What’s wrong with this picture from the corner of 1st Avenue and 16th Street in Manhattan? Too many things to even begin.
For one, a van is blocking a crosswalk by parking the zebra stripes along the parking buffer of the First Avenue bike lane.
Second, and most obviously, is the Access-A-Ride van that is not only parked in the bike lane with the motor running, but parked in such a manner that the only way for it to leave the bike lane is to drive in the bike lane for an entire block.
Third, but most troubling, is the fact that Beth Israel Hospital encourages people to drop off their vehicles for valet parking by stopping in the bike lane.
I like these lanes, and I get angry when people abuse them. But I honestly can’t blame these people for doing such stupid things. I blame the NYCDOT and the NYPD.
The assumption made by the NYCDOT when they place these lanes – which only exist in one other place in the city – is that once the paint is dry, people will figure out what to do. Cyclists will figure out how to use these lanes. Drivers will heed the “yield” signs and markings and watch for cyclists when making left turns. Drivers will figure out to use the zebra stripes and floating lanes to load and unload. And businesses will change their policies to adapt to the new configuration.
But the NYCDOT doesn’t provide any education at all. There’s no awareness campaign with flyers or temporary signs to explain the changes. They simply expect everyone to figure out how to use them. And even a month after these lanes opened, it’s clear that plenty of people still haven’t figured out how to use them on their own.
And the NYPD isn’t enforcing the rules, either. Do they even understand how this configuration is supposed to work? When someone is parked curbside in the left turn lane, are they blocking the bike lane? When someone is unloading a truck in the zebra stripes, are they parked illegally? The issue is murky, so their solution appears to be not to enforce any law on the lanes.
If nobody gets ticketed, or even a warning, for parking in the middle of a bike lane, how is the lane going to be functional? The same holds true for double-parkers in unprotected bike lanes all over New York, but parking in a lane that is very clearly not meant for cars is particularly egregious. Yet there’s no negative reinforcement to this bad behavior.
In the meantime, the First Avenue lane remains lawless mayhem. Without a little bit of education and enforcement, this non-intuitive layout isn’t significantly better or safer than any other bike lane configuration in New York City.