Advocacy group pedals ‘bike mayor’ for New York

With more CitiBikes coming and other increases in bike ridership, the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is leading the call for the creation of the city post of “bike mayor.”

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The nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives, which advocates for street safety in the city and nonvehicular forms of travel, is calling on Mayor de Blasio to appoint the city’s first so-called bike mayor.

The group says this person would be an “an interagency representative who would serve as a liaison between city government and people who ride bikes in the five boroughs.” The group also started an online petition for the cause (campaigns.transalt.org/petition/nyc-cyclists-demand-bike-mayor).

Transportation Alternatives stressed several reasons why a bike mayor is needed: Protected bike lanes are not growing fast enough; two-wheeled transportation will be expanding with expansions to the CitiBike program and pending City Council legislation to legalize electric scooters and all e-bikes; and there were four recent cycling deaths in the city, including two in just the first week of 2019.

“It’s no secret that streets where people have physical protection from moving vehicles are safer and more attractive for biking,” said Ellen McDermott, Transportation Alternatives interim director. She credited the city’s Department of Transportation for expanding bike lanes. However, she added, “There are still too many streets that repel would-be riders because they lack safe space for people on bikes.”

Cold weather doesn’t stop cyclists on the Hudson River bike path in Chelsea. Villager file photo

Several international cities already have a bike mayor, including Amsterdam, Mexico City, Sydney and Sao Paolo. An Amsterdam-based organization called BYCS has led the international Bicycle Mayor Program, “to bring together the public and private realms to uncover the massive economic, health and environmental benefits of increased cycling.”

In fact, New York wouldn’t even be the first American city to have a bike mayor. That distinction belongs to the bustling metropolis of…Keene, New Hampshire, population 23,000. Its first bike mayor, Tiffany Mannion, was inaugurated in 2017 and has launched programs such as bike share, community rides, business partnerships that give discounts to cyclists, and a “bike kitchen” that provides tools and training for people to fix their own bikes.

Anna Luten, who was Amsterdam’s bike mayor from June 2016 to November 2017, said in a statement, “Since [I moved] to New York, it’s clear that people who ride bikes in the five boroughs are not well-represented in city government.

“The bike mayor can take the lead in building meaningful campaigns to spread the right message toward all road users,” she added. “In Amsterdam, we were able to build safe infrastructure for all citizens. This would not have been possible if not for the city making a commitment to people on bikes and making sure their interests had a voice in the administration.”

McDermott of Transportation Alternatives said, “A bike mayor would be instrumental in bringing safe bike accommodations to more neighborhoods, and could help advance the Vision Zero Street Design Standard, which would speed up the growth of the protected bike-lane network by syncing street redesigns with repaving projects.”