De Blasio’s Police Department Continues to Sabotage de Blasio’s Bike Infrastructure

Police obstructed the newly-installed protected bike lane outside City Hall yesterday, forcing people on bikes into traffic.

NYPD parked smack in the middle of the new City Hall bike lane yesterday. Photo: Paul Steely White
NYPD parked smack in the middle of the new City Hall bike lane yesterday. Photo: Paul Steely White

It was safe while it lasted.

For about two weeks, the new protected bike lane on Park Row outside City Hall worked the way it’s supposed to work. With the addition of a concrete curb separating it from traffic, the bike lane was no longer obstructed by cars belonging to NYPD, city officials, or the press. (In its design, DOT set aside parking and standing zones specifically for those vehicles.) People could finally use Park Row to bike safely from the Brooklyn Bridge to Lower Manhattan and back.

So much for all that. Yesterday evening, the new bike lane was filled with NYPD vehicles. Several people posted photos on Twitter:

NYPD commandeered the bike lane, ironically enough, as a staging area for bikes that police use for crowd control:

And no, it’s never good when NYPD obstructs a route that people on bikes rely on to provide separation from fast-moving traffic.

The problem goes beyond this single project, of course. All over the city, police treat bike lanes as perpetually-available parking areas. Mayor de Blasio, for his part, hasn’t shown much concern for keeping bike lanes unobstructed — publicly stating that making drop-offs in bike lanes isn’t a big deal.

The police cars were gone from the Park Row bike lane this morning, according to Twitter user @D00Rz0NE. But until 1 Police Plaza makes it clear that officers should steer clear of bike lanes, it’s only a matter of time before this happens again.

How many people will ever feel confident they can comfortably use NYC’s bike network if they can’t count on police to leave a safe, unobstructed path?

  • Vooch

    it’s a serious cultural issue that no amount of pressure will change. change the cultural is easier. I believe the only solution is to remove prowl cars from all precients in CBD Manhattan.

    It’s faster for beat officers to walk than drive in CBD. Once officers walk their beat, they will lose their windshield perspective PDQ.

    it’s safer also for the officers.

  • It’s a good test of Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to Vision Zero, progressive transportation, and climate goals. If he can’t/won’t get police cars out of a bike lane right outside his office, he can’t/won’t do it anywhere.

  • Joe R.

    This is why the NYPD as an institution needs to go. Fire all the present employees, disband the organization, publicly hang some of the leaders responsible. Then start a new department from scratch with the notice “former NYPD employees need not apply”. Institute a residency requirement. Require most officers to patrol on foot or by bike. Get a commissioner who is answerable to City Hall instead of the reverse.

    The police do this because they think it’s their city, we only live here. Newflash motherfuckers, I pay your salary. I’m entitled to a police department which treats all NYC citizens, including those who ride bikes, with a little respect. Get your pasty fat asses out of the bike lane now!

  • Brian Howald

    It’s likely going to take a cyclist getting run over by a driver because bike infrastructure was blocked by the NYPD, and a subsequent lawsuit against the city and the department, before the word comes from the mayor to stop doing this.

  • J
  • AnoNYC

    All the city government needs to do is require that all police vehicles park inside the compound.

  • J

    Would it really be too much to ask the NYPD to follow the law? Or at least to not break it in egregious, disrespectful and dangerous ways.

    In non-corrupt places, police are held to a higher standard, given their elevated responsibility with regard to the law. In NYC we’d be happy to have cops who just break the law slightly more than most.

  • NYCyclist

    Not that its a good excuse, but that evening was atypical, as the NYPD were there in force for the DACA protesters, which blocked all traffic in that area for a while, until they were arrested.

  • Nathan Rosenquist

    What are you talking about. Everybody here saw this coming.

  • HamTech87

    So couldn’t they park in the wide lane? Plenty of room for motorists to pass, and it leaves the bike lane clear.

    And that van blocking the opening to the lane — wow, that’s just obnoxious.

  • William Lawson

    Another place this always happens is Washington Square North. Approximately half the time I cycle down that road, the bike lane is blocked by one or more NYPD van. Not on an emergency – just the standard patrol of the park. What makes it even more infuriating is that there is ample parking across the street. They just don’t care.

    As an aside, does anyone know why the new protected bike lane on 5th Avenue stops abruptly at 15th street and turns into an unprotected lane?

  • William Lawson

    A lawsuit won’t do anything to change their behavior. The NYPD is sued all the time and nothing changes.

  • William Lawson

    I honestly think that if you did that, the “new” department would be back to its old tricks in no time. Policing is a job which seems to attract a certain type.

  • Frank Kotter

    That last picture really does speak one thousand words: It is an essay stating that despite the fact the NYPD may use bikes for crown control (they don’t use them as a tool for daily policing or getting around) the are not a part of the tribes of ‘Bike Riders’, ‘Blasios’ or ‘Intellectuals’

    So damn childish.

  • Larry Littlefield

    To be fair to the officers, there is a distinction between officers traveling to work parking their own vehicles in an illegal and anti-social way.

    And officers parking official city vehicles illegally, in a case where the city hasn’t provided a better place to put them.

  • qrt145

    True, but sometimes the need for using an official city vehicle is already questionable.

  • KeNYC2030

    To say nothing of the bike lanes that the NYPD has apparently permanently closed off for “security reasons,” like on Seventh Ave. between 45th and 44th and on Broadway between 35th and 34th.

  • AMH

    And yet police in many other cities manage to be at least somewhat less awful.

  • William Lawson

    Which cities would these be? LOL

  • The key would be to place the new department under close supervision by civilian or judicial authority.

  • I have little confidence in his resolve to do this. His base thinks them damn bikers are keeping them from double-parking.

  • It sounds like that wouldn’t accomplish anything. The NYPD would put out a press release blaming the cyclist for riding dangerously by not being in the bike lane.

  • Joe R.

    With the obligatory notation that they weren’t wearing a helmet even if they were.

  • Frank Kotter

    40% of officers killed in the line of duty over the past 10 years have died while driving a squad. I expect the ‘all lives matter’ crew to be doing everything in their power to end this slaughter.

  • Miles Bader

    NYC reallly seems to need a mayor that will firmly put his foot down and re-assert real political (that is: public) control over the NYPD’s behavior.

    As the problem has gone on so long, trying to fix things would almost certainly get ugly… the NYPD at this point seems to be used to getting their way regardless of the issue, so I imagine they would freak out in response to any attempt to control them.

    De Blasio almost certainly isn’t that mayor, as he seems to be utterly incapable of doing anything that results in any non-trivial conflict.

  • Miles Bader

    Isn’t part of the reason for this that the city just mutely pays the bill for whatever award is won in the lawsuit, so for the offending officers, it’s more or less painless?

    If the money was taken directly out of officer salaries, lawsuits might have a bigger impact…

  • Miles Bader

    Pretty every organization with any power has its problems, and police are a common example but many places have far less problematic police forces.

    This is particularly true if you look outside the U.S., away from the “common toxicity” of American police culture.

    That toxic American police culture is of course in large part a result of problems with general American culture, but I don’t think it’s inherent, and I do think there are ways to control it, e.g. by having very explicitly independent mechanisms for holding police accountable, and putting real political power behind them.

  • Miles Bader

    When I’ve interacted (yes this is super anecdotal!) with various types of police officers in various American cities, I’ve always found the bicycle officers to be far, far, far friendlier and more helpful.

    [Of particular note is Seattle, where I had some ridiculously positive experiences, in one case with officers volunteering to ride off and check something for me (I had asked a question of one) while I waited…]

    Of course that’s very likely a result of a better quality of officer being attracted to bicycle duty, and liking their bike duty, so if every officer had to, the difference would likely melt away.

    But maybe, just maybe, something good would come of the the better physical conditioning, the far greater interaction with the public (officer on bike: 1000x more public contact than officer in a car), and the simple fun of being on bicycle.

  • Vooch

    interaction with the public is always good for both parties, it builds trust and sympathy.

  • William Lawson

    Well firing officers would be a good start.

  • Miles Bader

    “Why yes, our officer did fill him full of bullets, because hey, bicyclist, could be a terrorist! But he wasn’t wearing a helmet, so case closed.”