New Hunter College Study Finds That Bike Lanes are “Blocked Lanes” in New York City

December 2, 2009 | Hunter College

Study Finds that a Cyclist Traveling in a Bike Lane Will Encounter a Parked Vehicle More Than 60 Percent of the Time in a Short Span of Time

A new study released today found that during a 10-minute span of time, a New York City cyclist traveling in a bike lane will encounter a vehicle during a stretch of just five to six city blocks more than 60 percent of the time.  The biggest offenders are cars (30 percent), followed by small trucks (17 percent), and taxis (14 percent.)  These results are found in a Hunter College study directed by Sociology Professor Peter Tuckel and Urban Planning Professor William Milczarski.  The study is the first systematic inquiry of bike lane blockages in New York City.

According to the study, the vast majority of obstructions, almost 90 percent, were short-lived at less than 10 minutes long; the street range observed with the largest number of offenders is East 90th Street between 5th Avenue to 3rd Avenue; 20 percent of cyclists observed do not ride in the bike lane; cyclists who ride in the bike lane are more likely to wear helmets than cyclists who ride on the street (72 percent versus 64 percent); and blocked bike lanes occur with higher frequency during the morning rush hour.

Professors Tuckel and Milczarski collaborated with Hunter students in the Research Practicum/Honors Seminar in the Department of Sociology, and the graduate level Urban Data Analysis course in the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.  The observations were conducted on 492 randomly selected street blocks with Class II bike lanes (lanes delineated by painted stripes on city streets) in Manhattan from September 22-October 23, 2009, during weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

“The intended purpose of these bike lanes is to provide a safe and secure passageway for cyclists free from the encroachments of cars and trucks.  A constant complaint of cyclists, though, is that bike lanes are often obstructed by parked vehicles.  Cyclists view these obstructed bike lanes as not only representing an infringement on their territory, but also posing a serious safety hazard.  In order to avoid cars and trucks parked in bike lanes, cyclists need to swerve into the regular traffic flow, thus putting their safety at risk,” said Professor Tuckel.

“The data reveal that bike lanes are frequently blocked, and greater efforts need to be expended to restrict the occupation of these lanes by vehicles.  Gathering information about which type of vehicles are most likely to park in bike lanes, at what times these offenses occur most often, and where these offenses take place can guide city officials in planning the placement of additional bike lanes or modifying the existing ones,” said Professor Milczarski.