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Eyes on the Street

Costly ‘Mountable’ Bike Lanes on Grand Concourse Have Failed — Yet City Plans More of Them on Queens Blvd.

The expensive Grand Concourse bike lanes have been blocked by cars from day one.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

An NYPD van blocks the Grand Concourse bike lane near the 46th Precinct, forcing a cyclist into regular traffic.

Ain't no mountable curb high enough!

The recently completed, multi-million-dollar raised bike lanes on Grand Concourse in the Bronx — which the city, unironically, calls "mountable" lanes — are so routinely parked on by drivers (and the cops who should be protecting them) that the redesign provides little safety for cyclists. 

The city poured $62.5 million into the defective revamp on about a mile of the Boogie Down’s premier roadway, between Fordham Road and E. 175th Street, adding the raised bike path along the service roads on both sides of the wide thoroughfare (pictured).  

The sidewalk becomes a de facto bike lane because the green paths are completely blocked, near Fordham Road. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Raised curb bike lanes are also chronically blocked by parked cars on West Street in Greenpoint and on Beach 20th Street in the Rockaways — but officials nevertheless plan to drop another $24 million in federal grant money to install yet more of them on Queens Boulevard next year.

Renderings show the city plans to do another raised curb bike lane on Queens Boulevard. Rendering: Mayor's Office

Yet these multi-million-dollar bike lane a-mount to little. In fact, drivers seem to be even more likely to illegally park in the raised curbs than mere painted bike lanes, and a Bronx advocate said the Grand Concourse’s costly overhaul should be a lesson against repeating the same mistakes on other bicycle projects around the city. 

“It sounds to me like it’s kind of a waste of money, if that’s what they’re gonna do [on Queens Boulevard],” said Lucia Deng, a Bronx organizer with Transportation Alternatives. 

Blocked on most blocks

The 1.2 miles of new bike lanes on Grand Concourse opened in September, after three years of construction on the $62.5-million DOT and the Department of Design and Construction project, which also included wider medians, bollards, and new greenery. 

The bike lane’s flawed design was evident from the start, as even the agencies’ own press release cheering the project pictured drivers hogging the raised paths.

You know it's bad when even the city's own press release of the new bike lane couldn't find a section without cars blocking the path. DDC and Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

Three months later, a visit by this reporter revealed that most blocks still had at least one car illegally parked in the bike lane on most blocks, forcing cyclists into regular traffic, with some choosing to ride on the sidewalk instead. 

Sometimes the service road got so congested that I had to come to a complete stop and wait for drivers to pass so I could circumvent delivery trucks and other vehicles parked in the raised curb. 

Does this look safe or protected? Photo: Kevin Duggan

The curbs are sloped, making it easier for drivers to mount them, unlike regular sidewalks where the edge of the path is at a right angle the roadway. 

NYPD squad cars and vans parked in the bike lane north of E. 181st Street, which is just a block from the 46th Precinct station house, forcing me and other cyclists to weave in and out of traffic as motorists honked at us to get out of the way. 

"This lack of courtesy … is a problem. It has to stop," lamented resident Halexis Jones, calling the situation "ridiculous."

"It’s a health hazard, it’s an adverse concern — and even police are doing it!”

Bronxite Halexis Jones said the bike path obstruction was "ridiculous."Photo: Kevin Duggan

Jones rides the bike lanes daily, and his frustration has only grown as the new paths don’t feel safe because of the flagrant disregard from drivers. 

“I’m almost tempted to make some stickers and just start putting them on cars, start saying like, ‘I’d slash your tires if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m not an ass like you — move your car out the bike lane,’” the Bronxite added. 

Making things worse

The bike lanes revert to just paint south of E. 175th Street, and here drivers parked in the bike lane less than on the raised curbs. 

That might be because motorists feel more comfortable leaving their vehicles when they’re on a raised curb that's easy to mount, rather than paint that feels more like it's part of the road, Deng suggested. 

“It essentially facilitates drivers to be able to drive onto it. It’s a feature not a bug,” the advocate said. “It’s the opposite effect of what they were going for.”

Drivers double parked, but not in the bike lane, where it reverted to just paint. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Rather than elevating the whole bike lane, some sort of barriers would be more effective, Deng said. 

“If you raise the whole thing and don’t put a fence, if you will, then it’s gonna be worse, actually,” she said. 

The Department of Transportation said through a spokesperson it will lift the incoming bike lanes on Queens Boulevard more than the Bronx bike paths.

“The mountable curbs on Queens Boulevard will be 50 percent taller than those on Grand Concourse, which are closer in profile to standard DOT curbs,” said Mona Bruno. “The raised bike lane represents a major upgrade to the existing on-street painted lanes at this section of Queens Boulevard.”

The DOT rep declined to comment on the poor conditions of the Grand Concourse, but said officials chose the "mountable" curb design again to make sure there’s enough room in the street for emergency vehicles. The agency’s press office did not respond to questions about whether jersey barriers, for example, would also work while leaving room for emergency vehicles.

An NYPD spokesperson who declined to provide a name said cops gave out 62,679 bike lane parking tickets total so far this year, but added that parking poses “a persistent challenge” outside its outposts (something Streetsblog has documented extensively). 

“Parking around precincts is a persistent challenge due to our thriving, complex city and the limited space we all must share. But the NYPD strives each day to achieve a balance as we continue to work toward solutions,” the police rep said in a statement. 

This doesn't seem like a good setup for emergency access. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Deng lamented that the city couldn't think bigger to repurpose more space to truly transform Grand Concourse, which still retains seven moving lanes and two parking lanes for motor vehicles. Even the redone medians are unusable for pedestrians, and instead become more spaces for illegal parking. 

“Thinking about what it could have been, like Ocean Parkway, where it could have been a usable multi-use trail with benches,” she said. 

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