NYC Mayor Bloomberg has added 290 miles of bicycle lanes to NYC since 2002. They are most visible on 9th, 2nd, and 1st Aves, where the bike lanes are ‘protected’. A Protected Lane places the bicycle lane and a 2 foot buffer between the curb and a lane of car parking to protect the cyclists from traffic. After a little bit of market research, I believe these protected bike lanes are costing NYC revenue and parking spaces.
Full disclosure before I go any further. I am a fan of NYC public transportation. I regularly take the NYC bus and subways as well as walk. I take a taxi only when I’m in a rush, it’s late, or the subway or bus will take too long. I also drive to get in and out of Manhattan, but I rarely drive in the city. And I never ride a bicycle in NYC.
I wasn’t an early fan of the bicycle lanes because they took away one traffic lane that could be used by cars and taxis, and the new Select Service (fast) bus lanes on 1st & 2nd Aves also take away one lane of traffic.
But lately, these bicycle lanes feel like they’re doing more harm than good. A few days ago I took these photos of cars parked next to the protected bike lane on 1st Ave in the 60s (photos above). For some reason, when people park in these lanes, they leave 1 – 3 feet of distance between them and the adjacent cars in front and back. Just above is a photo of cars parked next to the curb. You can see how they are parked much closer together. I wonder what happens to people’s distance perception when they are parking in open space?
I’m also bothered by cyclists’ behaviour. In NYC, cyclists must follow the vehicle traffic rules and must use the bike lane when it is available. Whilst most of the cyclists are food delivery people, all these new bike lanes are certainly bringing out the more recreational cyclist. Unfortunately, both groups of cyclists seem to believe that they can follow any traffic rule they like, which means going through a red light, riding on the sidewalk with the pedestrians, and going the wrong way on a one-way street.
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that NYC will soon require all food delivery cyclists to wear a helmet and a bright vest with the name of their restaurant. And the restaurant owner will be ticketed and fined if one of its delivery men breaks a rule or law.
Time magazine reports that ‘twice as many New Yorkers commuted to work by bike in 2011 than in 2006 — to nearly 20,000 — while the number of New Yorkers who ride their bike daily increased by more than 13% over just the past two years. With this surge in bicycle riding, the Midtown Community Court has begun sentencing cyclists who have been issued tickets for certain offenses in and around Midtown Manhattan to a class to learn about bicycles and traffic. Read more about the Midtown Community Court.
What does this mean for NYC Parking? Two things come to mind immediately:
1) We’re easily losing 1 – 2 NYC street parking spaces on EVERY BLOCK where there is a protected bike lane, and
2) There aren’t any street parking meters along the protected bike lanes. You have to know to pay for parking at the Muni-Meters on the sidewalks and then put the receipt on your dashboard. I’m sure some folks won’t realize this and will get a NYC parking ticket.