Cars reclaim Northern Boulevard bike lane as DSNY snowplows remove FlexPosts

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Northern Boulevard between 51st and 54th Streets on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Philip Leff)

Bike infrastructure was just another piece of collateral damage from Snowstorm Gail after Department of Sanitation plows scraped away FlexPosts dividing cars from bike lanes in a number of sections in the city.

Cars on Northern Boulevard, particularly between 51st Street and 54th Street, have been seen cruising in the bike lane recently as documented by Transportation Alternative activist, Philip Leff, on Twitter. Others have pointed out bike lanes on sections of Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue as also taking the brunt of botched snow removal, or subject no snow removal at all.

“Essential workers who rely on their bikes for transportation don’t have the choice to stay home in winter weather,” Leff told amNewYork. “If the city is serious about keeping cyclists safe, bike lanes need to be protected from cars and free of dangerous ice in debris in all four seasons.”

While the FlexPosts contribute to safety for cyclists, Laura Shepard, a Bike Network Organizer at Open Plans, said the flimsy strips of plastic could be upgraded to jersey barriers to prevent tragedies from happening. According to Shepard, bike lanes with FlexPosts are designated by the city Department of Transportation as “protected” while often being disregarded by motorists.

“FlexPosts are inadequate protection for bike lanes because they designed to be flattened,” Shepard said. “We need solid, vertical barriers like jersey barriers or closely spaced metal bollards to protect cyclists and make riding in the city accessible to more people. The city also needs to purchase enough skinny snow sweepers and equipment to clear and maintain the bike network so that lanes do not have to be “wide enough to drive a truck through.”

According to DSNY, the destruction likely took place on Wednesday night when darkness and 40 mile an hour winds obscured visibility, but apart from that assumption, social media posts do not inform them of a specific time. Clearing roads for emergency vehicles was the priority for drivers at the time.

“These images are deeply troubling to the Department of Sanitation, which is committed to clearing roadways – including bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure – in a safe and equitable manner,” a DSNY spokesman said. “We understand that many essential workers use the Northern Blvd bike lanes to get to work, or, in the case of delivery personnel, to do their work. We will do whatever we can to keep them safe.”

Though the bike lanes on Northern Boulevard is still considered temporary, DOT said they have prioritized clearing  permanent first.

“Our priority is to continue clearing snow from our permanent bike lanes, and we will address those repairs after that work is complete,” a DOT spokesman said.

FlexPosts were not the only issues vexing cyclists after the snowstorm. 

On Skillman Avenue, DSNY plowed streets but not the adjacent bike lane from the time of the Wednesday nor’easter until Sunday, according to Shepard.

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