Spoke too soon: Fourth Ave. bike lane may not skip block in front of police station after all, city says

Lane closure: Fourth Ave. bike path will skip a block for police parking in S’Park
Photo by Julianne McShane

Talk about backpedaling.

The city is walking back its statement that the forthcoming protected Fourth Avenue bike lane would skip one side of an entire block in front of Sunset Park’s 72nd Precinct station house to accommodate officers’ sidewalk parking, after local cyclists called out the dangers of merging into traffic in the Bay Ridge-bound lane.

Reps from the Department of Transportation said the plan was not yet finalized and is still under review — even though the agency’s borough commissioner told one concerned cyclist it was final. And although the agency’s willingness to reconsider its decision came as good news to that cyclist, he said he doubts that the police will change their behavior to accommodate bikers.

“I want to believe that DOT will get this right, but NYPD’s disregard for bike lanes all over the city doesn’t inspire a ton of optimism,” said John Tomac.

Streetsblog first reported that Tomac e-mailed borough transportation commissioner Keith Bray in January to ask how the station house between 29th and 30th streets would accommodate the planned five-foot-wide protected bike lane, since police park a mix of squad cars and personal vehicles on a portion of the sidewalk in front of the building, with cars often jutting out into what would be the bike lane.

Bray responded nearly two months later, writing that it was “not feasible” for the bike lane to be separated from traffic by a physical barrier as the plan outlines “due to the need to maintain parking access for NYPD vehicles,” making the entire block “effectively a driveway.” When this paper followed up with the transportation agency last month, it confirmed that the entire southbound lane on that block would be reserved for police parking, eliminating the bike lane entirely between 29th and 30th streets.

But Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer said that he has now received verbal assurances from the Transportation Department’s director of greenways, Ted Wright, that the plan to skip the block is not finalized.

Laufer pointed out that when the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bike lane in October, the city had not told CB7 members anything about nixing it in front of the 72nd Precinct station house.

“The board voted in favor of the bike lane, there was no discussion on any sort of difference on Fourth Avenue between 29th and 30th streets,” he said.

That the Transportation Department apparently failed to foresee — or perhaps just neglected to disclose — the problem of running the bike lane past the station house doesn’t reflect well on the agency, said Tomac.

“In the year 2018, a competent transportation agency should be able to anticipate the problems that are likely to arise when a bike lane is added near the 72nd Precinct,” he said. “Anyone who occasionally rides a bike around the city knows that bike lanes might as well not exist anytime the police are nearby.”

A spokeswoman for the agency confirmed that it was still reviewing the plans, and would keep the community’s safety concerns in mind.

“The Department of Transportation is currently reviewing plans for the Fourth Avenue bike lane,” she said. “We are aware of the concerns and will continue to work closely with the community and NYPD to accommodate neighborhood needs.”

The police department did not respond by press time to inquiries about sidewalk parking at the precinct or what percentage of its officers commutes to work via subway.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.