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

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

  • Mike M

    The 29th St “protected” lane between 9th and 10th Aves doesn’t even exist! DOT never installed it. Yet it’s been on the official bike map…

  • sbauman

    There’s a fairly easy solution to get nearly 100% bike lane enforcement. It won’t require the addition or diversion of a single NYC employee. That solution is to share the $115 fine for stopping in a bike lane with the member of the general public who reports and documents the violation. N.B. the NYC rule is stopping in a bike lane – not parking or standing. This makes documentation much easier.

    The reporting and documenting can be contained in a smartphone app. All that should be required is a photo or photos showing the vehicle in the bike lane for a period of time (to prevent a false alarm of a vehicle crossing the bike lane). The app would transmit this photo to the appropriate city agency (DOT or Finance) to guard against Photoshopping.

    Apps would be certified by DOT to be accurate. This would eliminate what would likely be a time consuming and expensive development process to develop the app by NYC. The fine would be split 3 ways: the citizen reporting the violation; the app developer; and NYC. Having the app developer work on commission should allow the app to be free. This would ensure the app’s maximum distribution to the public.

  • Emmily_Litella

    A lame duck mayor should be able to step up traffic enforcement considerably. But the people of the corn….

  • Isaac B

    This is counterintuitive, but on a street with a lot of loading zones and/or angled parking, a lane down the side may not be optimal. The unpredictable conditions naturally lead to slow traffic movement. Shouldn’t this be the kind of street where cyclists can and should “take the lane” and it should be marked as such? And on any side street, I’d much rather have a “sharrow” that establishes my right to be on the street, not up against the sidewalks or car door, than that substandard lane on the margin.

  • crazytrainmatt

    For posterity, here’s a short list of the specific problems with these lanes, besides the dangerously narrow lanes, increasing amounts of salmon, and pedestrians mindlessly putting cyclists in danger. In counterclockwise order:
    1) FDNY between 2nd and 3rd constrains the bike lane and parks on the sidewalk:

    2) The weird hotel loading zones on 29th, especially on 29th between Park and Broadway (Can taxis park at the curb? Slightly offset while passengers unload in the bike lane? Park in the normal parking lane? Who knows!), and the construction blockage for 30 E 29th St.

    3) 29th between 6th and 8th is the filthiest bike lane in NYC

    4) NYPD angle parking on 29th between 8th and 9th:

    5) The NYPD light parked on 26th between 9th and 10th:

    6) Most of the blocks on 26th between 5th and 2nd went unstriped after repaving the whole summer

    7) Happy to say the armoury has stopped parking its truck in the mixing zone on 26th and Lex!

    8) 26th between 2nd and 1st has no bike lane. That block and the next are two-way, so you are trapped between agressive traffic behind and the occasional through truck from across 1st Ave. The safest transition onto 1st ave involves entering the N sidewalk mid-block.

  • GuestBx

    I always thought protected bicycle lanes should be used an arterial streets, not these narrow side streets. In these cases the traffic should be substantially calmed so that drivers do not exceed 25 MPH. Chicanes, multiple speed humps per block, blanket camera enforcement. And some of these, should be dead ended for automotive traffic.

  • crazytrainmatt

    My experience in midtown outside these protected lanes is that any space gets taken up either by a lurching procession of frustrated and stinky cars, trucks and busses. When there’s any empty space at all, you get buzzed by people speeding to the next red light.

  • GuestBx

    If we could slow the traffic down on these side streets bicyclists could just take the lane without intimidation. Too many drivers trying to speed to the next red light.

  • tvdp

    This would be amazing but would also drive everyone in Staten Island up the wall

  • JL

    I used the w29th BL from 5th to Hudson path for a couple of months after it was finished last year. It’s claustrophobic and nasty with dumpster juice and it’s all torn-up even before you get to the sanitation gauntlet and moonscape at 10/11/12th. When I used my all terrain geared bike in the evening, my acceleration was good enough on flat streets to stay ahead of the vehicles so I used the narrower “traffic’ lane to get to the next light. Though it’s probably currently illegal, I felt much safer in the larger space.

    My class ended so I’m no longer using that street. To make it usable, the 29/26th would need the 12/13th Street treatment. Take away a whole side of parking to increase the buffer.

    I was at an event where the DoT commissioner was touting the then new 26/29th BL and I asked her what the minimum space was for a BL and voiced my concerns for its usability. She and her underlings answered they rode up in it and didn’t see a problem.

    I think they see it as a victory every time they can squeeze a lane in a “difficult” neighborhood everytime there’s a high profile fatality. Young, middle class/or above. So they throw one in quick and hope the opposition will get used to it, and MAYBE more users will justify its existence and/or improvements.

    I tell my non-cycling relatives in their 20s-40s that it’s not “safe” yet with the amount of aggression/distraction and NYPD’s disinterest in real street safety. While I’m not worried about bodily harm each time I hop on my bike, I’ve just recently purchased a lightweight high-vis vest (after 25yrs) for riding in high density areas. I’ve not figured out if “working” cyclists get more respect from drivers but I think I’m valuing being seen in my middle years. I’m not that concerned if I’m mocked for standing in solidarity with the delivery folks.

  • Edwin V

    Should have continued on 26th from 6th to 5th which is generally impassable in the morning. Trash bags, dumpsters, trolleys/dolleys, trucks and always puddles from where the genius building porters spray their sidewalks without anywhere for the water to drain. Since the 26th bike lane was installed, that block is significantly more dangerous to ride. Really poor choice of design and location.

  • Daphna

    There is a massive drainage problem in the 26th Street bike lane between 5th and 6th Avenue. There is standing water for days after it rains that extends across the whole bike (mini) lane. Counting the 1′ curbside gutter as if it is part of the bike lane is also ridiculous. It should be acknowledged that the 1′ or 1.5″ curbside is not rideable and that should not be counted as if it is part of the bike lane. Also, the New Alternatives For Children van drivers park half in the floating parking and half in the buffer. There is room that they could easily fit entirely in the floating parking, but they always situate themselves half in the bike lane buffer, which effectively narrows the space for bicycles, and it’s already is a tiny lane.

    NYPD do the same everyplace where there is floating parking next to a buffer of a bike lane: the NYPD park their vehicles half in the floating parking and half in the buffer. Why???? Are they that poor at parking? Are the NYPD unable to see lines on the pavement? Do NYPD officers lack the skills to execute basic competence to park properly? Do NYPD officers hate bicyclists so much they that can’t stop themselves from infringing on designated infrastructure whenever they can? It is pathological behavior.

  • Joe R.

    “Do NYPD officers hate bicyclists so much they that can’t stop themselves from infringing on designated infrastructure whenever they can?”

    Yes, they do. I’m sure this reason above all the others you gave is why they habitually park partially or fully in bike lanes.

  • Edwin V

    It’s the rain but more so the supers/porters in two of the buildings on the south side who spray down their sidewalks every AM and the water pools up at the curb in the bike lane.

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  • WodOffPooH

    Damn y’all are calling partially blocked bike lanes a crisis. I need to recruit some bike advocates to fight for prison reform and police brutality and the murder of unarmed black men. Cuz if partially blocked bike lanes is a crisis I do t know what I’m dealing with.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Why are you spending your time reading a transportation blog rather than a prison reform blog?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Unfortunately much of the lane is so narrow that you have to hug the curb to stay out of the door zone.

  • Daphna

    It is excellent when anyone reads articles on Streetsblog’s news portal. Whether it is subject matter they are familiar with or not, whether they disagree or not, whether they care about transportation issues or not, it is terrific when people read because they become educated on the subject. Welcome WodOffPooH

  • Daphna

    The perpetual water on the south side of 26th Street between 5th and 6th is a problem. The new pavement is already deteriorating from it.

  • DoctorMemory

    Hello, brain twin! I’ve been boring the shit out of people at parties for the last year with exactly this idea. And the last time I did it, the person who I was talking to completely blew my mind:



    …except that at the moment, it’s only for cars subject to TLC regulation, ie taxis/lyfts/ubers. But all of the infrastructure is already in place to expand it to other cars, it’s just a matter of finding someone at the DOT with a spine.

  • gmoney

    Yes, death is a crisis.

  • Scott Kochman