Trottenberg Offers No Answer To Mayor de Blasio’s Lack of Concern About Blocked Bike Lanes

Even as everyone on Twitter mocks the #DeBlasioStop, the DOT commissioner declines to address the issue.

Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Photo: Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Photo: Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is not about to criticize her boss for the #DeBlasioStop.

Confronted on WNYC radio on Tuesday morning for her approach to clearing illegally blocked bike lanes, the mayor’s transportation czar didn’t have an answer — even after host Brian Lehrer played her the seminal March quote from Mayor de Blasio, “If someone is blocking, for example, a bike lane for 30 seconds while they take out their groceries or they let their kid off, I don’t think they should get a ticket for that.”

“In New York, is it okay to block the bike lane, even for just a second as the mayor suggests?” Lehrer asked.

Trottenberg refused to answer directly.

“We know we have more work to do there, working with NYPD and our own city workforce, as well as the delivery companies, etc. We do need to create a culture where we try and make sure that people get out of those bike lanes,” she said. “I think, as the mayor said, it still happens here, but between physical barriers and enforcement, I think we can do a lot to improve that.”

The answer runs counter to the daily experience of biking on protected lanes like Clinton Street in Manhattan and Vernon Boulevard in Queens, which are frequently blocked by selfish drivers and delivery trucks. And it did not address the NYPD’s lackadaisical approach to cracking down on bike-lane blockers as they make what cyclists derisively call “the de Blasio stop.”

And Trottenberg’s answer came just over a week after an Australian tourist was killed because a taxi driver was illegally parked in a bike lane on Central Park West, forcing her into traffic, where she was crushed by a garbage truck driver. The city’s official response to that killing has been non-existent.

CBS2 captured the broken bike of Madison Lyden after she was run down and killed by a garbage truck driver last Friday on Central Park West. Photo: CBS2
The mangled bike of Madison Lyden shows what happens when drivers park in bike lanes. Photo: CBS2

It’s likely true that protected bike lanes are blocked less often than painted bike lanes, which allow drivers to double-park and endanger cyclists without impeding their fellow drivers. By the end of this year, however, the city will have just 120 miles of protected lanes — a mere 10 percent of the total bike network.

The singular challenge is enforcement, or the lack thereof. City employees routinely park in bike lanes, and NYPD officers are told explicitly to excuse drivers for doing so.

Trottenberg had little to offer in terms of enforcement strategies and policies to keep cars out of bike lanes. Her answer contrasted sharply with that of her counterpart from Chicago, also on the segment, who discussed how geo-located 3-1-1 complaints can help authorities identify frequently blocked locations.

All of that is out-of-sight and out-of-mind in the de Blasio administration, which gets push-back from delivery companies when it attempts even a minor reform aimed at clearing the streets. The buck stops at the mayor — making his transportation commissioner unwilling or unable to speak out forcefully on the issue of our lives (and deaths).

Lyden, after all, was the ninth cyclist killed so far this year.

  • Joe R.

    This might not annoy me as much if the NYPD was at least even-handed in its lack of enforcement. The problem is it refuses to enforce laws which protect cyclists, but at the same time enforces laws against cyclists, even when enforcing those laws serves no public safety purpose. The conspiracy theorist in me says this is part of a larger plan to discourage cycling. Maybe it’s not NYC’s plan, but it’s no secret many in the NYPD consider cyclists a nuisance at best, a plague at worst.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Mine is probably a minority view, but unless you are going to forbid businesses from receiving deliveries altogether, the choice is to have the bike lane blocked and have to merge and de-merge into traffic, or have goods moved across the bike lane while you are trying to ride through it.

    The latter is no picnic. I experience it 6th Avenue every day, passing two storefronts with plants and flowers.

  • drosejr

    I’d rather slow down to avoid a delivery person walking across a bike lane, vs. having to swing out into moving traffic to detour around a van parked squarely in a bike lane.

  • I would, too. Every time I see a delivery vehicle that is parked outside the bike lane, I try to thank the driver for not blocking the lane.

  • We cannot expect Trottenberg to contradict her boss. If she made statements that went farther than de Blasio would allow, she’d be fired. (Alas, all appointees don’t get the leeway that Bratton had, when he denounced de Blasio’s pedestrian plazas yet somehow kept his job. The difference is that Bratton was in charge of lawless thugs who had just demonstrated their contempt for democracy by engaging in an organised show of intimidation against the mayor.)

    This reminds us why Bloomberg was such a great mayor. He empowered Sadik-Khan to do what she knew how to do at the DOT; and he backed her against vitriolic criticism from all corners (including from then-Public Advocate de Blasio).

  • J

    But even Bloomberg failed to reign in the NYPD, who apparently answer to no one.

  • (“rein”)

    Sadly, you are correct that the police department answers to no one.

    But let us recall that Bloomberg never said or even implied that he was going to rein in the police. He approved of stop-and-frisk; and he even suggested the fingerprinting of all public-housing residents. So, even one of our greatest mayors, one who is responsible for transformational gifts to the masses, is tainted by his blind spot regarding police power.

    By contrast, de Blasio ran on a progressive platform, emphasising the “two cities” theme. He drew solid support from the communities that are most terrorised by police violence. As a father of a black son, he knows the fear that all such parents feel when they contemplate their son becoming a victim of this state terror. Indeed, it was when he commented on this fear that the police department revealed its true nature as a military junta, and demonstrated that it considers the civilian government to be totally irrelevant.

  • Reader

    Stopping in a bike lane is illegal. Period. What other lawbreaking does Trottenberg endorse?

  • Brian Howald

    Depending on the availability of a loading zone, double-parking may not be illegal for a commercial vehicle, whereas parking in a bike lane is always illegal. Given that, we’d expect to see the latter more often than the former, but as Eben Weiss pointed out in “Drivers Should Be Held to a Higher Standard” last week, we don’t because drivers will opt to endanger cyclists over frustrate other drivers because they view biking as frivolous and driving as important.

  • redbike

    You’re correct.

    But that’s not a reason to not repeat this same question — again and again — to both Trottenberg and de Blasio.

  • I agree. Pressing her on this matter is pointless.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Double parking during alternate side?

  • Clara West

    Driver did more than stop in bike lane, he was in the bus stop that is parallel to an unprotected bike lane. Should have been ticketed for that as well as the bike lane. Equally endangering pedestrians as well as cyclists as buses not able to pull into curb.

  • Andrew

    as Eben Weiss pointed out in “Drivers Should Be Held to a Higher Standard” last week, we don’t because drivers will opt to endanger cyclists over frustrate other drivers because they view biking as frivolous and driving as important.

    Drivers in general, but the police in particular. (Yes, I treat the police as a subset of drivers, because by and large they are, even if there are a few exceptions.)

  • 8FH

    I actually looked at the laws, and it is explicitly legal to drop off or pick up passengers in bus stops. However, the only vehicle EVER allowed to stop in a bike lane is a waste hauler (only momentarily to pick up trash), and all vehicle operators must ensure they’re not endangering or delaying cyclists when crossing bike lanes.

    Let’s focus on the very obvious negligent behavior that occurred.

  • Andrew

    Yes!!! More of this. Positive reinforcement works wonders.

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