NYPD Vehicles Out of Bike Lanes
On November 2, 2015 a group of cycling advocates set out to address perhaps the greatest hindrance to safe cycling in New York City: cars illegally parked in bike lanes. The City of New York recently celebrated installation of more than 1,000 miles of bike lanes, but they are often impeded by motor vehicles, all too often police vehicles, flaunting the law.
The cyclists with The Public Space Party met in Ft Green Park, where we talked about this ongoing problem and what needs to be done to generate heat. While the City has laid out a model of visionzero policing, lack of enforcement of traffic violations, including cars, many by police, in bike lanes, impedes these steps forward, creating unsafe riding conditions. The cyclists headed out to the corner of Hoyt-Schermerhorn in Boerum Hill, where some ten cars and police were double parked in bike lanes across the street.
Carrying air horns and wearing colorful clothes, cyclists crashed into the cars parked in the bike lanes, holding out signs declaring, “Warning: Cop in Bike Lane!”, give police in bike lanes tickets, and call 311 reporting bike lanes illegally blocked by NYPD vehicles, including outside of NYPD precincts.
According to the Rules of the City of New York, it is clearly illegal to park in a bike lane: RCNY § 4-08 (e)(9) It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes. Yet, police vehicles are parked in bike lanes from Schermerhorn Street or Jay Street, Coney Island to Sixth Ave. On Schermerhorn Street, the police went as far as painting their own parking spots on the bike lane.
Throughout the action, the Public Space Party (PSP) drew attention to this illegal and dangerous practice by the NYPD, and how it relates to the greater culture of lawlessness in the City’s police department. Each car parked in a bike lane was given a PSP “Bike Lane Parking” flier reminding them of NYC traffic rules. Some 25 cars, six police, were given tickets for parking in.
At the corner of Hoyt-Schermerhorn in Boerum Hill, the police acknowledged that they were in violation of the law. Asked why they were not informing the other motorists double parked there not to park in the bike lanes, they explained that it was a lot of work. The police there promised to do more in the future.
Some police responded positively. Most ignored the tickets or crumpled them up.
Other police were less interested in taking part in a conversation and walked off.
We asked one if he knew he was in a bike lane and he said, “Yes.” And walked off
with his car still in the bike lane.
Few seemed to have much to say
about vision zero their role in enforcing it.
“Impunity is a key ingredient in the police violence and malfeasance being outed now in social media,” notes activist Owen Crowley, of the Public Space Party. “This is exercised in many different ways that I witness almost daily. Police cars running red lights without cause, personal cars parked illegally and encroaching into the street in front of police stations, police cars parked or standing in bike lanes. This creates hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and civilian drivers. On top of that, it is an exercise that reinforces a culture in which police are above the law.”
“With climate change looming, New York needs to move toward sustainability,” notes Benjamin Shepard, of Public Space Party. “A simple first step is safe, non-polluting transportation. Cars in bike lanes create dangerous conditions on the streets, discouraging cycling. Getting cars out of bike lanes is an essential first step in Vision Zero policing.”
But many other people were interested in participating in dialogue about ways to make
the city safer. Public Space Party will have another bike lane liberation ride next Monday, meeting at 9 PM at Jay Street and Myrtle.