DOT Worker Had a Good Reason for Parking in the 12th Street Bike Lane

Turns out, that's the only way to do the work of building a protected bike lane, the agency says.

Turns out, this worker was doing his job.
Turns out, this worker was doing his job.

He was ruining the bike lane to save the bike lane.

A Department of Transportation worker who earned internet jeers for blocking the 12th Street bike lane with his agency-issued truck on Wednesday was actually working to install posts that would make the frequently blocked bike lane less accessible to cars, the agency said Thursday. [Video below]

We just received this statement from DOT Chief Communications Officer Christopher Browne — and it’s a reminder that there are some times when a blocked bike lane is not what it appears:

The video Streetsblog provided showed a DOT Traffic Control & Engineering van blocking a protected bike lane along 12th Street in the Village yesterday.

The DOT employee in the video was at the time servicing delineators that discourage other vehicles from traveling or parking in the bike lane. Specifically, the worker uses an electric power drill that can penetrate asphalt, which attaches by electrical cord to a converter in the van. On a narrow street like 12th Street (less than 30 feet wide at points), this work cannot be safely performed by any method that does not require the worker’s vehicle to stand within the bike lane itself.

We ask for cyclists’ patience for temporary impediments like these while we make the city’s growing network of protected bike lanes even safer.

The agency did not initially install sufficient flex-posts or hard barriers to insure that the paired lanes on 12th and 13th streets remain clear of car and truck drivers, who frequently park in cyclists’ space. For that reason, Streetsblog did not include the lanes as part of its coverage of the city’s count of new protected bike lanes completed in 2018.

The 12th and 13th street bike lanes were created as part of the city’s plan for mitigating congestion during the now-scrubbed L-train reconstruction, which was supposed to start in April. The installation of new flex-posts on Wednesday, however, suggests that the city will not remove the new bike lanes, as some car-owning Village residents have demanded, but other groups have countered.

Though maybe not; the DOT would only say that the new posts were unrelated to any decision about retaining the protected lanes.

Update: After initial publication of this story, the type of drill being used was identified as a Milwaukee SDS-Max Rotary Hammer model.