Thank You Chairman Vacca and members of the City Council Transportation Committee for the opportunity to testify on New York City’s bike lanes. I commend you for addressing this controversial issue and providing a much needed public forum on bike lanes.
This past fall, my office drew broad attention to the issue of bike lane safety with the release of an unscientific survey, “Respect the Path, Clear the Lane,” that found a troubling 1,781 bike lane blockages and other infractions during morning and evening rush hours at eleven Manhattan locations.
Among the measured categories most relevant to this legislation, observers noted 741 instances of pedestrians encroaching upon bike lanes, over 275 occurrences of motor vehicle blockages, among them police cars and school buses. We saw 242 cyclists riding the wrong way in a bike lane, 237 cyclists riding through red lights, and 42 instances where cyclists rode on the sidewalk on streets with a bike lane. Observers even noted a collision between a cyclist and pedestrian in a midtown bike lane.
Clearly, as the report underscored, Manhattan bike lanes are not yet operating at peak efficiency. Enforcement has been lax and evidence from my report and other sources suggests that the NYPD may not be prioritizing bike lane regulation and enforcement to the extent that many of us would like to see. The result is anger and frustration on both sides of the bike lane divide.
I’d like to be clear that I am a staunch supporter of New York City bike lanes. As the bike lane network grows they become exponentially more useful, providing safer options for those that wish use an environmentally sustainable and healthful mode of transportation. However, it is undeniable that bike lanes have been implemented at a rapid pace and many New Yorkers are feeling confused by the changes to the streetscape and disenfranchised by the City’s lack of public education and community consultation.
As New York’s bike lane network continues to expand, so too should its community outreach. The New York City Department of Transportation must do a better job of engaging community voices. I was encouraged to hear from my staff that DOT’s bike lane coordinator listened to community concerns first hand at a recent transportation meeting hosted by Manhattan Community Board 12 on Monday. This type of sincere citizen engagement will go a long way towards tempering frustrations about new bike lanes.
Public education also needs to be stepped up. DOT should be commended for the efforts that have been taken thus far to educate the public on the two-hundred new miles of bike lanes that have been rolled out in the last three years. My office is optimistic that the “Don’t be a Jerk” public education campaign will be a very helpful tool for spreading information on bike lanes. However, there is much more to be done.
The bulk of the City’s public education efforts on bike lanes has been geared towards cyclists and not pedestrians or motorists. This should be changed. Additionally, significant concerns about New York’s new bike lanes have been raised by people with disabilities and their advocates. A dialogue should begin with this community right away.
We included numerous other recommendations in our report which remain relevant today:
- There should be increased signage alerting cyclists, pedestrians and motorists to bike lanes.
- We should launch a taxi cab public awareness campaign on the dangers of dooring.
- The City should reserve parking spots for deliveries along commercial streets to discourage bike lane blockages.
- Where possible, we should steer clear of bike lanes that mix cyclists, pedestrians and motorists together.
- The city should make available data related to bike safety and conduct regular surveys like this one so we know if New York’s bike lanes are functioning at a maximum potential.
Finally, I was disturbed to learn that 311 does not have a specific category for bike lane complaints in their monthly reports. Rather, 311 appears to organize bike lane complaints in the NYPD quality of life section under the broad heading “bike/roller skate chronic.”
Several constituents have reached out to my office to complain that 311 operators are unable to file their complaints about bike lane misuse and obstructions. In reaction, staff from my office have also inquired with 311 and have had difficulty engaging 311 operators on bike lane specific complaints.
The New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications should add new bike lane specific complaint categories to 311 to ensure that policy makers have new empirical measures of community sentiment on bike lanes. In order to be most useful, these types of complaints should no longer be aggregated with roller bladers and kids on skate boards.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify on this important issue. I look forward to working with you, Chairman Vacca, and members of the Transportation Committee to increase the efficiency of New York City’s bike lane network.
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer • 212.669.8300
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor • New York, NY 10007 • © Copyright 2006
The Manhattan Borough Presidentís Office is an Equal Opportunity Employer.