Council, DOT weigh bill to hold motorists blocking bike lanes accountable

NYC DOT is planning major advances in the installment of protected bike lanes in Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2020.

Acting city Transportation Commissioner Margaret Forgione testified in City Council Tuesday morning about a bill that would address illegally parked delivery vehicles in bike lanes citing an increase in cyclist deaths over the last two years.

The bill in question, introduced by Brooklyn City Councilman Stephen Levin, would create a new civil penalty for motorists, trucks in particular, blocking anything from bike lanes, bus lanes when restrictions are in effect, sidewalks, crosswalks and fire hydrants.

The violation would apply when vehicles are parked within 1,320 feet of a school, especially.

“We must respond to the dramatic evolution of our streets amid the ongoing pandemic while continuing to address the urgency of eliminating traffic fatalities and meet so many other demands on the agency,” Forgione said. “So we must prioritize our efforts toward the most proven, effective and promising strategies, regardless of the concerns we were received. This proposal would require staffing upfront, investment, legal work to make rules and evidence guidelines for multiple types of offenses, as well as capacity and effort at oath. All requiring significant time to set up.”

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez called on the DOT to begin collecting and centralizing data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a state agency, in order to get a gauge on how many new delivery vehicles are added to New York City roadways in the interest of informing public policy on safety.

Even determining the success of ticketing delivery companies for these violations was not clear for NYPD, who also testified.

According to NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Royster, millions of summonses were handed out to trucks throughout the past year, but determining how many of these fines were paid by companies were another matter for Department of Finance to respond to.

“When we start to look at the number of parking summonses that were issued throughout the city. There were at least 7 million parking summons that were issued in the year of 2020,” Royster said. “However, when you start to drill down and look at the number of parking summonses issued to trucks. In this over 1 million parking summons and over 25,000 moving summonses for traffic violations in 2014.”

The number of resources to step up enforcement for Levin’s bill as well as how complaints could be submitted were of concern for Forgione.

Claiming there has been an increase in traffic enforcement agent assaults as well as disputes between members of the public, Forgione was cautious to back a plan in which New Yorkers would need to submit a photo of motorists violating the law, hoping to avoid road rage incidents.

Forgione hopes that the delivery industry will utilize cargo bikes in increased numbers rather than using trucks in the future.

According to Royster, the number of calls about cars illegally parked in bikes in 2019 was approximately 17,851, compared to the 8,369 reported in 2020, equating to an decrease of 53%. The majority of the calls in 2020 were from January to February, and dropped off dramatically once the pandemic set in.

Read the full text of Councilman Levin’s bill here.

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