Liu questions safety of city's bike share program
Correction appended at bottom
The city has been making a big push for its upcoming bike-share program, but City Comptroller John Liu warned Monday that it could be both a safety and financial liability.
Liu sent a report to the city Department of Transportation urging the agency to improve the Citi Bike plan, which will offer New Yorkers 10,000 two-wheelers for rent at 600 kiosks spread throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan starting next month.
Although Liu said he supports the program, he accused the DOT of not making sure it was 100% secure for bike riders, drivers and pedestrians.
"Being pro bike must go hand in hand with being pro safety," he said.
Liu made several recommendations to the DOT, including mandating helmets for all Citi Bike users.
In 2010, there were 368 bicycle related crashes, 19 of which resulted in a fatality, Liu's report said.
From 2004 to 2009, the city had the highest fatality rate from bike wrecks in North America, according to a Rutgers University study cited in Liu's report.
"Riding the streets of Manhattan isn't comparable to riding the streets of any other city," Liu said at news conference.
The report's other recommendations include:
Raising Citi Bike's insurance liability, which is currently $10 million a year.
Increased education for bike riders and drivers about the rules of the road.
Tougher enforcement of traffic laws.
Melissa Brasier, 30, of the Financial District, who regularly bikes, agreed that it can be scary to pedal around Manhattan.
"It's because cars don't pay attention to bikers," she said.
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan slammed Liu's report and assured that the Citi Bike program is safe, even without a requirement that riders renting bikes wear helmets.
"Instead of suggesting last-minute barriers to a safe and low-cost transportation option for New Yorkers, the comptroller should support efforts that even his own report acknowledges have made our streets safer," she said in a statement.
Transportation Alternatives, the bike advocacy group, said Liu's report did not adaquetely address safety issues with Citi Bike.
"An effective plan would focus on preventing crashes in the first places," Transportation Alternatives spokesman Mike Murphy said.
This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: Transportation Alternatives did not work with Liu's office on his safety study nor did it endorse the report's findings.