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

 

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    There certainly are enforcement problems, as seen in the final tweet, but the video location is getting a capital buildout with a mountable curb that will allow this problem to persist, and the following picture shows a bus stop (where buses and FHVs can legally stop, and thus can’t be enforced out) mixed with a bike lane. The three Es, Engineering, Enforcement, and Education are arranged in order of importance. The second can’t take the place of the first.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    every other day there’s a ny post article where cop tears lament lack of respect.. and every dumbass cop i’ve seen nowadays has that “thin blue line” cartoon on their badge or on their car. they wonder why everyone hates them.

    yet when it comes to doing *any* work at all, where are they?

  • KeNYC2030

    Rampant double parking is a direct result of DOT’s decision to allocate virtually all curbside space to the free or low-cost storage of private cars. The cops can write tickets to UPS, etc., drivers, and sometimes actually do, but in most places the driver’s only alternative is to park in a motor vehicle travel lane. I’d prefer that to parking in a bike lane but there’s a better option — prioritizing loading zones over parking.

  • manny

    I could not even get my groceries in to the car that picked me up from C-Town, I rolled my shopping wagon with my food and a bike just missed me. the bikes are speeding down the lane not evening stopping for a light. really how can I food shop, and get my groceries across the street in to a car. the delivery with the electric bikes are going so fast no respect for people crossing the street. we need the cars to park near the curb where they belong. Putting bikes first is not right. we have to let passenger out of car to go to doctor, some have canes. who ever created this mess of cars parking away from the curb didn’t think plan accordingly. there will be more accidents especially when school starts. which we hope not.

  • Geck

    Honestly, half the time someone is parked in the bike lane there is a legal or at least less disruptive spot near by. And what about all the people, cops in particular, who park near fire hydrants but three or four feet from the curb, thereby obstructing the bike lane.

  • The Left Left Me

    I came across a UPS truck in the bike lane once. I went around it and lived to tell the tale. I wonder how much time some of you are taking off the back ends of your lives working yourselves into a rage over every little thing. The world sucks. People suck. Always have. Always will. Some of you sanctimonious azzhats suck as much as the delivery driver who parks in the bike lane. If I come upon you, I’ll go around you, too. Just sayin.

  • Mark Bunnell

    This past Thursday I was put in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct after I had the temerity to complain to NYPD officers that their SUV was blocking the bike lane. I had noticed one of them go into a 7-Eleven, followed him in and photographed him at a Slurpee machine. Outside, after I complained, they took my license. My offense was swearing when I complained, saying, “NYPD is setting abad example by parking in the f***ing bike lane. I was in handcuffs for 10 minutes in the back of the police car. Now I have a court date.

  • Topophilia

    This past Thursday I was put in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct after I had the temerity to complain to NYPD officers that their SUV was blocking the bike lane. I had noticed one of them go into a 7-Eleven, followed him in and photographed him at a Slurpee machine. Outside, after I complained, they took my license. My offense: swearing when I complained, saying, “NYPD is setting a bad example by parking in the f***ing bike lane.” I was in handcuffs for 10 minutes in the back of the police car. Now I have a court date.

  • Joe R.

    The problem isn’t that it happens sometimes but rather that it’s epidemic. I’ll be the last one to complain if I have to go around a truck double-parked in the bike occasionally. I’m willing to cut delivery drivers a little slack given the lack of loading zones. However, double-parking in bike lanes is a constant thing in this city. To make it even worse, the primary offenders are the ones who are supposed to enforce the law, namely the NYPD. And they also park on sidewalks near police stations.

    This is a uniquely NYC thing. Other cities don’t have this problem to the extent we do. Overseas cities pretty much don’t have it at all. Parking in bike lanes overseas is often physically enforced with barriers. It’s a dual problem of poor infrastructure and nonexistent enforcement. We should have legal loading zones so delivery trucks seldom have to double-park. We don’t because we give away most curbside space to private car owners for free or sub-market rate parking. Once you have a sufficient number of loading zones then you can begin a enforcement campaign. I probably won’t live to see any of this given the culture of this city.

  • Joe R.

    The usual catch-all “disorderly conduct”? You’ll probably beat the charges in court and the cops know it. By arresting you however they still forced you to waste at least one day in court.

    You should contact a lawyer and see if you might have a civil case. If the city has to start paying out lots of money for wrongful arrest then this kind of nonsense will end.

  • Rex Rocket

    You’ve spent more time in custody than 99% of the drivers who have killed bicyclists and pedestrians. Next time you complain to the cops, make sure you do it after you’ve mowed down a half-dozen pedestrians.

  • tomwest

    “The second can’t take the place of the first.”
    … and how do you think speed limits work? If you’re on a long straight freeway, the only thing stopping you from doing 100mph is enforcement.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Speed limits are pretty widely influenced by design (the “85th percentile rule”). You couldn’t set a speed limit of 30mph on an interstate highway with 13+ foot lanes and hard shoulders on both sides.

    Also like I said, there’s no way to enforce against something that is legal, like buses and taxis stopping in bus stops. A bus stop should not be mixed with a bike lane.

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