Cyclists Devise Their Own Tactics to Open Bike Lanes

Humera Lodhi
Jul 25 · 3 min read
Two women on Citi Bikes use the main road to drive around a car parked in a bike lane in Brooklyn on July 22. Vehicles regularly obstruct bike lanes in New York City.

Cyclists who believe lax law enforcement is making city streets unsafe are turning to rogue regulation tactics of their own.

Frustrated by drivers who park illegally in bike lanes but aren’t ticketed, Chris Coco, a 31-year-old bike courier, recently decided to take street enforcement into his own hands.

About a month ago, Coco and a friend designed postcards to look like official violation notices and started placing them on cars parked in bike paths. Sometimes, if a driver leaves the window open, Coco flicks a notice into the front seat of the car.

“It’s not for profit. We just decided to take it into our hands and give them out for free. I printed out a thousand, maybe two thousand,” Coco said. “It’s just a way of saying, ‘you’re in the way.’ ”

Chris Coco designed these postcards to warn drivers who park in bike lanes. They aren’t official notices. (Photo provided by Chris Coco)

Coco said police officers also break bike-lane regulations, although he has yet to place a notice on a cop car.

“Cops do it frequently — they park in the bike lanes,” Coco said. “Where do we go from here? We can’t go to the cops, because they’re abusing their power as well.”

And Coco’s not the only one to take action. Jameson Croasdale, a 37-year-old production manager, created the Instagram account @onthebikelane where he posts photos of obstructed bike lanes submitted by other cyclists. He makes to tag the New York City Police Department and the Department of Transportation. The month-old account has gained more than 4,000 followers and gotten hundreds of submissions from people all over the city, he said.

“I did not plan on it getting this big. Out of frustration and anger, I started this Instagram account. I expected maybe 350 people to follow this account, and when it just continued to grow, it was like my brother said: ‘You really hit a nerve.’ ” Croasdale said.

A fan of Croasdale’s Instagram account is Evan Barden, a 33-year-old actor and writer who uses a bike to commute. “It was very encouraging. … There is actually a gathering place for this now.” Barden said. “It’s an attempt to hold people accountable.”

Barden noted the challenges that city bicyclists face. “As much as cyclists get comfortable, it doesn’t get safer. You’re always aware it’s dangerous,” said. “There are certain areas I bike through regularly, where there’s delivery trucks in the bike lane all the time.”

Those vehicles can mean the difference between life and death. Robyn Hightman, 20, was killed on June 24 by a truck after she rode around a car blocking the street’s bike path. In the weeks since Hightman’s death, two more city cyclists were killed by trucks on the road. Another was injured in Queens after being hit by an SUV this week, and remains in critical condition.

At the time of Hightman’s death, city police officer Carlos Negron told the Gothamist, “It’s sad, but it’s sad that she was off the bike lane, you know? Maybe if she had been on the bike lane, maybe she’d still be alive.”

Negron’s account didn’t sit well with Croasdale and inspired him to begin the Instagram account.

“I was pretty incensed at a comment that an officer made after a woman’s death,” he said. “If you’ve spent any time in the city and streets, it’s not that simple.”

And sometimes, cyclists go even farther. Some people place orange cones at convenient locations to create their own bike paths. Last month, someone stuck toilet plungers on Fifth Avenue to create a lane. The plungers caught the attention of the Department of Transportation and were removed from the road.

Toilet plungers are stuck into the side of the road along Fifth Avenue in New York City on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. They effectively created a protected bike lane for cyclists to use, although they were later taken down.

Coco said he hopes people understand cyclists just want to feel safe on the road.

“We’re not trying to be threatening, we’re all just trying to get our home, to work, to our kids.”

Transit New York

Covering transit and transportation in New York City

Humera Lodhi

Written by

Transit New York

Covering transit and transportation in New York City

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