Cyclists are fed up with officers from Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct parking their cars across the bike lane on DeKalb Avenue, and are demanding the cops cut it out before someone gets hurt.
“When you ride your bike up DeKalb you have to swerve out in traffic,” said Dara Furlow, a Clinton Hill resident who regularly uses the lane. “People are trying to be safe and ride their bikes and I think they’re impeding public safety.”
Police park cars halfway across the sidewalk between Classon Avenue and Steuben Street, leaving them jutting out into the pedaling path, which the city installed in 2008.
The precinct’s commanding officer says he’s well aware of the problem — the station gets at least one complaint a week, plus angry tweets — but claims Clinton Hill’s Finest can’t go driving around the neighborhood for hours looking for a spot and need their cars close by so they can spring into action quickly.
They also can’t move the vehicles any farther back onto the pavement because they have to keep it partially clear for pedestrians, he said.
“I’m definitely sensitive to the complaints and recognize that it’s not the best design, we’re just trying to come up with a solution,” said Cpt. John Buttacavoli. “You back the car up too much, it blocks pedestrians, move it forward and now I’m blocking bikes.”
The precinct did introduce a policy three weeks ago requiring staffers to park their personal vehicles on the non-bike-lane side of the street, according to Buttacavoli, but Furlow said she hasn’t noticed any difference.
The 100-year-old station house doesn’t have its own parking lot, although nearby Pratt Institute has agreed to let staffers use some of its spaces for their personal cars.
But between the precinct’s 27 squad cars and at least 50 employees who drive their own cars to work on each shift — while just two cycle — there still isn’t enough parking in the area to go around, Buttacavoli says, especially during changeover when there is sometimes 100 employees at the station with vehicles.
“Parking is tough, even if you decide to park elsewhere you’re going to circle around the block,” he said.
But cyclists say the officers are setting a dangerous example to regular drivers by using their parking privileges to block bike lanes when it isn’t an emergency.
“Police are supposed to be enforcing the law,” said a bike messenger who identified himself only as Matthew because he didn’t want to compromise his job. “Most of the time they’re in there, they’re not in an emergency, and it’s kind of setting a bad example,
If they can’t find a safe way to park outside the precinct, they need to find a new way to get to work, one rider says.
“This may require our city’s finest to compete with parking with the rest of us, take public transportation, or ride a bike to work, but the benefit to public safety would certainly be worth it,” said neighborhood resident Shawn Onsgard.