The official Twitter of the NYPD's 84th Precinct has blocked a Cobble Hill cyclist who tweets regular reports from the bike commuter's nightmare that is Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, using the hashtag #FixJaySt.
Bahij Chancey, a junior architect and daily bike commuter from Brooklyn to Midtown across the Manhattan Bridge, started using #FixJaySt this March, as a way to chronicle his treacherous daily rides. "I'll be on my commute to work," he told us, "and it's not hard to find plenty of illegal parking and illegal U-turns happening on the street every day. I just pull over to the side of the road and take a photo, and then I go to work and when I'm off my bike, I tweet about it."
His tweets have been directed at the 84th Precinct, which patrols Downtown Brooklyn, as well as the DOT, and local councilmember Stephen Levin.
— Bahij Chancey (@Bahij) May 6, 2015
— Bahij Chancey (@Bahij) April 13, 2015
About two weeks ago, the 84th Precinct blocked Chancey. "Unfortunately at some point I guess they decided that it was annoying and blocked my Twitter account," Chancey said. "It was never my intention to antagonize them. It's a little upsetting to know that they would close that avenue of community input." He added, "While it was my personal commute I think I was speaking for a larger community of commuters."
— Bahij Chancey (@Bahij) May 1, 2015
Voted Brooklyn's Scariest Bike Lane by Brooklyn Paper readers in 2012, Jay Street's 17-block stretch runs near both National Grid and the NYPD's 84th Precinct headquarters. As a result, the bike lane is often clogged with double-parked and idling municipal and utility vehicles, forcing bikers to swerve out into traffic, where speeding is common and U-turns are frequent.
In 2011, Transportation Alternatives published a study on Jay Street between Willoughby and Johnston Streets. Over the course of four weekday morning and evening rush hours, they documented 49 drivers per hour parked in the bike lane for more than 10 seconds, and 18 illegal U-turns per hour. Between 2011 and 2014, there were over 68 crashes on Jay Street between DUMBO and the Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn, according to NYPD data.
And last year TransAlt released Reimagine Jay Street, a report on Jay Street's existing conditions and how they might be improved. Presented to the DOT last October, the report is based off of a series of community workshops.
TransAlt spokesman Eric McClure identifies a two-pronged problem on Jay Street. For one, cyclists are at risk without some tangible improvements, like a barrier-protected bike lain, or plastic yellow bollards in the center of the street to prevent U-turns. But there's also the issue of police enforcement—or lack thereof—when it comes to driving practices. "In the short term, a step-up from the police department would go a long way," McClure says.
He added that TransAlt has not had any contact with the DOT since the report was presented. However, last fall Streetsblog reported that the DOT is making moves to create shared-space upgrades on three narrow blocks adjacent to Jay Street. The DOT presented three options for the as-yet-partially-funded project in November. From Streetsblog:
One would turn part of the area into a plaza and close the remaining two blocks to cars during midday hours. Another would retain shallow curbs, while a third would keep the entire street, from building to building, at the same level.
The DOT has also updated stretches of the Jay Street bike lane in recent years, but McClure points out that the especially-hairy stretch between Tillary and Willoughby Streets has gone untouched.
Chancey, who started his hashtag project in the hopes of raising awareness about Reimagine Jay Street, would also like to see traffic enforcement officers administering more tickets for parking and U-turn violations. However, his recent tweets are evidence that, quite frequently, 84th Precinct officers are the most egregious offenders.
— Bahij Chancey (@Bahij) May 4, 2015
Chancey plans to attend the 84th's next Community Council meeting, on May 19th, photo-evidence in hand. Neither the DOT, nor the 84th Precinct, responded to requests for comment.