De Blasio motionless on support for transportation improvements above and below ground

Cyclists ride through Times Square during evening rush hour in New York
Cyclists ride through Times Square during evening rush hour, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 15, 2020. Picture taken April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith

A group of cycling advocates is pushing for City Hall to include reforms toward how commuters on two wheels are enforced by NYPD as the movement to change policing continues across the country.

Bike New York published a list of 11 bullet points recommending that cops loosen up on bicycles riding on sidewalks or without bells as well as those urging local government to put some aspects of traffic enforcement pertaining to cycling under the purview of DOT.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, stood firm in his belief that NYPD officers have adopted the goals of Vision Zero and that enforcing traffic infractions belongs in their job description.

“The New York Police Department has not been on board with efforts by the NYC Department of Transportation and other parts of city government to make New York City safe and welcoming for bike riding,” Bike New York said in a statement.” A city that embraces, supports, and encourages bike riders requires strict adherence to fairness and a focus on truly dangerous behavior in traffic law enforcement.”

Among the reforms requested by the organization were the end to officers being required to meet quotas for summonses to cyclists and forgiveness for what they deem to be safe traffic maneuvers such as “top of the T.” Read the full list of recommendations here.

In a Thursday morning Q&A session with reporters, de Blasio expressed his faith that cops on city payroll were just as committed facilitating more transit options but did not go crazy acknowledging NYPD’s commonplace practice of blocking bike lanes with police vehicles.

“They believe in it. They’ve put a huge amount of energy into it. We all have to do better. If you say, is there more to do? Yeah, but I don’t doubt for a moment the commitment of the NYPD and I just see these things differently than some of the advocates do. Traffic enforcement, I think does belong in the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “Yeah, there’s no question we can do better at continuing to clear bike lanes. I want us to do that. We’ve talked before about needing to be conscientious about getting police vehicles out of bike lanes, unless it’s an emergency, we got more to do on that.”

Mayor de Blasio also stated that the city has no options for even helping mass transit in the city, under the control of the MTA. The city and its $9 billion budget shortfall would not have the resources to aid the state transit agency facing a $10 billion deficit.

The statement follows comments by the mayor the day prior that he may, or may not, consider implementing HOV lanes into the city to cut back on the amount vehicular traffic moving around the already chocking the streets. While this was simply a notion he seemed to entertain, advocates of street safety and reduced congestion have condemned what they view as a thin effort from de Blasio to set a new precedent transit in the city.

Viewing the pandemic as the perfect opportunity, the mayor’s hesitancy to close streets to cars to open up space for social distancing and lack of action securing more road space for bike lanes was not lost on many whom he represents.