A few weeks ago as I was biking southbound along Melrose Avenue, I was abruptly stopped at E 156th Street due to NYPD vehicles parking at 90 angle that placed their vehicles over the southbound bike lane blocking it completely.
I had to think quickly and the only safe option was to immediately swerve over to the sidewalk and dismount my bike and walk the block to get back on the lane.
I immediately contacted PSA7 (Police Area 7 aka Bronx Housing Authority) in the confines of the 40th Precinct) and was told by an Officer Warden of the Community Affairs division that this was a permanent parking plan for the station.
What’s baffling is that they have two large lots behind them which occupy the majority of the block with many vacant spots.
How does the NYPD decide that it’s a good idea to block bike lanes and thrust riders into the middle of traffic and express buses under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero?
To make matters worse, the FDNY across the street constantly blocks the northbound bike lanes with firefighters double parking their person vehicles.
As Hannah Leshaw, a Melrose resident said, “The new way that the police are parking in front of PSA 7, perpendicular to the curb, is blocking the bike lane and, in fact, blocking some of the southbound traffic lane. On the other side of the street the bike lane, again along with some of the northbound traffic lane, is blocked by cars affiliated with the Fire Station.”
“That leaves the equivalent of one lane for two directions of traffic on a busy street including a route of articulated buses. Everyday it’s a game of chicken between buses, trucks, cars, bikers and pedestrians.” added Leshaw.
And indeed it creates such a hazard. As I was walking back to photograph the scene, a pedestrian was struck by a cab at that very intersection barely 15 minutes when I first encountered the hazardous conditions.
Caroline Samponaro, Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives, an organization dedicated to reclaiming streets for pedestrians and making them safe for everyone including vehicles (and one of the partners for the successful Boogie on The Boulevard which saw a record 7,500 attendees over 3 Sundays), told us regarding our situation in Melrose:
“Bike lanes are like sidewalks for people on two wheels – safe space intended to be free from the dangers of vehicles. When a driver blocks the bike lane, they force bike riders to go out into moving traffic, putting everyone in harms way and making the bike lane meaningless. Bronx residents depend on City Agencies to set the example for other drivers, not break the law and make our streets less safe.”
And with Vision Zero, Mayor de Blasio, along with the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Department of Health, and other agencies were able to accomplish dramatic drop in pedestrian fatalities during 2014, his first year in office when he implemented the innovative plan.
Pedestrian fatalities dropped almost 26% and according to the New York Daily News, was the lowest since 1910—114 years of rising pedestrian fatalities wiped out with Vision Zero implemented citywide.
But how are we to continue towards our goal of Vision Zero if agencies like the NYPD and DOT think it’s ok to alter street parking that completely cuts off bike lanes and allows the NYPD and FDNY to break the laws by letting them double park?
The Mayor and his administration has a lot of explaining to do to residents of The Bronx for how this was allowed to occur under his plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities.