TLC: Cab Driver Blocking the Bike Lane? We’ll Allow It

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is telling cyclists the agency is no longer penalizing cab drivers for blocking bike lanes.

It is against city traffic rules to drive or stop a motor vehicle in a bike lane. City rules also prohibit cab drivers from picking up and dropping off passengers in bike lanes. These rules exist because it’s often dangerous to force a cyclist from a bike lane into lanes designated for motor vehicle traffic.

In the past, a cyclist who filed a complaint could expect the TLC to impose a fine when presented with evidence that a cab driver broke those rules. But cyclists who have had recent complaints rejected by the TLC say that’s not the case anymore.

Reader Choresh Wald emailed us to say a TLC employee told him the agency made a “policy change” and will no longer enforce NYC traffic rules against blocking bike lanes. According to Wald, the TLC staffer said the agency will instead defer to state laws that don’t prohibit drivers from blocking bike lanes.

Multiple queries to the TLC for confirmation of the policy change have so far gone unanswered. But cyclists are posting photos of traffic violations they say the TLC dismissed on the grounds that the driver was not breaking agency rules.

That doesn’t make sense, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro.

“The written DOT-promulgated traffic rules prohibit a driver from discharging a passenger into the bike lane,” Vaccaro told Streetsblog via email. “DOT can’t change those rules except through the rule-making process.”

“So the issue is not one of state law vs. local law, but of one city agency vs. another,” wrote Vaccaro. “Why would the TLC tell drivers it is OK for them to do something that DOT has declared to be unlawful?”

Camera tech has made it easier for people on bikes to document violations and file complaints against cab drivers who put cyclists in danger. Such a policy change would make “most of the #cyclistswithcameras movement obsolete,” says Wald, “since they will basically ignore all these complaints.”