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Eyes on the Street: Hey, DOT, About That Protected 26th Street Bike Lane…

12:01 AM EDT on August 27, 2019

Not protected: A truck blocking the W. 26th Street bike lane. Photo: Julianne Cuba

It's not a protected bike lane if cars can park in it.

So by this objective measure, the city's much-ballyhooed W. 26th Street crosstown route is not a protected bike lane — as Streetsblog discovered one day last week. 

We started our eastbound ride at 12th Avenue — right off the popular Hudson River Greenway. For the first 75 feet or so, the lane is indeed protected by a few parked cars. That protection quickly ends, leaving only green paint to signify the presence of a bike lane. And then, even the green paint disappears, turning the supposedly protected route into a no man's land where drivers frequently deposit their 3,000-pound vehicles in the bike lane.

A truck on both the bike lane and sidewalk. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A truck on both the bike lane and sidewalk. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Of course, that's what happens when the city installs a bike lane on a block with multiple active loading zones. The commercial nature of the block also encourages workers to just dart out into the street to access their trucks.

There are also loading zones between 11th and 10th avenues, where this Streetsblog cyclist had to swerve around a truck parked perpendicular through the bike lane. The Drape Kings truck (photo below) forced the cyclist to venture out even further into the middle of the street — an extremely dangerous move because other massive big rigs are parked to the left of the bike lane. As a result, neither drivers nor cyclists have enough visibility to see if the coast is clear.

DOT considers this portion of the bike lane fully "protected" — and even lists it as such on the city's official bike map, though Streetsblog has disputed that in the past. This week's report provides even more evidence.

DOT says it must accommodate the loading docks on W. 26th Street and must balance the bike lane with loading needs, street width, and emergency vehicle access, but that it will look into adding more buffering.

A truck parked perpendicular in the bike lane to access the loading zone. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A truck parked perpendicular in the bike lane to access the loading zone. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Streetsblog continued on its way route toward Sixth Avenue and discovered much of the lane interspersed with more parked cars. Just feet from where cyclist Dan Hanegby was killed in 2017 between Seventh and Eighth avenues, two people sat in an idling car on the bike lane — which they were able to access because no vehicles were parked in the "parking protected" area and there were no bollards to block them. (There's also a bumpy metal grate that takes up the width of the bike lane at that spot, covering the green paint. As a result, the "bike lane" looks like a designated parking spot.)

In any event, Streetsblog kindly asked the driver to move, and he did.

A car parked in the bike lane on W. 26th Street near Seventh Avenue. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A car parked in the bike lane on W. 26th Street near Seventh Avenue. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Our findings mirror an even more egregious video sent over to Streetsblog by a tipster frustrated by all the trucks parked in the bike lane between 11th and 12th avenues.

The 38-second film documents several trucks on the green paint, right next to at least four parked police vans — in the right area — whose drivers likely did not ticket the illegally parked trucks. Toward the end of the video, the biker almost looks like he’s home free with a clear path, but then — surprise! — an NYPD truck is parked in the lane.  

“This video perfectly encapsulates the crisis we’re facing when it comes to protecting cyclists. Even where bike lanes exist, they’re not good enough and they’re blocked by cars. I’ve asked the NYPD to step up enforcement on the 26th Street bike lane and my streets master plan bill calls for a citywide network of real, protected bike lanes — not just plastic and paint," said Johnson, who is also working on a package of bills to get all cars out of bike and bus lanes. "It would be heartbreaking and infuriating if we were to see another cyclist fatality on this street because of a blocked bike lane."

But enforcement must come from the top, and Hizzoner is the one who set the tone with his infamous "de Blasio stop," saying last year that it’s okay for people to park in a bike lane for just a little bit.

“If someone’s blocking it for – for example, a bike lane, for 30 seconds while they take out the groceries or let their kid off, I don’t think they should get a ticket for that,” he said in 2018.

The remark always comes back to haunt de Blasio.

“The mayor must realize and state he was wrong when he said it was OK for someone to block a bike lane, Commissioner O'Neill must ensure his officers and NYPD vehicles no longer contribute with impunity to this unacceptable endangerment of vulnerable road users, and both must ensure effective enforcement against blocking of bike lanes citywide,” said Transportation Alternative’s Marco Conner. "Every year New Yorkers die when they are forced into traffic because of blocked bike lanes. How many more deaths will it take for the Mayor to ensure safe passage? Nineteen more cyclist deaths? Another child killed? This starts at the top."

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