The death of a young Australian rider on Central Park West in New Your City has jolted New York into action over the use of bike lanes for car parking.
In recent years New York has rolled out a massive expansion of its bike lane network, and rider numbers have sky-rocketed.
But there is a big, ugly elephant in the room – use of those bike lanes for vehicle parking is rampant and virtually un-policed.
Twenty-three-year-old Australian Madison Jane Lyden was a victim of this lawlessness when she swerved under a truck to avoid a commercial passenger vehicle that had stopped in the bike lane where she was riding.
Drivers in New York routinely stop in bike lanes: double parked, making deliveries, chatting on the phone, eating lunch, popping in to lunchtime prayers; you name it.
The worst, believe it or not, are the police. Not only do they not enforce the law, they are amongst the biggest offenders.
Now Council member Helen Rosenthal is calling for a two-way protected bike lane circling all of Central Park, designed so that it can’t be parked in.
“It’s a tragedy — it’s a horrible tragedy,” Rosenthal said of Lyden’s death.
“We need the police to enforce the law that cars not park in the bike lane. But I understand they can’t be everywhere, so having a protected bike lane is the easiest answer to the dangers of riding on an unprotected bike lane.”
“Because there’s no protected bike lane, she swerved into traffic and a truck hit her and killed her. A two-way protected bike lane would solve that problem.”
Rosenthal, who said she’s both a bike rider and a car-owner, noted how protected bike lanes on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues have made those streets safer than they were previously, but also acknowledged that her constituents often complain to her about how bike lanes slow traffic and create more congestion.
“But my first priority is safety,” she said. “And I have seen in my district that the protected bike lanes bring actual safety to people. And that’s my top priority.”
The city Department of Transportation is currently studying bike lane fixes for Central Park West, according to a DoT spokesperson.