that people already have identified as a problem? Shouldn’t DOT spend time building lanes rather than putting in plastic poles that will add maintenance concerns/costs at an arguable benenfit. I love streetsblog and I love safet stick but this is a crap issue and you know it. You bike more than me and certainly have seen this. Get folks riled up about something that matters – the bike lane ending on 21st in front of PD, illegally parked PD vehicles in bike lanes, mixing zones and sidewalks, the number of permits issued to PD personal vehicles, the greasy trash that leaks into this lane…

  • neroden

    Every excuse given is a lie. The truth is that they’re afraid to arrest the scofflaw cops; they keep knuckling under to the criminal element in the NYPD.

    The scofflaw cops need to be placed in the slammer, ASAP.

  • neroden

    NYPD is a crime gang. It’s time to organize a police force who can arrest them. Unfortunately the state police are terrible too. Local militia, perhaps? The mayor could organize one.

  • neroden

    Bring an armed posse, led by a city council member or mayor, to notify the NYPD crooks that their behavior is illegal and that they will be arrested if they do not move.

    If the NYPD refuses to comply with the law and acts arrogant towards the mayor or a city council member:
    (1) the mayor and city council members personally have the power of arrest;
    (2) they are authorized to deputize people in an emergency
    So if the NYPD criminals resist arrest, use the posse to violently suppress them. If NYPD criminals pull their guns on the mayor or city council, then the NYPD criminals can obviously be shot dead by the posse.

    I spent a while digging through old law books to figure out how you take down the NYPD crime gang, and this is one way which would work.

  • neroden

    Someone needs to get a private tow truck and armed security, then tow the police car to an impound lot.

    The mayor and the city council have the ability to do this legally. They need to shut down the crime gang with the blue uniforms.

  • neroden

    Or arresting and imprisoning them.

    It’s not widely known, but the mayor and every city council member personally has the power of arrest. They can and should be arresting crooked cops like this.

  • bolwerk

    That’s as much a waste of time and resources as arresting loiterers is. Stopping the harm is sufficient (not that loitering is harmful).


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