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Clogged Kent Ave. Bike Lane Is Fatal Crash Waiting to Happen, Cyclists Say

By Gwynne Hogan | May 5, 2017 3:47pm | Updated on May 7, 2017 10:38pm
 Cars and trucks drove through the Kent Avenue bike lane when the roadway was blocked by a truck.
Cars and trucks drove through the Kent Avenue bike lane when the roadway was blocked by a truck.
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Courtesy of Max Sholl/Twitter

WILLIAMSBURG — A heavily traveled waterfront stretch of the Kent Avenue bike lane is so chronically clogged with parked cars and construction vehicles that cyclists fear a fatal accident is inevitable.

Commuters who use the two-way bike lane say it is regularly blocked by cars, forcing cycle to veer into oncoming traffic.

"I don't want to play chicken with a driver — I just want to go to work," said Anastasia Plakias, 33, a Greenpoint resident who commutes by bike to the Navy Yard.

She's been cussed out by construction workers, ignored flag men directing traffic and even snapped a brake cable on her bike to avoid oncoming vehicles. And she regularly sees angry altercations between bikers and drivers.

Maximillian Sholl, a cyclist and advocate with Transportation Alternatives who uses the Kent Avenue lane daily, videotaped a truck that got stuck while turning onto the avenue from North Fourth Street, sending trucks and cars zooming through the bike lane.

While Sholl said the video showed an "extreme case," he "encounters issues pretty often."

"There's definitely a lot of places where it can be unsafe," he said.

map of all 311 complaints shows cyclists have complained 19 times about Kent Avenue's blocked bike lanes since November, when the city's 311 system began tracking them.

Much of the bike lane issues stem from interference by dozens of waterfront construction projects along Kent Avenue, Plakias said.

Difference job sites have different levels of safety, cyclists noted.

At developer Two Trees' Domino Factory site, where bikers said the foreman is bike friendly, workers sweep the lane and regularly have someone flagging traffic and halting their own vehicles to give cyclists the right of way. 

Nearby at 420 Kent Avenue, the luxury tower being constructed by former New York Governor Eliott Spitzer, Plakias said she had been cursed out by workers, that trucks frequently block the bike lanes and sidewalk, and that workers supposed to be flagging for cyclists just stand there. 

She's gone back and forth with 420 Kent Ave. construction manager Steve Buffa, of ZDG LLC, describing what she called "a fatal accident waiting to happen" in front of his site. He sent Plakias satellite images of clear bike lanes in response to her complaints during months of communication in which he assured her the issues will be addressed, she said.

Buffa said that some of the trucks in front of the site are making deliveries elsewhere though his workers try to usher away vehicles stopped there, though he admitted, “there are moments when the bike lane is blocked.”

And for his own trucks entering and exiting the site, “we have flaggers out there all day long,” he said.

Despite months of 311 complaints and emails, the lane doesn't feel any safer in front of 420 Kent Ave. — or anywhere else, Plakias noted.

"This is an issue of actual safety, and it's getting worse and worse," she said.

The cyclist has tried to flag down passing police cars to get them to ticket cars parked in the lane, to no avail.

"I was laughed at," Plakia recalled.

Captain Peter Rose, commanding officer of the 94th Precinct, encouraged residents to continue logging 311 complaints and told attendees at a recent public meeting that if cyclists witness police officers rolling by cars blocking the lane without ticketing them, they should jot down the car's number and report it to the precinct.

The nearby 90th Precinct's commander is also aware of the condition, and both precinct leaders are working to address it, police said.

The city's Department of Transportation deferred comment to the NYPD

Parents who take their children to schools along the block have complained about similar safety concerns. and in December construction deliveryman Moshe Yide Weiner was killed after being dragged under a passing truck.