Summer 2000, p.13

Much Anticipated Council Bike / Ped Safety Hearing Fizzles

In aftermath of last years record 35 cycling deaths, cyclists and safety advocates had high hopes that the City Council's May 22 safety hearing would produce answers and action. The hearing was held at the urging of Bronx Councilmember Adolfo Carrion and hundreds of T.A. members who wrote to Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Unfortunately, the lunch time hearing was sparsely attended by committee members, or the public and was disrupted by a large group of visiting school girls. Neither were the stars of the show - the police and DOT - on hand to explain what they are doing to make cycling safer.

The city's sole representative was Robert Grotell, Director of the Mayor's Office of Transportation, who read a statement which cited a 35% decline in traffic fatalities and 16% reduction in crashes over the last decade, and a long list of DOT and police traffic initiatives, many of which have no relevance to safety, cyclists or pedestrians. Because the Mayor's Office of Transportation has helped T.A. navigate the transportation bureaucracy and played an important role in keeping greenway construction on track, T.A. expected the office to proffer some new cycling safety measures. In fact, the opposite happened as the Mayor's representative urged passage of Intro 237, which would increase the sanctions for riding on the sidewalk. To the NYC cycling community, which is already reeling from last years carnage, this was like rubbing salt in the wound.

At the hearing, T.A. put forth a comprehensive cycling and pedestrian safety plan based on improved education, enforcement and engineering. (See www.transalt.org for the complete testimony.) The T.A. plan calls on the police and DOT to significantly expand their efforts in all three areas. It also asks City Council to do its part by legislating and funding an array of safety improvements. The cycling and walking public has the right to expect City Council to vigorously exercise its oversight authority by bringing the DOT and police to task for last year's safety debacle. Unfortunately, on this day at least, Council did not live up to this expectation and public safety suffered.

T.A. Recommendations for Action by City Council

  • Enforcement
    1. Remove the 60 camera cap on red light cameras, appropriate funding for 200.
    2. Pass home rule legislation allowing speed radar cameras, and fund a 10 camera pilot program.
    Increase the NYC surcharge for running red lights and speeding to $100 from $50.
  • Education
    1. Appropriate $1 million for police and DOT education campaigns including "Kill your Speed, not a child," "Share the Road" and taxi driver awareness.
    2. Require the Taxi and Limousine Commission to ensure driver training includes significant bicycle and pedestrian awareness and dooring avoidance stickers posted on partitions and doors.
  • Engineering
    1. Pass legislation stating that the policy of the City of New York is to place the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists before the movement of motor vehicles.
    2. Amend the City Environmental Review Act (CEQRA) and seek amendment of the State Act (SEQRA) to exempt bicycle, pedestrian and traffic calming improvements from air quality review.