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.

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