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Barriers Fail To Keep Drivers From Blocking Bronx Bike Lanes

DOT's new "hardened bike lanes" are hard to get around, says one Uptown bike commuter.

12:03 AM EST on January 12, 2024

Photo: Joseph Rienti|

Drivers routinely block the recently hardened bike lanes on Park Avenue in the Bronx.

Bike lanes on Park Avenue in the Bronx that the city recently protected with concrete barriers have become routinely blocked by drivers — undermining Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez's promise to "harden" bike lanes in a part of the Boogie Down with few other safe cycling options.

The city installed jersey barriers this fall on about a dozen blocks of Park Avenue along the Metro-North tracks between Morrisania and Belmont as part of Rodriguez's push to better protect bike infrastructure — but motorists immediately began hogging the paths, forcing cyclists back out into the road.

“In some ways it’s gotten more dangerous since they’ve put in the concrete barriers,” said Joseph Rienti, who commutes via bike from Harlem to Fordham University via Park Avenue most days of the week and has used the route for about a decade. 

Drivers blocked off both ends of these barriers. Photo: Joseph Rienti

The barriers are better than none at all, Rienti emphasized — but those safety gains come undone when drivers park in the bike lane, pushing cyclists to reverse out and around or hop over the concrete partition. 

Cyclists must then share a single lane with cars and trucks, whose drivers are often too impatient to wait behind two-wheelers, squeezing them to the side, Rienti explained.

“They don’t let you take the lane, they beep and then you’re stuck,” he said. 

Park Avenue runs by several auto body shops and other industrial buildings like storage units — leading to some chaotic parking behavior, he added.

There is almost no other protected north-south corridor for cyclists in the area, and the city designed the next-closest lanes on Grand Concourse to be “mountable" by vehicles — which predictably encourages drivers to mount them and park illegally — including several police vehicles near the local precinct. 

The southern portion — below E. 175th Street — is still just paint and has its own challenges, with truckers dumping their trailers in the path. 

“South of the barriers they are just permanently parking trailers and cement trucks,” Rienti said. 

Truckers dump their trailers in the bike lane where there isn't a concrete barrier. Photo: Joseph Rienti

The Department of Transportation should have made its barrier-protected lanes too narrow for drivers to access, or install plastic posts in the middle of the lane to deter illegal incursions, Rienti suggested. 

“They really should just make it so the gaps aren’t big enough for a car to drive into,” he said. “I would not want them to take [the barriers] away, I would want them to enforce them better or space them so a car can’t get in.”

Bronx cyclists have few options for protected north-south paths. Map: DOT

DOT in April announced plans to harden 10 miles of 10 existing bike lanes — including Park Avenue from E. 165th Street to E. 188th Street — and began laying down concrete dividers and green paint in the fall on the upper half north of E. 175th Street. 

The effort was part of the agency’s focus on improving cycling infrastructure in areas with high ridership and in underserved communities. Officials touted boosting new bike lane mileage in the Bronx by 66 percent last year over previous years — but the bad design and scofflaw drivers are undermining at least two key projects on Park Avenue and Grand Concourse.

Rienti filed several 311 complaints for the illegally-parked cars and trailers, but the NYPD either told him hours later that the vehicles were no longer there or that they couldn’t find evidence of the dumped trailers, he said.

A recent Streetsblog investigation found that police ticketed drivers for less than 2 percent of the more than 76,000 service requests to the city’s 311 system about illegal parking in bike lanes — compared to a 16-percent rate for all other complaints.

Leaders in the Council, including Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers, have also failed to advance a bill that would have allowed citizen reporting of blocked bike or bus lanes, despite the proposed legislation gaining majority support among the legislative body's 51 lawmakers. 

Truckers are literally dumping on the Park Avenue bike lane in the Bronx. Photo: Joseph Rienti

One of the drivers blocking the lanes in Rienti’s photos had four camera-issued tickets for speeding in school zones since late 2022, and four parking violations — two of them on Park Avenue. 

"We will work with the police department on this issue so bicyclists can safely access this critical cycling connection,” said DOT spokeswoman Mona Bruno.

NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

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