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Live from West Street: It’s NOT a Protected Bike Lane If Cars Can Park On It

These trucks are parked on what is supposed to be a protected bike lane on West Street in Greenpoint. If they get a ticket, they pay far less thanks to a city program. Photo: Jon Orcutt

As Rene Magritte would have said, "Ceci n'est pas un protected bike lane."

Trucks and cars are parking all over the Department of Transportation's "protected bike lane" on West Street from Quay to Eagle streets in Greenpoint, thanks to a lackluster construction effort that failed to fully separate cyclists from the roadbed as promised.

"It's supposed to be curb-separated, but they buried the curb for several blocks," said Jon Orcutt of Bike NY, referring to the fact that the separation is flush with the roadway in some places. "Even where the curb is not flush with the road, it's still too low."

Orcutt has been documenting the scofflaws for a while now. It's amazing to see what drivers (even professional ones with companies that do business with the city) think is their space.

Orcutt's request for crowd-sourcing by other West Street cyclists led to more evidence that this design is a design flaw:

It didn't have to be this way. This stretch of West Street is supposed to be part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of interconnected protected bike lanes that has been under construction for many years. West Street is a Department of Transportation project, according to greenway documents.

The DOT declined to comment on the lane and its problems, saying only, "See page 32. West Street lane is classified as 'in progress.'”

Something else that's also in progress? Cars and trucks parking on a crucial bike lane that is supposed to give cyclists safe passage through Greenpoint so they don't have to take Franklin Street, a two-way bus route that would be dangerous enough — but it's even worse because DOT declined to remove on-street car storage.

Orcutt worked for the DOT a decade ago when the greenway was first being planned. "We designed it with a high curb separation," he said. "It was supposed to be good. The plan was done around 2012, but what we see today is just lousy execution. It needs something more like planters or some stuff you'd really have to destroy to park on there.

"This should be a bike lane where you can take your kids, like Prospect Park West," he said. "But you can't because there are cars and trucks on there all the time."

The local precinct, prodded by Council Member Steve Levin, has taken notice. One day last week, cops were ticketing scofflaws:

That earned the 94th Precinct kudos from cyclists. But, of course, a day later, the illegal parkers were back.

Ticketing is probably not a long-term solution anyway: trucking companies that participate in the city's Stipulated Fine Program pay only a fraction of the cost of the summonses they receive.

If, indeed, the DOT does indeed finish West Street to make it truly safe, consider this story just a premature update. But if this is the way West Street is going to remain, remember not to count its 1.2 miles when DOT releases its year-end accounting of how many protected lane miles it installed in 2019.

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