CYCLE OF RAGE: What is Going On? Who’s In Charge? Why Are the Bike Lanes STILL A Mess 12 Days After a Storm?

Where is a cyclist supposed to go? Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Where is a cyclist supposed to go? Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The Department of Transportation declined to comment for this column.

That’s all you need to know.

Let’s go to the pictures of what it was like to bike or walk around on Saturday — which was 12 full days after the blizzard of 2021 on Feb. 1.

Here’s Grand Army Plaza, which the Department of Transportation ringed with protected bike lanes something like 10 years ago, filled with snow 12 days after the storm. Those areas in white below are supposed to be protected bike lanes, but in lieu of them being cleared, cyclists either have to go in the road, or on the sidewalk, which is a risk to pedestrians.

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And it’s not as if DOT had not been told about conditions at Grand Army Plaza. Six days ago, “War on Cars” podcast host Doug Gordon tweeted at the DOT that Grand Army Plaza was a mess and that the Dutch were mocking us:

We sent that tweet, plus our pictures, to DOT on Saturday and heard crickets. (And, mind you, those are the same lanes with the same problem that the great Nathan Tempey wrote about for Gothamist in, hold onto your panniers, 2016!)

If you’re wondering why the Department of Transportation is so late on clearing its own bike lanes, one would likely want to ask new DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman, who is a former intellectual property lawyer and has declined to be interviewed by Streetsblog. It’s worth noting that Gutman is also chairman of the board of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which treats pedestrians like some ne’er-do-well uncle with his hand out (again!).

Here’s some shots from Saturday afternoon, which show sidewalks still uncleared around the Navy Yard, forcing pedestrians into the bike lane, where they are more likely to be injured than if they had their own space (which the Department of Design and Construction created for them):

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At the same time that Navy Yard pedestrians were being discriminated against, some Sanitation workers finally showed up in Windsor Terrace to start clearing away corners that had been rendered impassable by the storm 12 days earlier.

Here’s what they found when they got to Prospect Park West on Saturday:

There is no way for a senior to cross this.
There is no way for a senior to cross this.

Here are the workers assigned to fix the mess above and at multiple intersections in the neighborhood:

It's like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

It’s not just protected bike lanes or street corners that are dangerous; Queens cyclists were also outraged on Friday when they found many painted bike lanes completely filled with snow, forcing riders into the roadway, where drivers are jerks:

It just gets depressing to be a cyclist in a city where the mayor says he wants to encourage cycling, and even builds protected bike lanes to do so, but then abandons the lanes in favor of drivers (or worse, car storers) when snow comes. His former Sanitation Commissioner told Streetsblog what that’s all about, and we’ve done several stories, and a video, that show the city is ill-equipped (no put there) to handle storms.

This is a problem that’s happening all over the place.

On Thursday – that’s 10 days after the first storm — Bronx residents tweeted at the DOT to clear the Willis Avenue Bridge, a main link for commuting and delivery cyclists (this one, at least, was cleared up soon after the tweet):

On the night of Feb. 9, roughly eight days after the storm, here was the condition of a key bike lane near 1 Police Plaza:

Rose Usianowski, who tipped us off, is the Staten Island organizer for Transportation Alternatives. We asked DOT and Sanitation for the agency that is responsible for clearing the bike path along Park Row. Turns out, it’s the NYPD! We called the police press office and, a day later, the bike lane was cleared (here’s Usianowski’s update on Thursday night):

Sigh.

I guess I’m tired of this epic city failure. And I’m tired of having to reach out to multiple agencies — Sanitation, DOT, Parks, the MTA, the NYPD — every time it snows to find out which agency is in charge of which bike lane, and when they will divert attention from drivers for a few hours and clear the bike lanes so that a sustainable form of transportation can be made safe.

Is that too much to ask?

Or to keep asking?

After all, if there’s one topic that comes up year after year after year at Streetsblog, it’s the city’s failure to remove snow from bike lanes it has built to encourage cycling.

  • In 2014: “Icy and Dicy: Bridge Bike Commuters Report Hazards After Late Snowfall”
  • In 2014: “Walking After a Snow Storm Wasn’t Always This Icy and Dicy”
  • In 2016: “3 Ways NYC Can Avoid Future Snow Removal Travesties for Peds and Cyclists”
  • In 2017: “Behold the Worst-Plowed Bike Lane in New York”
  • In 2018: “Eyes on the Street: The Snow Clearance Double Standard”
  • In 2020: “It’s Snow Problem for Drivers, But a Hot Mess for Cyclists, Thanks to City Prioritizing Cars”

Well, I asked again, but, as I said at the start of this story, the Department of Transportation declined to comment.

What’s it like out there on Sunday? If you see anything, send me a picture to tips@streetsblog.org. I’m spending my day indoors … where it’s safe.

Reminder 1, it’s not like other cities don’t know how to do this. Oulu, Finland, does it, and here’s our favorite video from the great white north:

Reminder 2: This is an opinion column. All of my “Cycle of Rage” columns are archived here.

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