September 20 – 26, 2006
By Lori Haught
The New York City Department of Transportation announced a series of bicycle safety improvements on Tues. Sept. 12.
The improvements will include the addition of 200 miles of on-street bicycle paths, lanes and routes over the next three years. D.O.T. will install 40 miles of bike lanes in Fiscal Year 2007, which began July 1, 2006, 70 miles in FY 2008 and 90 miles in FY 2009.
Five miles of new bike lanes to be added Downtown will include a lane on Grand St. running from the F.D.R. Drive to West Broadway, on Madison St. from the Bowery to Grand St. and lanes on Clinton St. and Lewis St. stretching from Grand to Delancey Sts. Delancey St. will also have a path extending from the west end of the footbridge to the F.D.R. Drive. Several other bike lanes and paths are planned for Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Uptown Manhattan as well, totaling 27.7 miles in all.
The creation of these new bike lanes, the first phase of D.O.T.’s three-year plan, is to be completed by this December, Chris Gilbride, a D.O.T. spokesperson, said.
A total of 13.5 miles of new bike lanes and paths will be completed by the spring of 2007, including one Manhattan stretch running on 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Sts. from the West Side Highway to the East River.
The installation of the last 158.8 miles of paths and lanes has not been finalized yet, Gilbride said. However, a D.O.T. map of “planned/proposed” new bike lanes shows many Downtown, including on Houston St.; Broadway; W. Broadway; University Pl.; First Ave.; Second Ave. between 14th and 38th Sts.; Avenue C; Ninth Ave. south of 22nd St., connecting to Seventh Ave. and Varick St.; E. 10th St. east of Avenue A; Waverly Pl.; Irving Pl.; Montgomery St.; Suffolk St. and part of Broome St.
It will cost $30,000 per mile to create the new bike lanes.
The announcement comes on the heels of a joint report “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City 1996-2005,” issued by D.O.T., the Department of Health, Department of Parks and Recreation and Police Department. The report found that 225 bicyclists were killed in the last decade and there were 3,462 bicyclist injuries from 1996 to 2003.
Two times as many New York adults bicycle or walk to work compared to the national average, according to the report. However, bicycle death rates are the same as the national average, the report states.
D.O.T. is hiring new staff and has pledged more funding for its Bicycle and Highway Design divisions.
Other findings of the report:
• Only one fatal crash with a motor vehicle occurred when a bicyclist was in a marked bike lane.
• Almost three-quarters of fatal bicycle crashes (74 percent) involved a head injury.
• Nearly all bicyclists who died (97 percent) were not wearing a helmet.
• Large vehicles (trucks, buses) were involved in almost one-third (32 percent) of fatal crashes, but they make up approximately 15 percent of vehicles on New York City roadways.
• Most fatal crashes (89 percent) occurred at or near intersections.
• Most bicyclists who died were males (91 percent), and men aged 45 to 54 had the highest death rate (8.1 per million) of any age group. Officials attributed the higher death rate for males to “risk-taking behavior.”
Time’s Up!, the East Village-based environmental group, praised the city’s attention to bicycle safety but said the city must do even more to find “real solutions.”
In a press release, the group stated: “Time’s Up! is pleased that the city has taken the first step in implementing the improvements in bicycle safety that were recommended by the New York City Bicycle Coalition, an organization that includes representatives from Time’s Up! and 20 other local cycling groups. Further revision of the city’s proposal offers the possibility of attaining Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall’s stated goal of transforming New York City into ‘the safest city for cycling.’
“The city’s proposal to add 200 miles of bike lanes would be a vast improvement to the city streets. Unfortunately, only 5 miles of bike paths will be physically separated from motor vehicle traffic; the other 195 miles will consist of striped lanes and signed routes which give unprotected space to bike riders. In order for striped bike lanes to be truly part of a safety plan, they must be wider than the unbuffered bike lanes that currently exist on the streets. The narrow, unbuffered bike lanes, such as the ones on Sixth Ave. and Eighth Ave., do not keep cyclists safe from being ‘doored’ by someone carelessly exiting from a parked car. In addition, the Police Department needs to make a concerted effort to enforce the current laws against all vehicles stopping, standing or parking in the bike lanes, including taxis discharging or picking up passengers.
“The city’s focus on helmet use in retaliation to cyclist fatalities perpetuates the use of victim-blaming rhetoric and draws attention away from the real dangers of driver inattention and recklessness,” the Time’s Up! statement continued. “Emphasis on educating drivers, improving bicycle infrastructure, affirming cyclists’ right to the road and encouraging drivers to stay out of bike lanes would offer better hope of lowering crash statistics.”
Wendy Brawer, a Time’s Up! volunteer, said, “Time’s Up! and Visual Resistance erect a ‘ghost bike’ — a bicycle painted white — to mark the intersections where cyclists have been killed. We have put up eight ghost bikes so far this year. We look forward to the day when that number is zero.”