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Tuesday’s Headlines: A Bridge Too Far Edition

Why would an agency that spent so much money and political capital to finish a protected bike lane from Third Avenue west to the bridge intentionally block the bike lane and force cyclists from the relative safety of their painted protection into a busy roadway?

Photo: Streetsblog

File this in the "Streetsblog Gets Action (Sort Of)" drawer. A few weeks ago, I noticed that the Department of Transportation was intentionally parking a big truck in the bike lane on the eastern side of the Ninth Street Bridge over the fetid Gowanus Canal.

So I asked the DOT about it: Why would an agency that spent so much money and political capital to finish a protected bike lane between Third Avenue and the bridge intentionally block the lane and force cyclists from the relative safety of their painted protection into a busy roadway?

I didn't get an answer. Generally speaking, when a reporter doesn't get an answer, he tends to do more reporting. And I did. I returned to the bridge several times and found the truck still parked in the bike lane.

Then I was wise enough to time my commute to one of the bridge's periodic ascents to allow canal traffic to pass. That's when I noticed that the driver of the truck repositioned his hulking vehicle into the middle of the roadway. It looked like this:

The trucker maneuvers the entire vehicle into the roadway when the bridge is up.

And because I had gone to the other side of the road to take an artsy photo, I could see clearly what was going on: The security barrier on the left side of the bridge was properly down. But there wasn't a barrier on the right side of the bridge (where the truck had been previously parked).

A worker near the bridge noticed me taking pictures and gave me the skinny: The truck is moved into position when the bridge is up to block people from inadvertently tumbling into the corpse of water because the safety arm on the north side of the bridge is broken.

Since April.

So I reached out to the DOT again, specifically to find out when the arm would be fixed and why the best solution to the problem was to park a big DOT truck in a bike lane of DOT's making. Agency spokesman Scott Gastel got back to me with a partial answer: "The truck has been relocated, and DOT plans to only have it in place as needed during boat passages for public safety purposes."

He never got back to me about when the arm would be replaced. But we'll be following up on why a critical repair job has taken seven months and counting.

In other news:

  • The Times did a deep look at why more pedestrians die at night (the increase in pedestrians being fatally struck after sundown is rising even faster than the well-documented national increase in pedestrian deaths, even though such a pattern is not occurring in other similar countries). Our own Kea Wilson pointed out the one big thing the Times missed. (Streetsblog USA)
  • Those of us who were editing The Brooklyn Paper in the aughts were gratified to see that all our predictions about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject came true, as the Real Deal reported on the still-unfinished project's 20th anniversary. The biggest takeaway is what we and others pointed out two decades ago: "The situation raises bigger questions about promises made by developers, notably whether the government will hold companies to those pledges or rescue projects with public dollars," Real Deal reported. This is not just post-hoc gloating, but a sincere hope that our politicians will finally learn that developers always make promises on which they rarely deliver.
  • Gothamist did a deep dive on license plate cheaters that relied heavily on our prior reporting, yet didn't link to much of it.
  • Meanwhile, Curbed was the latest news outlet to make me a folk hero, thanks to my criminal mischief campaign. Congestion pricing will indeed bring me out of retirement.
  • The Amsterdam News, which has never been shy about its opposition to congestion pricing, printed an op-ed from MTA Board member David Jones in support of the policy. As Lou Reed said, maybe someone is beginning to see the light.
  • Meanwhile, Long Island pols are still demagoguing. (CBS2)
  • Car carnage in Queens. (NYDN)
  • Like Streetsblog, the Post covered the double hit-and-run in eastern Queens. But the Post didn't put the death in the context of a very bloody year. Fortunately, amNY did.
  • There were two very interesting answers in the City and State interviews with four new members of the City Council. Southern Brooklyn Democrat Susan Zhuang was asked, "What item do you hope will be obsolete in 20 years?" and her response was, "Drivers." (Unless she's advocating for autonomous vehicles, that's a great answer for her traffic-choked Bensonhurst district). Unfortunately, in one of her answers, Bronx GOP newbie Kristy Marmorato, criticized the city's e-scooter pilot as lacking oversight. She's right to point out that scooters should not be left in pedestrians' way, but the pilot is showing lots of promise.
  • Our Streetfilms colleague Clarence Eckerson is the latest to love the Third Avenue redesign:
  • And, finally, it's time again to thank and honor yesterday's contributors to our annual fundraising drive (and, by extension, urge you to join their ranks): Thanks, Christine! Thanks, Susan!
It's our monthly donation drive!Click here to donate

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