CYCLE OF RAGE: Street Redesigns Are Great — But They Fall Apart Without NYPD

A single double-parked truck undermines everything the DOT does to keep streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

All you need to know. Photo: Scott Knobler
All you need to know. Photo: Scott Knobler

And the NYPD had no comment.

The Department of Transportation gave itself a well-deserved round of applause yesterday for its prompt redesign of Ninth Street in Park Slope, just a few months after a fatal crash there. To make the roadway safer for all users, the bike lane is now tucked behind parked cars rather than on the edge of the travel lane. It’s a standard, and increasingly used, design that has one fatal flaw: without NYPD enforcement of double-parking or illegal parking, the modernized roadway can become a morass.

So, in other words, it becomes a morass.

Indeed, it was pretty telling that a deputy mayor, DOT officials, a borough president and a member of the City Council thought it was important to celebrate a street redesign, yet not a single NYPD official was on hand. They say that 90 percent of success is just showing up; by that measure, the NYPD is an abject failure.

Streetsblog and social media has long documented the NYPD’s inability to police the streets, its rampant lawlessness by its own officers, and its priority of harassing and blaming cyclists instead of punishing drivers (who are responsible for virtually every single traffic fatality in the city), its utter lack of knowledge of basic vehicular code and its failure to even write a ticket to the taxi driver who first blocked a Central Park West bike lane, then cut off Australian tourist Madison Lyden earlier this month, leading to her death under the wheels of a garbage truck.

That’s why we’ve hailed the DOT for expanding the network of protected bike lanes (and cajoled the agency when it has failed to do so). Protected lanes do more than save lives — they take the ineffectual NYPD out of equation.

Consider this: One a roadway with a true protected bike lane, selfish drivers who double-park only affect the flow of their fellow motorists (who blame cyclists anyway, but you can’t reason with these people).

But on streets without a protected bike lane, a single double-parked truck undermines everything the DOT does to keep streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists have to maneuver around the blockage, sometimes into oncoming traffic, with often disastrous results. In my own neighborhood, the Prospect Park West protected bike lane works perfectly — until the protected path ends at the traffic circle at 15th St. That’s where cyclists are re-routed onto Prospect Park West, which locals know as the Prospect Park West Recreational Motor Speedway and Legal Double-Parking Zone, thanks to virtually no enforcement by the 72nd Precinct.

Even on streets with proper infrastructure — looking at you, Queens Boulevard — the lack of NYPD enforcement leads to chaos. As this video from Daniel Flanzig shows, drivers have no respect for painted lanes or plastic sticks if they can use our bike lanes to get around a double-parked car:

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that while the press conference was going on, there was an illegally parked UPS truck in the bike lane (below left) directly behind the DOT officials celebrating what a great job they’d done. A block away, there was another truck blocking the roadway (below right), forcing drivers to go into oncoming traffic.

There was no NYPD official on hand to question. There was no NYPD officer writing a ticket. There was just an unsafe roadway that the sole agency empowered to fix the problem didn’t care about.

two trucks
This is what Ninth Street looks like, despite DOT’s best efforts, because NYPD does not enforce the law. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Vision Zero rests on two main pillars: design and enforcement. Since there’s no enforcement, only better design can keep us safe.

I wanted to ask an NYPD official about my theory, but, as I said, the NYPD didn’t bother to show up.

UPDATE: After this story was published, reader Scott Knobler sent in the photo below of a 112th Precinct cop parked in the Queens Boulevard bike lane and the following anecdote to describe the incident:

I guess I am supposed to swerve into the bus so that the police woman can have a shorter walk to her cash machine.  I asked her if that was the best place to park and she snapped back, “Do you want a summons?”  I asked, “For what?” and she looked around and said, “You better not go through that red light.”  If this isn’t a clear case of blatant misuse of power I don’t know what is.

All you need to know. Photo: Scott Knobler
Photo: Scott Knobler



The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Fatal Crashes (6 Killed This Week; 155 This Year*) Mott Haven: Man Crossing Street Struck, Dragged by MTA Bus Driver; Witness Says Victim Was in […]

The Jay Street Bike Lane Won’t Work If NYPD Parks All Over It

As crews restripe Jay Street to implement a curbside protected bike lane, some sort of learning curve is to be expected. Drivers need a little time to adjust to the new parking lane, which floats to the left of the bike lane buffer. But NYPD should know better from the start. Streetsblog reader Brandon Chamberlin snapped the […]

NYC Celebrates Park(ing) Day 2014

Today’s the day when people across the world replace parking with parks to prompt their neighbors to think a bit differently about how we use street space. While participation in Park(ing) Day seems to have ebbed in New York recently, the city still made a decent showing this year. Here’s a sampler of the pop-up […]