Breaking the cycle: Cyclists demand city stop USPS and other drivers from parking on new W’burg bike lane

Breaking the cycle: Cyclists demand city stop USPS and other drivers from parking on new W’burg bike lane
Photo by Jason Speakman

These bicycle advocates are going postal!

The city must stop United States Postal Service and other vehicles from continually parking on a recently unveiled, so-called protected bike lane in Williamsburg, locals demand.

“When the cars are parked, you can’t even fit one bike in that lane,” said Heriberto Medina, a neighborhood resident who often walks by the pedalers’ path. “You have to go on the street where it’s very dangerous.”

The Department of Transportation in October installed the bike lane along Borinquen Place from S. Fourth Street to Grand Street, part of which runs beneath the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s on-and-off-ramps near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Transit officials put that part of the lane in what they claimed was “underutilized space,” but the location has long been a popular parking spot for the postal trucks and other four-wheelers, according to residents.

And nearly three months after officials installed the green bike pathway, the rides continue to block it, forcing cyclists to navigate the bustling streets instead, the owner of a two-wheeler said.

“I’ve seen trucks parked perpendicularly so that you can’t get past them, and having to bike around them puts you in more danger,” said Joelle Schindler, who cycles from her Park Slope home to work in Bushwick. “It’s nice DOT made a protected lane, but then a truck decides to use it as a parking spot, and there’s no enforcement.”

There’s no pattern to when vehicles will park in the lane — it’s clear sometimes, but a handful of trucks and cars park along it during others, a local cycling advocate said. And the city must install the barriers necessary to protect the path around the clock, because bike riders should not have to guess when it’s safe to take a spin, he said.

“We should not rely on people’s good will, nor enforcement, to keep bike lanes clear — we need to build infrastructure that keeps them clear,” said Transportation Alternatives member Luke Ohlson, who lives in Greenpoint. “A parking-protected bike lane is pretty much always clear, so you don’t have to think about what it is, or if so-and-so talked to USPS or the precinct or whomever. You remove a lot of the back and forth if you design it right the first time.”

The nabe’s councilman jumped on the case following locals’ complaints, blasting the transportation department for not keeping the lane vehicle-free.

“This is the scene at the newly constructed bike lane off the Williamsburg Bridge. @NYC_DOT are we serious or are we not?” Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg) said on Twitter on Jan. 16.

Workers at a nearby post office for years parked its fleet of trucks on the concrete now reserved for cyclists, and are now looking for a new spot to stow them, according to a rep for the federally run agency.

“Over the years, this spot met our requirements, allowing us to securely park and safely load the postal trucks that service local residents and businesses,” said Xavier Hernandez. “New parking strategies for this office will be developed to eliminate the overlap in designated bike lanes.”

And city transit officials are working with the Police Department and postal service to permanently clear the bike lane, according to a transportation-department spokeswoman.

Last December, the agency celebrated its expansion of North Brooklyn’s bike lanes — including the one along Borinquen Place near the Williamsburg Bridge — as a major step toward safely getting commuters across the East River ahead of the L-train’s looming closure, which will force more than 250,000 straphangers to find other ways to the outer borough of Manhattan when the subway’s underwater Brooklyn-to-Manhattan tube closes for 15 months in April 2019.

Transit honchos are expecting about 15,000 cyclists — nearly twice the current amount — to cross the span daily while the tunnel is closed, according to the agency.

And it’s great that officials are planning ahead, but if the city can’t keep its bike lanes clear, then the paths aren’t a viable transportation alternative, Schindler said.

“It’s a good first start, but they definitely need to step up their game,” she said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Blocked in: This picture taken on Jan. 16 shows trucks from the nearby post office parking on the bike lane.
Heriberto Medina