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Check, Please: Restaurants Caught Stealing Bike Lanes for Service Areas

4:36 PM EDT on June 28, 2020

This is not legal.

It's not just cops in bike lanes that cyclists have to worry about — now it's carbs in bike lanes.

Hundreds of restaurants have been setting up tables for outdoor dining on the streets — but some were caught over the weekend putting their serving areas in painted bike lanes, a violation of city rules.

One restaurant, Ofrenda in the West Village, went so far as to build a wooden platform on the kermit-painted portion of Seventh Avenue South, which not only blocked cyclists, but ended up injuring Alec Sirken, who tweeted on Saturday about the incident (we have reached out for more info):

Several residents of the West Village sent Streetsblog pictures of the restaurant serving customers on Friday night, one day before Sirken's post.

Customers were spilling out of Ofrenda in the West Village on Friday night.
Customers were spilling out of Ofrenda in the West Village on Friday night.
Customers were spilling out of Ofrenda in the West Village on Friday night.

A manager at the restaurant told Streetsblog that the platform would remain in place through Sunday night, when it would be removed. He said the restaurant felt bad that it had misunderstood the guidelines presented by the city, but he claimed they were confusing, too.

Ofrenda, which serves Mexican fare, was not the only offender. Streetsblog received other photos showing violations of DOT "open restaurants" guidelines, which require restaurants to "not place seating within a No Stopping Anytime or No Standing Anytime zone, bike lane, bus lane/stop, taxi stand, or car share space."

El Camion Cantina in the East Village was also caught swiping a bike lane over the weekend, but Council Member Carlina said the owner fixed the problem shortly after being shamed on Twitter.

Rivera also claimed that the Department of Transportation reiterated over the weekend to restaurateurs that they cannot block bike and bus lanes. (The agency did not respond to a weekend request for information.)

It would make sense if the DOT is reaching out to restaurateurs, because starting on Monday, the agency is accepting applications for the next phase of the "open restaurants" plan, which will allow eateries to operate in the roadway itself, on up to 40 still-to-be-determined streets, from Friday evening through Sunday evening. The restaurant would return to the parking lane and the sidewalk during the other hours of the week.

Since the initial open restaurants plan was announced, many eateries have been respectful of bike infrastructure and have kept their operations to the curbside lane typically used for the storage of vehicles, which was the city's goal.

But there is always the potential for collisions, especially with some restaurants on Manhattan avenues with parking-protected bike lanes setting up seating on the sidewalk and in area where parked cars had typically protected cyclists. Now the danger comes from servers or customers accessing tables, as reporter Lisa Evers pointed out last week on Columbus Avenue.

This is a developing story.

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