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Harlem Bicyclist Sues UPS for Repeatedly Blocking Bike Lanes

By James Fanelli | October 2, 2015 7:32am | Updated on October 4, 2015 8:24pm
 Bicyclist Alex Bell is suing UPS for parking in bike lanes while making deliveries. He said that the UPS trucks impede his use of the bike lane.
Bicyclist Alex Bell is suing UPS for parking in bike lanes while making deliveries. He said that the UPS trucks impede his use of the bike lane.
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DNAinfo.com/James Fanelli

HARLEM — A fed-up bicyclist wants to deliver a message to Big Brown — stay out of his lane.

Alex Bell, 28, is suing the United Parcel Service, claiming its trucks routinely disrupt his commute by double-parking in bike lanes.

Bell, a software engineer, filed two lawsuits in Manhattan Civil Court against the delivery company this week. He previously filed a lawsuit against UPS in June for the same reason.

"I am trying to annoy UPS," Bell, a Harlem resident, said Thursday. "If you annoy them enough, they'll change maybe."

Bell frequently rides his bike from his Harlem apartment to his job at 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. He said he sees at least five to six trucks — most of them belonging to UPS — parked in designated bike lanes during his commutes.

 Bicyclist Alex Bell is suing UPS for parking in bike lanes while making deliveries. He said that the UPS trucks impede his use of the bike lane.
Bicyclist Alex Bell is suing UPS for parking in bike lanes while making deliveries. He said that the UPS trucks impede his use of the bike lane.
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DNAinfo.com/James Fanelli

He has tried to ask delivery truck drivers to stay out of his lane, but they routinely blow him off — or go postal on him.

"Most drivers say, 'Talk to corporate' or 'F--- you' or 'Where else am I going to park?'" Bell said.

He said he also rarely sees trucks getting ticketed for the parking.

"Because no one is enforcing all these delivery trucks from parking there, I thought the bike lanes were useless," he said.

Then on June 19, after again having his ride blocked by a UPS truck, Bell decided to file a small-claims lawsuit in Manhattan Civil Court, demanding the delivery company pay him $999 because the double-parking made it dangerous to ride his bike.

He said he was owed that amount of money because he estimates he spent that much in the last eight months on MetroCards to take the subway in lieu of riding his bike.

Bell had a court date on Sept. 19 and, to expedite the process, he opted for an arbitrator rather than a judge to hear his case.

Bell said a UPS representative named Sean showed up at the hearing. He said the rep had called him the day before the hearing asking to resolve the lawsuit. Bell said he wouldn't budge on the $999 and the representative responded that he would see him in court. 

During the hearing, Bell said he made several complaints to UPS about the double-parking, but the UPS rep claimed the company never received any. The arbitrator asked Bell for proof of the complaints and MetroCard receipts, but Bell hadn't kept any documentation.

He learned this week that the arbitrator dismissed the case.

But the decision didn't deter Bell.

The computer whiz has started documenting everything, from photographing double-parked trucks to taking notes when he makes a complaint to UPS. He keeps tabs on his blog.

He hopes to present this documentation when a judge hears his next two lawsuits in November.

 Alex Bell snapped this photo of a UPS truck double-parked in a bike lane while he commuted to work in June.
Alex Bell snapped this photo of a UPS truck double-parked in a bike lane while he commuted to work in June.
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Courtesy of Alex Bell

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg said drivers look for designated parking areas for commercial vehicles, but there are very few in the city.

"UPS, along with other delivery companies, faces difficult parking issues in most major metropolitan areas and competes for a finite number of parking spaces," she said in a statement. "There are generally too few designated loading zones, many of which are often filled when we stop to make a delivery."

She said that New York state law allows trucks to briefly double-park — including in bike lanes — as long as the driver is making an "expeditious attempt at delivery."

Bell said this week he has tried to complain to the UPS representative named Sean about a longstanding double-park truck in Harlem, but he didn't get any help.

"He told me, 'You wasted my time. I'm not going to help you anymore,'" Bell said.