July 16, 2005
The quality of life in New York City would be greatly enhanced by improving the City’s bicycling infrastructure. The lack of a safe environment for cycling is holding back progress in improving air quality, reducing asthma and obesity rates, and decreasing vehicular congestion as well as dependency on fossil fuels.
Today, over 115,000 people in New York City use a bicycle as their daily form of transportation. This number is growing rapidly. Greenway improvements, the city’s bike map and bike-to-work programs, as well as group rides offered by cycling and environmental groups, build confidence in new bicycle commuters and have contributed to the recent increase in cycling.
However, through its failure to penalize motorists who kill or injure cyclists and its apparent unwillingness to provide adequate cycling infrastructure, the City of New York fosters a lack of respect for cycling as a viable form of transportation and creates a hostile climate for bicyclists, fueling dangerous and unsafe conditions. This must change.
We, the New York City bicycling community, ask that bicycling be viewed as a key solution to decreasing congestion and reducing car crashes (the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.), air pollution, obesity and asthma.
The immediate, short-term, and long-term measures listed below would increase respect and safety for New York City cyclists. We ask that these measures be implemented as a demonstration of the City’s commitment to clean sustainable transportation.
- Halt the arrest of cyclists and the confiscation of their bicycles for simply riding their bike. If a cyclist commits a traffic violation, s/he should be ticketed, just as a motorist would.
- Cease the cutting of bicycle locks from public property, including parks. The City must devise a new bicycle parking policy that meets the needs of the community. Currently, the City treats all bicycles not parked in the rare official bike racks as “abandoned property.” This is discriminatory and constitutes harassment.
- Return all bicycles confiscated under these circumstances by the police to their rightful owners.
- Improve enforcement of existing laws against motorists who park, idle, turn and/or pass in bike lanes.
- File police reports for all accidents where motorists kill or injure cyclists or pedestrians, and issue summonses and/or appropriate criminal charges. In the past six weeks, four cyclists have been run over and killed by motor vehicles. The NYPD has ruled all four deaths accidental and has declined to issue summonses to any of the drivers involved.
- Increase funding to educate motorists, including taxi and livery cab drivers, on bicycle awareness and sharing the road. This measure should include a public education campaign that includes signage along all the of DOT’s recommended bicycle routes, as well as public service announcements using various media. Make every effort to address the safety concerns of the growing population of cyclists. London has reduced the number of pedestrian/cyclist deaths by over 50% due to a recent concerted effort by municipal authorities. Following London’s lead, we ask that the City of New York assign an empowered urban planning specialist to work with the NYC cycling community to improve safety conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Give prior notification to the cyclist community before closing any bicycling thoroughfare, including greenway segments, bridges and bike lanes. Alternate routes for cyclists should be designated and advertised in advance.
- Commit to creating a transportation infrastructure that complements cycling and a more sustainable city. We ask that the NYC Department of Transportation work with urban planners and the cycling community or a reinstated Bicycle Advisory Council.
- Plan a contiguous bicycle transportation network that includes adequately sized on-street bike lanes, greenways and bridges. We also ask that this network include auto-free greenways in the middle of our city, not just along the edges.
- Provide a reasonable timetable for the completion of the Manhattan East Side Greenway.
Bicycling should be viewed not as a problem for the city, but as a solution to the city’s problems. We look forward to working together to create a cleaner, less toxic, quieter, and safer city.
Bicycle Advocacy, Environmental Education and Direct Action