These Lanes Were Made for Biking

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As New York City has added miles of bike lanes to its network over recent years, enforcement has also increased. The question is: Is it enough? 

In fiscal year 2014, the city issued over 55,000 tickets for blocking a bike lane, according to official statistics. The following year, the number increased by about 40 percent, to about 77,000. Each ticket carries a potential fine of $115.

New York City had the country’s first bike lane, back in 1894. Today the network includes over 650 miles of on-street bike lanes. The City added 65 miles in fiscal 2014 and 51 miles in fiscal 2015.

Some drivers have found the expansion frustrating.

"These streets are already narrow as it is," car service driver Anthony Rosario said after temporarily stopping his car in a bike lane in Prince Street in Soho. "Look how narrow this street is, and it has a big bike lane. For New York City, bike lanes really don’t make a lot of sense in small streets.” 

But biking advocates say the increase in ticketing hasn't made biking in the city much easier. 

"It’s a real safety issue," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "You have to veer out into traffic to avoid that parked car. It’s that veering maneuver that can pose a big danger."

(Filmmaker Casey Neistat made a popular YouTube video in 2011 about riding a bike in New York City and all the obstacles he encountered, and how he was ticketed once for not riding in a bike lane.)

The city estimates that over 500,000 New Yorkers ride a bike at least several times a month, and the city wants to encourage even more to pick up the habit. The city’s goal is to triple bicycle commuting by 2017. 

But White says that goal will be elusive if bike lanes are often blocked. 

—With contributions from Kathyrn Tam