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
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.

  • SSkate

    The “raised” bike lane (or “cycle track”) on Greenpoint West St. is maybe 1/4 inch above street level. Worst raised bike lane Iane I’ve encountered in NYC so far, not that are many of them anyway..

  • Tomas Paine

    People. It’s NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. NYC WILL ALWAYS be Thunderdome for bikers! That’s just the way it is!

    For Pete’s sake, you’ve got Bill DeBlasio as Mayor. BILL FRICKIN DEBLASIO. The man worked for David Dinkins, got Hillary Clinton elected to the Senate, and took his friggin honeymoon IN COMMUNIST CUBA. I mean, how progressive can it get?

    And people are STILL getting splatted like ants.

    That’s because you people are trying to DEFY THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. In the event of any car-bicycle accident, THE CAR WILL ALWAYS WIN. HANDILY.
    AND YOU WILL VERY LIKEY BE SERIOUSLY MAIMED OR DEAD.

    THIS IS NOT POLITICS. IT’S PHYSICS. IT’S COMMON SENSE.
    IT’S WHAT YOUR DAD WOULD TELL YOU IF HE KNEW WHAT YOU WERE DOING.

    YOU CANNOT OVERRIDE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.

    Unless it’s a protected bike line, DO NOT ride your bicycle in NYC’s streets! Don’t let these doofy politicians talk you into it!

    It’s not safe!

  • Joe R.

    Protected lanes aren’t safe, either. Most incidents happen at intersections. That’s the one place where protected lanes don’t offer protection.

    That said, statistically biking in this city is no more dangerous than walking.

  • Joe R.

    My idea of a raised bike lane is something about 15 feet above the street. It’s a joke calling something a fraction of an inch above the pavement a raised bike lane.

  • Reader

    It’s still in progress? What a damning indictment of DoT and DDC’s process. This thing has been “in progress” for longer than it took to build the Empire State Building.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    With respect to Jon Orcutt, he’s wrong here. Even if the bikeway was graded as designed a mountable curb as designed (or even a vertical curb) here would not have led to any difference in the outcome. Having a raised divider higher than both the bikeway and the road is the absolute minimum that might lead to a useful bike facility.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Right, we shouldn’t allow the fact that we want things to be better to cause us to believe things are worse than they are, especially other parts of the SUVSA.

  • West Street Bike Lane

    I’ll pile on! Here’s an instagram account I’ve been working on: instagram.com/weststbikelane/

    It includes another 60+ images since March. I was attempting to include all the 311 case numbers (for fun, plus the non-responses) but Instagram started rate-limiting my comments as I was doing this all in bulk.

    67 West St is the main offender, they even put a valet parking sign and invite motorists to park in the “bike lane.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/858038d87c5cbbe148d793a695c10a76ada9e66341a4ac6509cbbb7ee761df1b.png

    Furthermore, bike lane is about to explode with activity after the next, what, 100 million sq feet of commercial, retail, and residential go online on West St. in the coming years. There are already plenty of cyclists because parallel Franklin St is a sharrow-plus-trucks deathtrap.

    The whole thing needs to be redesigned. I guess I’ll hit up Jon on twitter.

  • Nonsense. It’s perfectly safe to ride in the streets when obeying the same rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Physics has little to do with it.

  • Tomas Paine

    But what if a driver or a cyclist for that matter makes a mistake?

    Probably all over for the cyclist.

  • Rider

    Oof. When did all these vehicular cyclists infest Streetsblog’s comments? Seeing more and more of this nonsense recently.

  • Daphna

    The raised bike lane on 7th Avenue from 42nd to 46th Street in Manhattan Times Square is raised about the height of a sidewalk. It has a mountable curb. Preferably would have been a regular curb, not a mountable one. However, there is generally motorist compliance with that raised bike lane. The only motorists who do not comply and park in the raised bike lane are the NYPD. But the problem with the raised bike lane on 7th Avenue is that whenever there is any blockage on the pedestrian area next to it, the pedestrians flow into the bike lane and use it in place of their blocked sidewalk. This shows that the pedestrian areas in the Times Square area should not be used as staging areas for events because then there is not enough space for thru pedestrian traffic when large areas are cordoned off.

  • Daphna

    Put concrete jersey barriers between the edge of the bike lane and the road since it was not grade separated enough as it should have been to promote motorist compliance.

  • Och

    This is clearly a malicious intent on behalf of the designers – this way they can provide parking to cars, and claim that they have built a protected bike lane. And as an extra cynical FU to cyclists, when a cyclist gets killed they will just claim that he/she was not in the bicycle lane, despite it being blocked.

  • Bensage

    Let’s hire someone with a forklift and a truck to move all the unnecessary jersey barriers from the Manhattan Greenway path to Brooklyn where they will actually do some good?

  • Kyle

    This seems relevant.

  • MatthewEH

    The other problem with it is it’s not wide enough to accommodate passing a slower cyclist!

  • MatthewEH

    This seems like a problem that installing some lightweight plastic pylon protection would solve.

    For a lane like this, the boundary between the regular street and the bikes-only area does not need to be especially porous. Just at intersections, really.

  • Tomas Paine

    Fine. Physics doesn’t matter. Ride your bike on the highways for all I care. Better you than me.

  • Nicholas L

    It seems there needs to be a delivery/dropoff area on the side street.

    And buildings, cities should require weekly vs daily Amazon deliveries.

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New curb-protected raised bike lane 7th Av/46th in Times Sq – sadly it’s only 1 block, w weak connexns to N & S pic.twitter.com/nPIzbMCUu4 — Jon Orcutt (@jonorcutt) January 21, 2016 Yes, there is now a short segment of raised bike lane on Seventh Avenue at Times Square. TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt tweeted the picture above last […]