City pedals bike safety plan

Metro New York
By Joshua Rhett Miller
SEP 13, 2006

CENTRAL PARK — Advocates yesterday praised the city’s launching of an “aggressive” campaign to increase bicycle safety, but wondered why it took so long to do so.

City and police officials unveiled the plan, which includes adding 200 miles of bike paths, lanes and routes, and released a report examining the factors that contributed to 225 bicycle deaths in the past decade and 3,462 serious injuries between 1996 and 2003.

“The city has taken a long time to finally get the hint and it’s a shame a lot of people had to die,” said Bill DiPaola, director of Time’s Up!, a bicycle advocacy group.

“But we were more concerned with the climate of hostility that has been facing the bicyclist community. The city does not even penalize anyone who kills a bicyclist with their car unless they’re drunk. They get away with it every time and that’s got the cycling community outraged.”

The NYPD said it plans to crack down on traffic violations for motorists and cyclists.

“We’re urging you to obey the traffic laws,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Michael Scagnelli. “If you don’t you’re subject to a ticket and we’ll give you a ticket. This program will work.”

For one avid cyclist, the changes are “just a start.”

Incentives not to drive in Manhattan to reduce traffic, the eradication of timed lights and widened bike lanes should also be considered, said Mary Beth Kelly, who was biking with her husband, Dr. Carl Nacht, when he was struck by an NYPD tow truck near 38th Street on the Hudson River bike path in June. Nacht, who biked to work daily and was not wearing a helmet at the time, died four days later.

Bicycling numbers

• As of March, there were 420 miles of bike paths, lanes and routes in the city.

• According to the report, the number of cyclists increased by 94 percent between 1985 and 2005.

• The city’s bicyclist fatality rate is similar to the national rate although twice as many NYC adults walk or bike to work compared to the national average.

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