NYPD Security Plan for UN Meeting Kills First and Second Ave. Bike Lanes

Don't try to bike past here next week!
Don't try to bike past here next week!

Drivers, take the tunnel. Cyclists, take a hike!

The NYPD will again close the crucial First Avenue bike lane between 40th and 51st streets and the Second Avenue bike lane between 57th and 42nd streets during next week’s United Nations General Assembly.

The paths will be closed from Saturday, Sept. 22 through Saturday, Sept. 29, according to Citi Bike, which tweeted the info.

Neither the DOT nor the NYPD gave Streetsblog a reason for the cycle shutdown. In years past, the NYPD has said the bike lane closures are a security measure, but that claim rings false, given that the First Avenue car tunnel that runs under the United Nations Plaza from 42nd to 48th Street will remain open during the General Assembly.

It is unclear why cyclists pose a greater threat to the United Nations complex than drivers, who will pass under it — and advocates were outraged.

“Closing key bike routes during special events sends the wrong message to New Yorkers who commute by bike,” said Joe Cutrufo, spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives. “It says the safety of people on two wheels is less important than the convenience of people in cars. That doesn’t mix well with Vision Zero.”

Many cyclists also pointed out the glaring irony: On Tuesday, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called on New Yorkers to cycle through the traffic-choked streets during the General Assembly, even announcing half-priced Citi Bike rentals for the entire “Gridlock Alert” period.

But don’t bother pedaling those bikes past the Secretariat building.

“Hypocrisy from @NYC_DOT – issuing a #GridlockAlert for Midtown that includes urging people to walk or bike, yet closing the only protected northbound #bikeNYC route east of Eighth Avenue. Utter bullshit. #UNGA happens EVERY YEAR – make a fucking plan for it!!!” tweeted Derek Magee.

More irony: At the same DOT press conference, New York’s International Affairs Commissioner Penny Abeywardena said she was excited that the general assembly would be taking up the issue of climate change — except, apparently, where bicycles are concerned, noted Austin Jain-Conti.

“It makes no sense that @NYC_DOT is promoting #bikenyc during the UN-related ‘Gridlock Alert’ days while key cycling routes in the most affected areas are closed. @NYCMayor, please ensure a coordinated effort to keep people moving!” added Ryan Smith on Twitter.

No provisions have been made for the thousands of cyclists who use the First and Second avenue lanes. Bike lawyer Steve Vaccaro called for a temporary protected lane on Third Avenue. Cyclist Angela Stach emphasized the danger to cyclists.

“@NYC_DOT, you CANNOT in good conscience send cyclists into that car traffic with motorists who are pissed off and aggressive,” she posted on Twitter.

It’s not the first time officials have claimed that the UN has “unique security concerns.” A few years ago, then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer used the phrase to justify reducing bike share stations near the international symbol of peace.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They don’t close the sidewalks on the west side of 1st Ave or on 2nd Ave at all do they?

    So long as anyone trying to ride a bike has to face the complete closure of all nearly-comfortable bike lanes on the entire east side of Manhattan, this is not a bike friendly city.

    A lot of people don’t follow the news about bike facilities or on social media (and DOT hasn’t even announced this on social media!). A lot of people will try cycling next week and run into this without any warning at all.

    This is not a bike-friendly city until shit like this doesn’t happen. All the PR in the world won’t change that, only bike lanes that are high quality and that can be relied upon will.

  • AnoNYC

    It’ll be gridlock in the tunnel, just lane split.

    Pretty stupid they are closing the bike paths.

    And I assume the SBS bus lane only service through that area will be suspended as well.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Second Avenue isn’t next to the U.N. is it?
    Perhaps the bike lanes are closed to facilitate parking? Are vehicles parked in them?

  • Sure, but they’re giving everyone 50% of of a three-day Citi Bike pass!

    At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave everyone in the city a free bike share membership… but removed all the bikes and stations because of “security.”

  • Geck

    Yes. I unknowingly rode into this mess last year. Totally bogus security theater. Cops forced me off 1st Avenue while the street was clogged with cars and trucks.

  • Simon Phearson

    It comes down to using the bike lanes as official-traffic only lanes, if I remember last year’s closures correctly. Everyone else sits in gridlock. That must be why they’re “closing” the Second Ave lane as high up as the bridge, I’ll bet.

  • William Lawson

    If there’s anywhere that cyclists need protection from psychotic, arrogant motorists who have “diplomatic immunity” it’s the vicinity of the UN. Their diplomat plates are their placards and they abuse them by ignoring red lights and refusing to yield to cyclists or pedestrians when they make turns.

  • Simon Phearson

    Yeah – the diplomatic plates are worse than the livery drivers, in my experience. Some of the most dangerously aggressive small-vehicle driving behavior I encounter.

  • Alexis Leonardo Solórzano

    If the 2nd Ave and 1st Ave bike lanes are closed off, we’ll just use the adjacent travel lane.
    Just sayin’…

  • JarekFA

    They’ve outlawed that as well.

  • djx

    “They don’t close the sidewalks on the west side of 1st Ave or on 2nd Ave at all do they?”

    Please don’t give them ideas.

  • Simon Phearson

    They don’t have the legal authority to force bikes off the streets entirely. I doubt they can close bike lanes, either, but that’s another story…

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Since when does actual, factual legality matter to the NYPD?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Heh. The 17th precinct is claiming in some of the replies that sidewalks are closed on 1st Avenue, but I doubt it. If it’s true its probably only immediately across from the UN (where the buildings on the west side are mostly condo-consulates and the like where people can cross the cordon with ID), not for the full stretch listed.

  • Geck

    As I indicated below, I unknowingly tried to ride on 1st Ave during one of these shut-downs last year. I continued a couple of blocks passed where the bike lane had been commandeered by the police and it was made quite clear to me that I would not be allowed to continue biking in the travel lane.

  • KeNYC2030

    Despite all protestations to the contrary, the city does not consider cycling to be a legitimate form of transportation. Period. More evidence: not only are the bike lanes closing, but Citi Bike is closing a slew of stations around there, perhaps for “a couple of weeks.” I got the email below. But have a great day!

    In advance of the 2018 General Assembly of the United Nations we are temporarily deactivating or removing stations nearby. We know you are an occasional user of one or more of the following Citi Bike stations and we wanted to let you know that they will be unavailable starting on the below dates:

    Thursday, September 20th:

    1 Ave & E 44 St
    E 47 St & 1 Ave
    E 53 St & Madison Ave
    Grand Army Plaza & Central Park S

    Friday, September 21st:

    E 51 St & Lexington Ave
    E 52 St & 2 Ave

    These stations will be reactivated in a couple of weeks or so, so in the meantime, please check your Citi Bike app or the map for available stations nearby.

    Have a great day!

    The Citi Bike Team

  • Rex Rocket

    Good time for a Critical Mass ride with a few thousand riders.

  • nanter

    What possible rationale could they have for this? Even something contrived? It sounds like simple bicycle hatred, nothing more.

  • Joe R.

    Unique security concerns? Honestly, I can’t think of too many groups less worth of protecting than diplomats. The UN is a failed experiment that never was able to accomplish what it was meant to, primarily to unite the planet under one government. All diplomats seem to do is prolong a crisis (or create one to justify their existence). If we can’t disband the UN entirely move it out of NYC. Keeping it here just puts another bullseye on our back.

  • Joe R.

    The can and do use diplomatic immunity to violate far worse than traffic laws:

    https://nypost.com/2017/10/11/why-dirty-diplomats-can-literally-get-away-with-murder/

  • pchowla

    The hypocrisy is worse than reported, because UN Staff who commute by bike have no where to park their bikes! We aren’t allowed to bring bikes through the security cordon set up at 2nd Ave. And all the bike parking is roped off!

  • Joe R.

    I can’t find it now, but a few years ago the NYPD used the possibility of terrorists with bike bombs as an excuse to shut down some bike lanes. Of course, they somehow conveniently ignore the fact you can deliver a much larger, more effective bomb in a car or truck. Maybe they’re still using that nonsensical rationale so they can do what they love most, which is stick it to cyclists?

  • crazytrainmatt

    The M15 continues running but is heavily delayed by the traffic, and the uptown bus is routed to 3rd ave during the random full closures of 1st above ground. So it’s really useful as a through route for people who aren’t in a hurry and really want to avoid the lex.

  • Daphna

    Cyclists are lawfully allowed to ride in the vehicles lanes, because, after all, bicycles are considered vehicles under the law, hence why NYPD are able to issue so many red light tickets to cyclists; and cyclists are allowed to bike through the tunnel. As much as NYPD say they are not allowed to… NYPD are wrong. The problem is that some cyclists will comply with the unlawful NYPD prohibition of them from the road. There is a large enough quantity of cyclists along First and Second Avenue that if all cyclists took to the vehicle lanes and refused to travel west to another street, NYPD would not be able to re-direct or arrest or detain all of the cyclists. It would only work if en masse all cyclists who normally take First and Second Avenue take the vehicle lanes despite NYPD’s unlawful wish to re-direct them elsewhere.

  • Alexis Leonardo Solórzano

    If other vehicles are permitted to use 1st and 2nd Ave, then cyclists should be allowed to as well. By law if the bike lane is obstructed, we are allowed to use the travel lane.

  • AMH

    Was wondering about this–if they’re commandeering the bike lanes for
    security theater, I’m sure the bus lanes will be useless.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    The cops can f**k themselves is my motto whenever I’m travelling outside of a car.

  • Joe R.

    Unfortunately, the NYPD considers bicycles vehicles when it benefits them (like when they give red light tickets) but doesn’t consider them vehicles if they need to justify prohibiting them from certain streets.

    Maybe the next time someone gets a red light ticket they can fight it in court as follows:

    The NYPD doesn’t consider bicycles vehicles as it prohibits them from using lawful traffic lanes on First and Second Avenues during the UN General Assembly. It also prohibits them from leaving the bike lane to use general traffic lanes, even though any vehicle is allowed to use such lanes. As a bicycle is not considered a vehicle by the NYPD, a cyclist is therefore not required to obey vehicular traffic laws.

  • Elise Merrow

    I was aggressively targeted by diplomatic plate car 4 times while riding safely and lit up with lights, reflective everything and Lumos helmet around 7pm in brooklyn. Police said, even with witness, and video, unless killed or injured, very difficult for any repercussions!!!

  • AMH

    As the spouse of a diplomat, I need to push back on the notion that all diplomats are the obnoxious, entitled individuals who travel everywhere by SUV abusing their diplomatic immunity (of whom I’ve seen too many in NY and DC and around the world). The hardworking research and reporting staff are not at all the same as the political appointees who get their positions through patronage.

  • Joe R.

    No offense to your spouse. I certainly never intended my post to disparage the valuable employees of diplomats, who in my opinion are lot more valuable to society than those they work for. Or the actual diplomats who are decent people. Unfortunately, my biases got to me. As a group (and thank you for pointing out exceptions) I loathe diplomats even more than I loathe the NYPD, and that’s saying a lot. Of course, in the end I always judge each person on their own merits. I wouldn’t dismiss a person out of hand if they were a cop, diplomat, or politician (the third group I mostly despise).

    I was actually going to write something along those lines sympathizing with the much more valuable staff of UN diplomats who will be unable to ride their bikes to work for the next few weeks.

  • AMH

    I didn’t think you did; I just wanted to point that out! There are a lot of diplomats doing excellent work.

  • Wait a minute, From a threat standpoint bicyclists could carry the same amount of explosives or guns as pedestrians , but infinitely less than cars or delivery trucks .

    Let’s make the whole CBD car free during UN week. Give a bit of exercise to all these diplomats and head of state. And give New Yorkers something to cheer for. If diplomats do not want to mingle with us, then bring them by boat on the east river…much much safer

  • jeremy

    And I’ll just keep riding in the 2nd ave bike lane, “closed” or not

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