Here is lesson number 2,889 in an exhaustive series entitled "Cops, Bikes and You." Patrol cars will often park awkwardly in the street, prompting cyclists to seek temporary respite on the sidewalk. Do not do this. This is a trap.
Riyu Azumaya learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday, after hopping onto the sidewalk on Queens Boulevard near 61st Street in order to maneuver around a cop car, which was parked at an angle alongside the curb. Not wanting to dive into the notoriously lethal "Boulevard of Death," Azumaya pedaled his bike onto the sidewalk, where he remained for "less than 10 seconds" before returning to the street. But it was too late.
"The cops called me over and told me I wasn't supposed to be riding on the sidewalk," he said. "I said, 'Look at the way you're parked!'"
Queens Boulevard is notoriously nasty, and over the years has claimed the lives of dozens of pedestrians and cyclists. But Azumaya, who lives in Elmhurst and works for the Department of Environmental Protection as a programmer, said it's still the most convenient way to travel through Queens, despite its reputation.
Steve Vaccaro, an attorney who specializes in cyclist's rights, said when it comes to obstructions in the road, the fact remains that riders should always seek the option that does not involve biking on the sidewalk, whether that means pulling into the street, or begrudgingly dismounting and walking the bike.
What about making the road safer for cyclists?
"It's incumbent on the city to create efficient routes that link the different parts of New York," he said, adding that Queens in particular is difficult to traverse without at least some time spent on a major road. "Whether the right way is to take on a 'Boulevard of Death' and tame it is a tough question—it’s a heavy political lift."
Vaccaro added that though installing a bike lane on Queens Boulevard would be a "tricky engineering task," it is certainly possible.
"The bottom line is, it has tons and tons of space," he said. "It's proof that the more space you give to motorists, the more motorists you attract."
But Azumaya said that even if the road was equipped with a bike lane, the patrol car would still have been an obstruction. (And as we know, swerving to avoid a cop parked in the bike lane sure won't get you off the hook.)
"If you're going to park in a weird position like that, I'd think you'd have your lights on," he said. "He had the nerve to talk to me about safety when he’s the one creating a hazard."