NYC cyclists call out blocked bike lanes after fatal midtown crash

Cyclists navigate around a commercial vehicle that has illegally blocked a bike lane on Grand Street in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

Critics also question the NYPD’s practice of ticketing cyclists after collisions, a policy the department said could be adjusted.

Cyclists navigate around a commercial vehicle that has illegally blocked a bike lane on Grand Street in Brooklyn.
Cyclists navigate around a commercial vehicle that has illegally blocked a bike lane on Grand Street in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Bicyclists frustrated with the police response to a midtown crash that left a 20-year-old cyclist dead are flooding Instagram with their footage of blocked bike lanes across the city.

From the Rockaways to the Bronx, the videos on the crowdsourced account @onthebikelane highlight the difficulty of using the lanes, which are often blocked by parked vehicles and delivery trucks or used by motorists to pass. The account, created this week by cyclist Jameson Croasdale, also allows users to express outrage at the police practice of ticketing cyclists following fatal collisions.

"It just kind of took off," Croasdale said. "I didn’t have to post anything other than telling a few people in the cycling community that I had this account. And it just kind of happened — because it needed to happen."

Robyn Hightman, a bike messenger, died Monday at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue after sustaining injuries in a collision with a white Freightliner delivery truck as both traveled north on Sixth Avenue. The driver of the truck, a 54-year-old male, initially left the scene but returned and was issued five summonses.

Days after Hightman’s death, another cyclist was fatally hit by a car in Brownsville, police said. The cyclist, a 57-year-old man, was on Sutter Avenue, where there is no bike lane, when an 18-year-old driver hit him in the intersection with Chester Street, according to cops. The driver sustained a hand injury and was not immediately charged.

There is a bike lane on Sixth Avenue where Hightman was struck, and a police officer told Gothamist that she might have lived if she had used it.

Hightman’s death was mourned with a vigil Monday evening at the scene of the collision that quickly took on the tone of a protest, as participants urged police to "do your jobs" amid chants of "vehicular manslaughter." Cyclists shared their stories of incidents with motorists and expressed frustration that the truck driver in Hightman’s death only received summonses. 

The following morning, the NYPD was ticketing cyclists near the scene of the fatal collision. Chief of Department Terence Monahan later told reporters that about 30 cyclists were issued summonses, as were roughly 100 motorists, but said the "strategy" of ticketing cyclists is "something we’re looking to adjust."

Croasdale questioned the police’s enforcement priorities. 

"To not come down on commercial vehicles and inspect these trucks and inspect these drivers, instead to come down on cyclists for reflectors and bells and all of that, it really struck a nerve with everyone in the cycling community," he said.

Some users are also turning to 311 to report the blocked lanes. Jeff Novich runs the Reported app, which streamlines the process, and said there had been an uptick in new submissions.

"There’s definitely a spike," said Novich, who added that the app usually has 150 active users a month. But there were 89 submissions from 40 people just on Thursday, Novich said.

Croasdale plans to keep posting the Instagram submissions, which have shown no sign of slowing.

"What I really am hoping that this account does is kind of showcase what are cyclists supposed to do when they can’t ride in the bike lane."

Liam Quigley