Manhattan Bike Lanes a Bust, Says Borough President

By Nicole Bode on October 8, 2010 8:41am 

By Nicole Bode and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is calling for greater enforcement of bike lane rules, after a study by his office found an abundance of law-breaking behavior — including by the city's own law enforcement officers.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer released the results of a survey by his office Friday, which found that the city's push to install new bike lanes throughout Manhattan hasn't made much of a dent in bad behavior by drivers and pedestrians — and even rogue cyclists who the lanes were intended to help.

In three days observing 11 local bike lanes during the morning and evening rush, Stringer's office observed a whopping 1,700 violations.

The "widespread abuses" included unmarked police cars cutting through protected bike lanes, wrong-way bicycle traffic, and pedestrians and parked cars blocking cycling lanes.

NYPD vehicles were observed blocking the bike lanes at least 19 times, the Daily News reported, while another 35 city-owned vehicles did the same.

Bike riders were also part of the problem, as hundreds of riders pedaled the wrong way down the street on the lanes, and hundreds others ignored red lights.

The lane at 36th St. and Broadway took the prize for the most infractions, with 300, while Grand & Bowery came in a close second with 253.

The site with the fewest infractions was 115th Street & Frederic Douglas, where just 55 violations were observed.

Stringer said that the rule-breaking puts cyclists, pedestrians and motorists at "serious risk."

As Stringer addressed reporters on the corner of Eighth Street and Second Avenue in the East Village, one rogue cyclist whizzed down the avenue's bike lane in the wrong direction.

"We need to respect these lanes and clear the path," Stringer said, arguing that while the city has pushed to install the new lanes, it hasn’t created safety protocols to go along with them.

He called for better regulation and enforcement of violations in bike lanes, as well as improved signage and a public education campaign, including signs in taxis warning of the dangers of swinging doors open without looking first.

Cabs and bikes often face off mid-lane, one of many violations of bike lane rules discovered in a study by the Manhattan Borough President's office.
Cabs and bikes often face off mid-lane, one of many violations of bike lane rules discovered in a study by the Manhattan Borough President's office.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

"You can't put people in harm's way," Stringer said. "We need some action and we need it now."

The city has installed 200 miles of new bike lanes and pedestrian plazas in the last three years, said Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.

The lanes have been shown to decrease crashes and make traffic calmer, he said.

But East Village resident William Stepp, 48, said the bike lanes have only made the situation worse, with brazen cyclists frequently driving the wrong way and through red lights.

He recalled a recent incident in which a cyclist nearly clipped him as he tried to cross the street.

"He wasn't going to stop for anything," Stepp said. "He would have hit me if I hadn't jumped back."

Stepp said he had the right-of-way.

But East Village cyclist Josh Gosciak, who's been cycling for 30 years, said that any time major traffic patterns are changed, there is bound to be an adjustment period before things calm down.

"This is a revolutionary change," he said. "Give it six months to a year."

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who represents the neighborhood, said the key is not to pit cyclists against pedestrians or drivers.

"We need to make sure we have a culture where everyone is following the rules and accepting their obligations," he said.

As Stringer spoke, this cyclist rode by - in the wrong direction.
As Stringer spoke, this cyclist rode by - in the wrong direction.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

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