The Vicious Cycle: NYC Bike Lanes Aren't Smooth Sailing

New Report Finds Hundreds of Violations In These Narrow Pathways

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Oct 8, 2010  |  Updated 8:55 PM EDT
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The Vicious Cycle: NYC Bike Lanes Aren't Smooth Sailing

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Biking.

One man's five-minute pizza is another man's sidewalk scare.

Yes, the deliverymen and women on bicycles have taken to using sidewalk shortcuts to get you that sizzling pie. And critics say one of the reasons is: bike lanes they're supposed to be using aren't always free and clear.

The Manhattan Borough President says double-parked cars, trucks, even police cars frequently get in the way of cyclists.

"You can't put people in harm's way without signage, enforcement, and public education," said Scott Stringer.

But make no mistake: the delivery drivers are only a fraction of what critics say hasn't quite worked along the city's dozens of new bike lanes. Other problems include: reckless recreational cyclists who run red lights; cabs who let passengers off in the bike paths; and oblivious pedestrians who like to use the bike lanes as their own personal promenade

"There is bad behavior on all sides," said Ian Dutton of Manhattan's Community Board 2. "Drivers, Pedestrians, Bicyclists. We certainly need to use sanity as we use our streets."

But spend a minute in the Flatiron District and you'll see the entire chaotic scene unfold within minutes. Most cyclists used the reserved green lane on the left side of 5th Avenue, heading downtown. Some stayed amidst the vehicle traffic instead. And others pulled a maneuver known as "salmon" -- swimming upstream, or rather, uptown -- to get to the next side street.

"I thought I might get hit, or my son," said Tishina Richardson of Jersey City, who was walking West on 23rd Street.

But Stringer's report also finds fault with the pedestrians, many of whom are walking and texting and ignoring the commuting cyclists right in front of their eyes.

One recommendation from the Borough President: a dedicated NYPD task force which would hand out tickets to all bike lane violators.

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