Unprecedented! DOT Scraps Protected Bike Lane on Dyckman Street

Vision Zero puts on blinders as drivers get more space for their illegal parking.

Gale Brewer and Adriano Espaillat led the charge against DOT's Dyckman Street bike lane.
Gale Brewer and Adriano Espaillat led the charge against DOT's Dyckman Street bike lane.

The de Blasio administration says it will make what is apparently an unprecendented move during the so-called Vision Zero era: It will remove a protected bike lane from a major street that it had redesigned to save lives.

Bowing to political pressure from a Congressman who couldn’t even get out of his car to assess a pair of lanes on Dyckman Street installed last year, DOT said in a late Friday tweet that it will eliminate the eastbound protected bike lane and retain the westbound one.

The move will endanger cyclists and create more room for illegal parking. Some residents and business owners had complained that they could no longer park — mostly illegally — after DOT installed the lanes on .3-miles of Dyckman between Broadway and Nagle Avenue last December [PDF]. Neighborhood cycling advocates had pushed for the design for almost a decade, but business owners claimed the bike lane made double-parking harder.

The new Dyckman Street: less room for safe cycling, more room for illegal parking. Image: DOT
The new Dyckman Street: less room for safe cycling, more room for illegal parking. Image: DOT

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and U.S. Rep Adriano Espaillat were the most prominent voices opposing the plan, though sometime bike advocate Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, also came out against it. Rodriguez called for a two-way protected bike lane on only one side of the street, a rare design that DOT typically uses when there is little cross-traffic, as along Prospect Park West or Kent Avenue.

Rodriguez told Streetsblog that he supported the removal of the eastbound protected lane. He deflected blame, saying he did the best he could to keep some protections for cyclists — nine of whom have died on city streets this year.

“There was a lot of pressure to remove any type of bike lane from Dyckman,” Rodriguez said. “In that reality, I did my best as someone who believes that the street doesn’t belong only to car owners but also belongs to pedestrians and cyclists to maintain the bike lane on that important corridor.”

DOT's initial protected bike lane design made room for double parking, but wasn't enough to satisfy powerful opponents. Image: DOT
DOT’s initial protected bike lane design made room for double parking, but wasn’t enough to satisfy powerful opponents. Image: DOT

It’s unheard of for DOT to remove a protected bike lane after it’s already been installed — and it’s bound to make the street less safe. Over 300 people were injured in crashes on Dyckman between 2009 and 2017. Post-bike lane data is not available yet, but protected bike lanes typically lead to significant safety gains.

The DOT claimed in its Twitter announcement — which came late on the last Friday of the summer, a classic ploy of government officials when they want to announce something but not draw too much attention — that the new design would be an “improvement.”

The real problem on Dyckman Street is below-market parking rates, which encourage drivers to crowd the street — whether or not they have a place to park. Instead of addressing that issue, the city is punishing cyclists.

“It is unfortunate that DOT is scapegoating safe space for bicyclists instead of addressing the real problem, which is non-enforcement of double-parking regulation,” said Jonathan Rabinowitz, who was part of the group that pushed for bike lanes on Dyckman Street ten years ago.

DOT spokesperson Alana Morales attributed the changes to “extensive feedback from the community.” She also cited complaints from the FDNY, though did not specify what those could be, given that DOT typically consults with the Fire Department before installing the lanes in the first place. And at a community meeting in May, the FDNY did not express concerns about the bike lanes.

An FDNY battalion chief blamed any problems on double-parked drivers.

But Morales defended the changes.

“We feel these modifications will address concerns while maintaining safety for all users using typical design treatments seen elsewhere across the city,” Morales said.

A call to City Hall was not returned. The move will no doubt be seen among cycling advocates as a watershed moment, given that Mayor de Blasio has bucked considerable heat from some communities and approved protections for cyclists, such as in Sunnyside, along Queens Boulevard and on 111th Street in Corona.

  • Zero Vision

    Shame on everyone here. Trottenberg, de Blasio, Brewer. This is unacceptable.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s time to start building out the existing bike network in concrete both for a better cycling experience and so it’s not so easy to remove in a fly by night fashion like this.

  • thomas040

    Why not just take a few inches off the buffers and make the west bound two way?

  • Degenerate22

    The author of this article is dumb and may have not of lived here! The person wrote people here park mostly illegally. How if it’s mainly metered parking? Also, people were still riding their bikes on the sidewalk because the bike Lanes were still dangerous because the people riding their bikes don’t even follow bike rules. I’m happy the bike Lanes are gone now. Twice my side mirror was hit by a person on a bike while parked…LEGALLY.

  • Mike M

    I wouldn’t call them dumb so quickly. That’s immature. People were double-parking (illegally) but the protected bike lanes made it very difficult to double park. Now that they are restoring the traditional bike lane, people can double park, blocking the bike lane and making bikers swerve into traffic to go around the vehicle. This was how an Australian tourist was killed on Central Park West not long ago. It’s awful. You know what’s truly dumb? Taking away the protected bike lane. Your side mirror can take a hit, a person on a bike cannot.

  • RoughAcres RL McKee

    I’m very angry that our elected officials have buckled in the face of a handful of merchants who were complaining about PARKING – when cycling advocates were able to obtain HUNDREDS of signatures on a petition requesting segregated bicycle lanes on Dyckman YEARS ago now. The 34th Precinct needs to ENFORCE double-parking laws; motorists need to realize that EVERYONE deserves a safe means of transit – walking, cycling and driving. Taking away safe lanes for cyclists in the “dead of night”? For shame. For shame.

  • jcwconsult

    The realities of VisionZero:

    Vision Zero—In the Trenches of New York City: NMA Weekly Newsletter #503
    From New York City NMA Member

    Vision Zero is a huge nightmare for everyone that lives or works in NYC. Since the introduction here of Vision Zero, commute times have more than doubled. The city has introduced road diets, has converted streets for bike and bus only lanes and has gotten rid of left turn lanes. These changes have made NYC streets nearly impassable. Road rage has now become more common due to frustration, crowded roads and less space to drive.

    Under the Vision Zero regime, driving to work during morning rush hour takes hours instead of minutes. NYC has become anti-car and really anti-transit too since there seems to be little money available to fix the decrepit subway system. The use of congestion pricing to help pay for the subway won’t help either. Is it fair to make motorists pay for public transportation when we might not even use it?

    Not only will we not be able to drive due to the extra cost, we won’t be able to use the subway reliably either. It really is all just too much.

    In 2014, NYC’s default speed limit was lowered to 25 mph, setting up a speed trap city-wide and making it much easier for police to write speeding tickets. Policing for profit is the norm here and makes everyone more fearful and distrustful of the police.

    Enforcement is overkill and police personnel seem to get away with anything they want to do such as running red lights, driving into oncoming traffic, bus lanes and abusing the use of city employee parking placards, a scandal that has gone all the way to the mayor’s office. Speaking of Mayor Bill De Blasio’s’—in July, his motorcade was seen driving into oncoming traffic and blowing through traffic lights. What a fine role model he is.

    In 2017, in the name of fighting terrorism, Governor Cuomo deployed close to 200 state police troopers to NYC from upstate New York. Not only has this move strained police protection in rural areas of the state, it has also caused a second speed trap situation on NYC highways and interstates which are set at 50 mph maximum while the 85th percentile speed is around 65 mph. This opens up easy pickings for state police to write speeding tickets to serve greedy NY State.

    For example, in the first four months of deployment, the super troopers doled out 14,542 tickets—a whopping 759 percent increase from all of 2016 when they wrote only 1,692. That’s right ? tickets are so profitable in NYC that the state of New York wanted some of that ticket action. This has never been seen before and locals are calling it for what it is ? a feud between Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio.

    As a diehard New Yorker, I am tired of motorists being the ATM piggy bank for New York City and the state of New York. It’s time for the NYC DOT to post speed limits based on the 85th percentile of traffic flow. NYC needs to stop being a speed trap and a policing-for-profit center just so that the police department, city hall and state government can balance their budgets on the backs of hardworking New Yorkers.

    Road diets are one thing but another side product of Vision Zero is that it has produced a generation of distracted and entitled pedestrians who expect motorists to yield to them as soon as they step foot into the street even when crossing against the light or outside of legal crosswalks. I have witnessed so many close calls where pedestrians with intent moved in front of a moving vehicle because they know whatever happens, the motorist will always be at fault. The same holds true for bicyclists who seem to think that the rules of the road do not apply to them.

    From my point of view, Vision Zero’s lofty goal of preventing all traffic deaths really means preventing law-abiding citizens from using their own vehicles to move around the city. The ultimate aim of Vision Zero advocates are to get rid of private motor vehicles entirely. Plans are already in the works for city parking spaces for private cars to be turned into pedestrian plazas. Single family houses will likely be knocked down and replaced with tall apartment buildings to create more urban density and a reason to not have a car. Eventually, the only way someone can move around in the city that never sleeps will be by walking, biking or taking public transportation.

    As it seems now, public transportation might even be on the way out because it is so expensive to build and maintain. We will all be forced to buy a ride service subscription just to get around.

    In my opinion, here on the front line, Vision Zero is a platform that prevents people from traveling around freely under the guise of a safety movement.

    Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author.

  • MO

    Hang on a second. The article is inaccurate in its denial that the FDNY has not expressed concern. Engine 95’s officer and fire fighters came to a spring community board meeting to share their difficulty in responding to calls due to the traffic issues exacerbated by the bike lanes. You may agree or disagree, but when a fire company goes out of service to come to a meeting, I pay attention.

  • JarekFA

    This is your neighborhood, right? So why do you need to drive there. Also, fuck your car. 75% of the households in the neighborhood don’t own cars.

  • TheMiddleground

    His side mirror, perhaps. But my car was recently hit broadside at an intersection by a bicyclist running a red light. $1,600 in repairs, and of course bicyclists aren’t required to have licenses and don’t carry insurance.

  • Joe R.

    Nor should they given the average amount of damage bicycles can do. While what happened to you is obviously the exception, most cyclists will ride their entire lives without inflicting serious damage to persons or property. Also, no fault insurance generally covers things like this. It’s much the same as if an uninsured driver had hit you.

  • JarekFA

    99%-100% chance that you’re lying here.

  • Bobby D

    I am not opposed to protected bike lanes, but do think we need to get these bikes registered and require them to have insurance, just like an auto. I have heard horror stories of bike riders that have damaged property and people and literally just walk away from a scene! And, I do see the majority of the ones, that I have observed, (Not All. Some are very law abiding conforming to traffic regulations) not obey traffic signals, signs and road markings. They drive the wrong way on streets and do not yield to pedestrians. Just recently the city has developed protected bike lanes in Queens (Woodside & Sunnyside). But I have seen bike riders operate outside of the lanes! Don’t really know why, when riders have protested to get these lanes and then ride outside of them. I would like to know if anyone can provide some legal reference to the possibility of regulating them to protect pedestrians and property.

  • bicyclist #22

    i was riding behind this guy who got doored on Dyckman st. last month. I stayed and helped him with an ambulance. The traffic onthis street on the weekends because of the restaurant at the waterfront is terrible, the firetruck who first responded almost couldn’t getthrough. perhaps if the bike lane was redesigned to be located next to the sidewalk, made two way, and delineated with plastic pylons it would be helpful.
    https://i.redd.it/lwbj93ldos811.jpg

  • Janet Liff

    Has anyone checked pedestrian counts pre and post bike lane? In my experience, ped counts go up after a bike lane is installed because the sidewalk experience is nicer. It’s a different borough but 4th Avenue Lafayette Street are much improved. I’d also like to see sales data pre and post. Without this information, we don’t know what’s really going on with the merchants.

  • TheMiddleground

    Yes, the result was essentially the same as if an uninsured driver had hit me. My insurance company reimbursed me for much of it but 1) I was stuck paying the $500 deductible 2) I had the hassle of getting it repaired, dealing with getting a short term rental while it was in the shop, and 3) faced the uncertainty of not knowing whether GEICO would raise my rates due to the not-t-fault accident.

  • TheMiddleground

    I’ve been justifiably accused of lots of things in my life, JArekFA, but never lying. Give me your contact info, and I’ll send you a copy of the police investigation and insurance claim.

  • TheMiddleground

    Articulate and well-reasoned, Bobby D. And I endorse your comment about some riders being law abiding. Indeed, it was a pair of passing cyclists who stopped and served as my witnesses to the accident!!!!

  • Georgie

    I did not see too many of the long time Inwood residents who are desperately trying to stay in the neighborhood, riding bikes in the bike lanes. Rather it was the gentrifers and affluent co-oper’s who want to change everything about Inwood.

  • Reader

    DOT consults with FDNY on all projects and doesn’t put bike lanes in places where it would impede response times or have other negative effects. That members of a specific company came out to oppose a bike lane is not the same as the department being against it. More likely than not, those individual members were only concerned about their own personal driving and parking privileges and not emergency access, no matter what they said at the meeting.

  • iSkyscraper

    Not unprecedented if you understood Inwood politics, which are as dirty as it gets in New York.

    How else did La Marina manage to illegally run a MASSIVE valet parking arrangement that seized entire blocks of public streets, and host concerts on public parkland where “concerts are strictly prohibited”? Because Espaillat and Ydanis said to look the other way because their business buddies wanted it.

    Inwood hasn’t followed the rules of the rest of the city for some time now.

  • Joe R.

    Why would you? The bike lanes are to go from point A to point B. By definition you wouldn’t see too many Inwood residents using them because they would be riding in other areas, not staying in their neighborhood riding around in the same bike lane. The same is true of bike lanes citiwide. Most people using them aren’t going to be from the neighborhood they run to.

  • Joe R.

    You’re not going to find any legal references to any of the things you want because simply put, they’re not feasible, and they don’t accomplish anything positive. There were bike registration laws in a few places but that was mostly to help a person get back their bike if it was stolen. The laws were abandoned because they were money losers for the places which implemented them. They were also impossible to enforce.

    There has never been any requirement anywhere for bikes to have insurance. You might as well require shoes to have insurance while you’re at it. Again, it would be unenforceable, and it would be a money loser for insurance companies. Given the amount of damage on average bicycles cause, you can’t reasonable charge more than a few dollars a year for premiums. That won’t even cover the insurance company’s overhead. If you try to charge more, people won’t pay it. They’ll either go without insurance, or just stop riding their bikes. The city isn’t going to spend a ton of money trying to police uninsured bicycles. They don’t even have the manpower to police uninsured motorists.

    Don’t really know why, when riders have protested to get these lanes and then ride outside of them.

    There’s no requirement to use bike lanes. A cyclist can leave a bike lane for any reason. Often bike lanes are blocked or have potholes. Often they have pedestrians. The bike lane laws are designed to keep other users out of bike lanes, not to keep bikes in them.

    And, I do see the majority of the ones, that I have observed, (Not All. Some are very law abiding conforming to traffic regulations) not obey traffic signals, signs and road markings. They drive the wrong way on streets and do not yield to pedestrians.

    Well I guess your observations are different than mine. I rarely see cyclists going through red lights without yielding to cross traffic or pedestrians first. Treating reds as yields is what makes sense from the standpoint of a cyclist or a pedestrian. I’m not a fan of wrong-way riding but for delivery people especially it’s a big time saver. The bottom line is traffic laws haven’t caught up yet to the reality of cycling. To expect slow, small, human-powered vehicles to obey to the letter laws meant for heavy, fast, large motor vehicles is nonsensical.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not saying what happened to you doesn’t suck. It does. But it’s an outlier. The cyclist was an idiot for not looking before going through the red light. In theory since he was in the wrong you could probably take him to small claims court to get him to pay your deductible. In practice it’s probably not worth your time, and if the cyclist doesn’t have a job you might not get anything in court.

  • When Annette Dieli and I presented the idea in Feb. 2008 to the CB12 transportation committee, showing them pictures of the refashioned 9th avenue with protected lane, CB 12 didn’t want to even ask DOT for a study. It took years to get that far. I thought DOT finally saw the light. But they flip like a switch, without ANY data to validate what I consider to be self-serving and unsubstantiated claims of damage to their businesses. I asked for this data at the hearing. But is theretany? Can we demand a study? Make the businesses prove damage by the bike lanes? They got used to OWNING four of the six lanes of Dyckman as their personal parking lot.

  • qrt145

    “There has never been any requirement anywhere for bikes to have insurance”.

    Switzerland required liability insurance for cyclists for a long time, but they scrapped program a few years ago. It was called a “Velovignette”, which was a sticker that you put on your bike. You could buy it at the grocery store, and it cost maybe $10 per year, so the system was cheap and easy. I read somewhere that the main reason they scrapped it was that it was redundant because most people already had coverage from other insurance.

  • JarekFA

    My apologizes then for accusing you of lying. What you describe is such an extremely rare event for reasons that should be obvious. It’s an inconvenience and annoyance but we should acknowledge, as it is the most important point, that it didn’t remotely jeopardize your safety.

    Whereas yesterday, just like happens nearly every day, while biking home with my toddler from the pool, in a door zone bike lane, just like the bike lane that is being reinstalled on Dyckman, a guy comes within inches of taking me out, for no good reason. I don’t have the luxury of side panel damage. Bikes can be an annoyance for people in cars (and walkers) from time to time. But they rarely ever take lives.

    https://twitter.com/JarekFA/status/1036706401505169408

  • How is this not a lawsuit? Did the city study the environmental impacts of removing a protected bicycle lane?

  • Joe R.

    The f-ing asswipe was turning right after passing you? Doesn’t he/she realize bicycles are not stationary objects? It really would have killed him to hang back a little and stay behind you until the intersection. Maybe it would have cost him all of 1 second.

    The more shit like this I see, the more I think self-driving cars can’t get here soon enough.

  • Mike M

    If you cut the buffers a little then you run the risk of the bike lanes being too close to the parked cars and cyclists might get doored. And a two-way bike lane on a street with many intersections (and hence turning cars) is much more dangerous than having two separate protected lanes on either side of the street. Not only will turning cars have to contend with two-way bike traffic; cars turning left may be unable to see bikers heading in the same direction on the other side of the street in a two-way protected lane.

  • prstunna

    when the first biker dies will the de Blasio administration pay for the funeral? i ride everyday on dyckman with no bike lane its a matter of time before the first death happens! drivers has 0 care for bikers the lane was the only safe way to ride now i have to battle with moving cars ? de Blasio administration should be ashamed!!!!

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