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Mayor’s Motorcade Parks In Queens Bike Lane So Mayor Can Make Ferry Announcement

8:51 PM EDT on August 28, 2020

City vehicles and NYPD SUVs parked in the Vernon Boulevard bike lane for Mayor de Blasio’s ferry announcement on Friday afternoon. Photo: @dimpNewYork

Mayor de Blasio drove from City Hall to a ferry stop in Astoria on Friday afternoon — and then had his NYPD security detail park in a popular waterfront bike lane — all so he could announce new ferry service between the Upper East Side and Astoria.

Queens resident Chad Cormorant, who tweets as @dimpNewYork, noticed the blocked-off bike lane on Vernon Boulevard on Friday afternoon and said the parking job made it impossible to walk along the waterfront.

A spokesperson for de Blasio suggested it was all right for multiple city cars to block a bike lane because it was done in the service of announcing new direct ferry service between Astoria and the E. 90th Street dock. (Route details were in amNY.)

"The mayor announced a transportation upgrade that lets public housing residents in Astoria get to doctor’s appointments on the Upper East Side in four minutes, and you’re interested in where his car was parked while he did it?" mayoral spokesperson Mitch Schwartz said, questioning our questioning.

The mayor has had a tortured relationship with drivers blocking bike lanes, veering between calling it an excusable offense as long as they don't mean any harm and calling a crackdown-worthy offense. In 2018, the mayor told a caller to The Brian Lehrer show that some illegal parking is fine — an endorsement that later became known as the "de Blasio stop."

"If someone is blocking, for example, a bike lane for 30 seconds while they take out their groceries or they let their kid off, I don’t think they should get a ticket for that," he said.

In 2019, though, after multiple cyclists were killed on city streets, the mayor vowed to battle drivers who put cyclists in danger, telling the NYPD to "crack down on dangerous driving behavior like parking in bike lanes."

In addition to being illegal, parking in bike lanes can be deadly to cyclists. In August, 2018, the same year de Blasio said it was all right for drivers to pop into a bike lane for just 30 seconds, Madison Lyden was killed by the driver of a garbage truck when she swerved out of the bike lane on Central Park West after a cab driver parked in it.

Advocates said the mayor's detail on Friday was fitting in perfectly with the chronically blocked Vernon Boulevard bike lane, and the larger city government contempt for traffic rules that can be found at bus stops and bike lanes around New York.

"The mayor’s detail was simply adding a punctuation mark to the usual situation in the chronically blocked Vernon Boulevard bike lane, and to NYC bike lanes generally," said Bike New York spokesman Jon Orcutt. "Neither de Blasio’s City Hall nor his agencies outside of DOT take street design and traffic rules at all seriously."

They also reminded the mayor that actions speak louder than words when it came to protecting cyclists.

"The Vernon Boulevard bike lane has notoriously been blocked by trucks, personal cars and other vehicles for years now," said Transportation Alternatives' Queens organizer Juan Restrepo. "Thousands of 311 requests have been sent by users of the bike lane, requesting help for when the bike lane is blocked, and they have gone unanswered. Vernon Boulevard remains one of the most permeable and abused 'protected' bike lanes in Queens. Our city has a responsibility to all cyclists who feel unsafe riding this bike lane to redesign it - and the mayor has a responsibility to show that concern through his policies and personal actions."

It's the first time in a while that Mayor de Blasio's motorcade has drawn the attention of street safety advocates. After all, he hasn't been able to have his motorcade drive him from the Upper East Side to his Park Slope gym since his last, unforgettable trip on March 16 — when he sneaked in one last gym outing before such recreational activities were shut down for the coronavirus.

Correction: This story originally stated the mayor drove from Gracie Mansion to Astoria, not from City Hall to Astoria.

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