Broken glass and sharp words over L-shutdown bike lanes

Small piles of broken glass were left in the new bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. on Thursday night and Friday morning. The photographer swept this glass out of the lane before taking the photo. Photo by Driversofnyc

BY RICO BURNEY | The L-train shutdown may no longer be happening, but the flap surrounding the Department of Transportation’s plans to mitigate the effects of the repair work continues.

Cyclists posted photos on Twitter on Thursday night and Friday morning of glass shards in multiple locations in the new 12th and 13th Sts. bike lanes and anti-bike-lane graffiti and signs next to the lanes.

“12/13TH St Bike Lane CANCELED. West Village Parking Only: Bike Lanes Benefit Only OTHER People,” said one sign taped to a white plastic delineator. “Bring Back OUR Parking!” read a graffiti message in the buffer zone.

“We are very disturbed about the reports from the Village, where new protected bicycle lanes were recently defaced and rendered dangerous by broken glass,” said Chief Thomas Chan, of the Police Department’s Transportation Division, and D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a joint statement.

The New York Police Department said it will “vigorously investigate” and “hold the perpetrator(s) accountable for these disturbing acts to the community.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district includes 14th St., issued a tweet condemning the action:

“This is unacceptable,” he wrote. “In my district. Shame on whoever did this. All New Yorkers are entitled to safe spaces, on two wheels or on foot.”

Another pile of glass in one of the new bike lanes. Photo by Jonathan Warner

Some cyclists believe that groups, such as the 14th St. Coalition and Advocates for Justice — two of the most prominent opponents to the 12th and 13th Street bike lanes and the larger D.O.T. plans for 14th St. — and their supporters bear some responsibility for the hostile act against the bike lanes.

“Advocates for Justice knows that their supporters are prime suspects to do such a thing,” said Jonathan Warner, who works along the 14th Str. corridor and was the first to photograph the glass and anti-bike-lane signs on Twitter. “This group has no respect for orderly process, and I would not be surprised if someone affiliated with them did this, as it is exactly in line with their members’ disrespectful and aggressive behavior in the past.”

A sign someone posted on a flexible plastic delineator on the edge of the buffer zone outside the new bike lane on 12th St. said the bike lane had been “canceled.” Photo by Jonathan Warner

Members of the 14th St. Coalition, for their part, dismissed any assertions that anyone directly involved with their cause would do such a thing.

“While the 14th St. Coalition has rejected the need for dedicated bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts., the Coalition has had no involvement in, nor condoned, the defacing of the bike lanes,” they wrote in a statement.

“It’s absolutely appalling that people would do something like that,” said Judy Pesin, the co-chairperson of the 14th St. Coalition.

Arthur Schwartz, an attorney with Advocates for Justice, also condemned the attack, but argued that Transportation Alternatives — the pro-cycling group that also supports the 14th St. “busway” plan — is also guilty of using “guerilla tactics.”

“What I don’t like about T.A. is that, first, they link me with the graffiti and the glass in the bike lanes,” he said, speaking on Friday afternoon. “Then, they gave out my address and phone number… . Somebody rang my doorbell and yelled at my wife 10 minutes ago.”

Someone graffitied in the buffer zone bordering the 13th St. bike lane near Avenue A. Critics say the buffer zone is just used for parking. Photo by Chelsea Yamada

Last year, Schwartz, representing the Coalition and others, filed two lawsuits against the L-shutdown plan, charging that it required a full environmental impact study. One of the lawsuits is still active.

Both Pesin and Schwartz insisted that neither of their groups are anti-cyclist. They contend that their issue with the 12th and 13th Sts. bike lanes is their design, plus their belief that D.O.T. did not properly listen to community concerns prior to installing them.

On Thursday, Schwartz wrote to Phil Karmel, an attorney with the Brian Cave law firm, which is defending D.O.T. against the Coalition’s lawsuit.

“[D.O.T.] should know,” Schwartz wrote in the letter, “that those bike lanes and buffer zones have simply become truck parking and construction zones. When there is traffic on 12th or 13th Sts., emergency vehicles cannot use the bike lanes or buffer zones.”

He went on to write that he and the Coalition will continue to fight D.O.T. until it enters “genuine negotiations” with neighborhood stakeholders.

Like cycling advocate Warner, supporters of the D.O.T. plan and the 12th and 13th Sts. bike lanes disagree with Schwartz’s arguments.

“Unfortunately, these opponents have no respect for the political process in the city and have thrown yet another temper tantrum,” Warner said. “The implication that the city is not listening to the community, or that this group represents this community is insulting”

A D.O.T. spokesperson said in a statement that the agency plans to keep all aspects of its initial Manhattan L-train shutdown “alternative service plan” in place as it continues to review the new proposal put forth by Governor Cuomo.

“The city’s effort for the L-tunnel closure will remain in place as we continue to review the plan presented last week,” the statement said. “As we get more information from the M.T.A. on the new L-train plan, we will look at our planned efforts to make sure we are implementing the right elements.”

Transportation Alternatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

37 Responses to Broken glass and sharp words over L-shutdown bike lanes

  1. The fact that the bike lanes are blocked by delivery and utility trucks bring up the need to repurpose free car storage spots (“parking spots”) as designated areas on the south side of 12 St and the north side of 13 Street ffor truck and passenger delivery and loading zones. A delivery truck that serves multiple people should have a dedicated street space on every block to serve the needs of the residents and community. This will leave the bike lanes open for people to ride their bicycles without being hit by motor vehicles and allow the free passage of first responders and ambulances quickly cross town. Eliminate free car storage and have a better functioning street.

  2. I can see why some people are frustrated with the DOT on the bike lane issue.

    Since the L train is not shutting down, we don’t need the (originally badly designed, space wasting) bike lanes anymore. Get rid of them and put things back the way they were, restoring much needed parking space. I’m speaking as, predominantly, a bicyclist, but also as a local motorist.

    Also there is need to put in some loading zones for commercial vehicles interspersed within the existing parking spaces. I mean within, not takeover all parking spaces. Local motorists have rights too. It’s the DOT’s fault for the wasteful and poorly designed parking+bike lane areas. They need to stop digging in their heels and fix them in a way that balances the needs of all:pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

  3. Oh please, bike lanes are the future – why remove bike lanes to satisfy a few very wealthy people that have cars to park on the street – I'm sorry, these rich people don't own the street. The bike lanes serve hundreds of people each day.

    • Clearly only you are wealthy enough to live in Manhattan. Many of us that don’t live in Manhattan don’t have the ability to bike everywhere or take a train to work. We have to drive in. Sorry, but only those rich enough to live in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn can afford not to have a car.

  4. @Tommy Johnson- I don’t what planet you’ve beem living on, if you think only rich people own and park cars in the neighborhood. You can’t go everywhere on a bicycle. One still needs a motor vehicle to get anywhere outside the few miles you can ride on a bike. Eldery and disabled people usually can’t ride bikes anymore. The bicycle utopia you envision for bicycles is limited, and is not going to fit within the real world.

  5. What we need is a totally new kind of vehicle to replace the automobile. Two ideas , maybe similar , I present here:

    1) Electronic Personal Mobility Assist Device “EPMAD” . You do NOT need a car. We can put a plastic pod , polycarbonate , on an EPMAD, and you can ride in any weather . Or get a bicycle or tricycle with a 650 watt assist motor.

    2) A New Class of Vehicle, based on an Electric Garden Tractor, but without blades, with an enclosed cab .

    Or you can get a bicycle. In any event, we need to get parked cars off the street. Use the subway.

    Trucks making deliveries are in fact different than cars. I realize we can’t make delivery trucks any smaller , they need the room to carry packages. But for personal mobility, the average person does Not need a 6,000 pound vehicle.

  6. Just to HELL wth every anti-bicyclist idiot in this goddamn city. If I thought maybe you had some point worth considering against the new bike lanes in the 'hood, you just totally blew it with me with this evil stunt. Now I say: NOT ONE STEP BACK! The bike lanes must stay, despite the cancelling of the "L-pocalypse." Every damn one of them. Happy, jerks?

  7. Yeah, go ahead and dig your hole deeper, you anti-social twits who "disliked" my comment. You wanna try to win me back to consideration of your position? Show some contrition for putting my life in danger!

  8. Sounds like somebody forget to take their meds today.

    We need balanced common sense, not one sided extremism, in order make things work in this complex chaotic city.

  9. We need cars. We need Bikes. We need Commercial Deliveries.

  10. Couple of questions and observations: !. If the L train shutdown is on hold while it is being reconsidered,can someone explain why 'mitigation' plans are speeding forward? No shutdown=no mitigation necessary. 2. Cyclists tout reducing pollution as one of the benefits of bicycles – well,a parked car isn't contributing to air pollution,either,while a car cruising around looking for a parking spot definitely is. And,for the record,not much 'free' parking for taxpayers (we pay a nyc fee when we register our vehicles) in nyc. and on metered streets it's $4. an hour. Bike lanes in formerly metered areas cost the city a lot of $$$ in lost revenues. Maybe there should be a bicycle tax? Maybe we need to register bikes? License cyclists? They're riding free.

    • Waaah, waaah, waaah! I lost MY parking spot! I have to circle to find a spot! I have to lay $4/hr to park! Oh please! All of you kvetching, whiny little spoiled brats should try living outside your Manhattan bubble and see that you’re not the only people on earth. The lanes are staying. As a native who rarely drives into Manhattan anymore but who ALWAYS finds a parking spot within minutes of looking whether in the East Village, West Village, UWS, UES, LES or anywhere else y’all need to get some patience or get rid of your cars. As for you Charles, it is possible to live without a car in NYC.
      MamaRose- when you register your vehicle that money goes to the state, not th city, or have you forgotten Econ 101? Try finding parking in Boston on any given day, it’s almost an impossibility. You’ll have to park in a garage and pay $20-30 an HOUR. grow a pair, will ya?

      • Amazing parking karma, NativeNYer4Ever! Wish I shared it! Maybe you could find a way to monetize that talent while you're loading up your snark tank.
        So – more to the point – bicycles cost the city $$$ and they don't pay their way. How about a bicycle tax? Registration for bikes? Licenses for cyclists? While they cost the city a lot of $$$, they don't seem to spend that much (shopping, e.g.) in the city (I can count on one hand the bikes with baskets I've seen). Fair? I don't think so, do you? PS – This is a discussion among people with different viewpoints, NNY4E, not whining or kvetching. There's a difference. Oh, yeah, and we're living in nyc, not Boston.

  11. Putting broken glass on bike lanes is your idea of "common sense"? If you have nothing to say about such tactics, don't you meds-bait ME.

  12. I write this as someone who grew up in NYC and lived here for most of my life. The DOT is destroying NYC with their maze of bike lanes, parking spaces in the middle of avenues, lightpoles covered top to bottom in confusing and contradictory signs, no turn rules arbitrarily enforced and an army of completely useless traffic agents whose only task is to make drivers suffer enough that they never want to come back into the City. Bikes are great. They belong in parks not on the most congested and busy streets in the U.S. It is an absurd notion that riding a bike in the intense air pollution and traffic of Manhattan is "healthy," "safe" or environmentally helpful. It's dangerous fro the bike rider, pedestrians and the drivers of cars. It's even more absurd to encourage tourists who haven't been on a bike since they were kids to rent Citi-Bikes and tool around Manhattan as if they were in a suburban neighborhood. It used to be the case that hundreds of thousands of people from the outer boroughs came into Manhattan on a regular basis to shop, eat, party, see shows…. Thanks to the DOT these real New Yorkers have largely been replaced with millions of tourists. Most people I know who live outside of Manhattan avoid ever going there unless absolutely necessary. The amazing variety of stores that once existed throughout Manhattan have been completely replaced with cookie cutter chain stores that primarily serve tourists and which are completely useless for anyone who lives in NYC. The entire idea of replacing real New Yorkers with tourists is largely the work of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, that Disnified the City, and turned everything over to corrupt BIDs (Business Improvement Districts). Lastly, as far as the completely unsubstantiated accusations in the article (defamation, libel, slander?), naming groups of residents who dared to politically face off with the DOT and the well-connected bike advocates who were destroying their neighborhood, it is at least as likely that bike advocates are responsible in what may have been a false flag operation to garner sympathy for the bike lanes.

    • Bikes belong in parks, not on city streets?!? Are you on crack? Have you ever been to Portland, Seattle, LA (yes, LA!), Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and hundreds of other cities in the USA that have safe, dependable bike infrastructure without drivers trying to kill them for using “their” streets? I’m guessing you too have never left your little Manhattan bubble. Of course I didn’t mention the countless European cities that have bike infrastructure such as London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, hell even freaking Moscow!

    • Brilliant. Amazingly well-said! I looked at the pictures again and it appears that the glass shards are in the black tar space next to the bike lane – not in the bike lane itself. Of course, there is the spray paint, but, last I heard, spray paint isn't dangerous unless you inhale it. .

    • Sounds like you're saying cars – actually, drivers – have ruined our city. They kill our neighbors, pollute our air and take up almost all of our public space – and all that for a tiny minority of people who choose to use them and then complain that they hate the traffic jams they are themselves responsible for and can't find parking because of the other drivers who are also trying to privatize the public's space.

      I've lost all patience for the whining of the driving elite.

    • Whoopie Goldberg told off di Blasio on the View over Bike Lanes

  13. I don’t own a car but am sick of bicyclists treating their green lanes as nature trails—whizzing through intersections and putting pedestrians at risk. Bikers, you need to STOP at traffic lights and stop signs just like the cars do. Obey the law and maybe then I’ll listen to your grievances about the car people.

  14. @Bill Weinberg – I don’t view broken glass on a road or bike lane as a big deal. It’s just another road hazard one has to look out for. A few year’s ago, I solved the problem with this hazard by getting kevlar liners for my bike’s inner tubes. I haven’t had a flat since then.

    As I said before, there needs to be a balanced approach to these problems, not just favoring one faction. I, ALSO AS A BICYCLIST, don’t want any more misplaced hatred by a some motorists feeling disenfranchised, to get reckless with me in their multi-ton vehicle.

    NYC works best when all people are treated fairly.

  15. Complaining about reckless bicyclists in a city where cars killed nearly 200 people last year and bicyclists killed ZERO is deeply out of wack.You want to win my good will as a cyclist? Show some concern for MY rights and safety. I still see no contrition in this thread for the depraved tactic that the story is about. You guys don't exactly have the moral high ground here.

  16. So "broken glass on a road or bike lane as a big deal"…. even when placed INTENTIONALLY? Sound to me like some cyclists have internalized their oppression as self-hatred.

  17. * I meant, So you don't see "broken glass on a road or bike lane as a big deal"…. (Obviously)

  18. No, I don’t want to win your good will as a cyclist. I just want you to obey the law, as everyone who travels around NYC should do. // p.s. I ride a bike too.

  19. OK, then maybe your lovely pal with the broken glass should obey the law! Nothing to say about THAT?

  20. Putting broken glass in a bike lane is just simply inexcusable, and I'm sorry but sharing rationalizations for it is similarly immoral. Sorry but this is the simple truth. Not the way to handle your grievance. Just not.

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  22. First some comments on the article. Advocates for Justice is a public interest law firm which represents clients. We have done years of work representing school parents and children, old people fighting their landlords, workers fighting for minimum wages and overtime, people fighting to replace St Vincents Hospital and now to stop the closing of St Vincents, disabled voters who have had their polling sites moved for political reasons, Occupy Wall Street participants looking to stop police action, Black Lives Matter demonstrators facing false arrests,and on and on. To say that Advocates for Justice, which I founded, supports or encourages vigilante action is absurd, and defamatory. The Villager should be ashamed for publishing such bs.
    Second, I walked the length of 12th and 13th Streets yesterday. Yes there was broken glass in a few spots, just as there always is on streets which are no longer cleaned by street cleaning equipment. There was no sign that anything systematic went on. Most of the bike lanes on 12th and 13th Streets are unusable because they stiped "buffer zone" and the lanes have become major truck parking areas. Not one block on any day is free of parked vehicles in bike lanes.
    Third, anyone who thinks that DOT considered the views of the affected communities, must also believe that Trump cares about people of color. They went through obligatory meetings, looking angry at the comments by 95% of those who spoke, and then did what they wanted to do anyway.
    Fourth, most supporters of the 14th Street Coalition are older, long time residents, who are not particularly wealthy. Many are beyond their bike-riding years. If they are wealthy they park their cars in garages which charge $7-800 per month. What the configuaration of bike lanes has done is deprive people of the ability to shop for groceries with their car, the ability to load their cars for trips, the ability to drop off and pick up children from programs and events. There are already bike lanes on 9th and 10th Streets. Is there really a proven need for more.
    Finally, our real need is for mass transit. The subways stink, but we have the biggest most sprawling system in the world. The way Polly Trottenberg has re-jiggered streets however, combined with the de Blasio adminsytrations turning a blind-eye to the for-hire vehicle explosion, has destroyed bus service in Manhattan. Buses mobed in 2017 at 4.2 miles per hour. People walk at 3.3-3.5 mph. Ask any bus driver- they blame DOT for the incredible traffic caused by the elimination of lanes so that bikes can have a pretty path. Buses and subways, in this City, must have priority over all else – for hire vehicles, and bikes.
    Arthur Schwartz, Democratic District Leader (re-elected to office 11 times)

    • Well said, Arthur. For the record, I am a native of the East Village of over 50 years: an avid PEDESTRIAN, BICYCLIST, AND MOTORIST. I want my representation in all of these roles to be treated with respect, particularly by the powers that be.

  23. Arthur, nobody’s giving our your address or phone number. They are freely available online on numerous websites, as are most people’s. Takes 10 seconds to pull up. Stop accusing people of “guerilla tactics” while encouraging violence and destruction of public property. The fact that you do this doesn’t mean others do as well.

  24. Step off your bikes and clean the glass. Very simple. Common sense is not as Common as you think.

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  26. I can't afford to take the subway. I'm not poor, but the monthly cost is still too much, and the trains are always stalling on the tracks. Biking is the only way for me to get to work on time. The problem is:
    1. Taxis running red lights and not yielding to pedestrians.
    2. People strolling in the bike lanes.

  27. what the hell.. its just because parking ?? i dont believe it

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