NYC street safety bills target car culture with focus on pedestrian, cyclist security

New York City would have to install dozens of miles of bike and bus lanes each year under a bill City Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced Wednesday.

The legislation would require the city to include those initiatives in new five-year “master plans” that prioritize bicycle and pedestrian safety; access to and use of mass transit and reducing traffic congestion emissions.

“Making our streets safer and breaking the car culture is something we’ve been working on for a while now, and I’m proud that we have the opportunity to fulfill this commitment for our fellow New Yorkers,” said Johnson, as he touted two other street safety bills that were passed by the council on Wednesday.

Under Johnson’s bill, the city would have to publish its five-year master plans every fifth October, beginning this year. The legislation would require the plans to include the installation of at least 50 miles of protected, or physically separated, bicycle lanes each year alongside at least 30 miles of bus lanes that are separated from traffic via new medians.

Creating a city street master plan was a key initiative of Johnson’s “Let’s Go” blueprint for transportation, which he unveiled at his first State of the City address earlier this year. The city’s master plans also must include equipping at least 1,000 signalized intersections each year with technology that prioritizes the movement of buses — by either holding green lights or more quickly cycling through red lights.

“We are reviewing the legislation,” mayoral spokesman Seth Stein said.

The city would have to install at least 30 miles of bus lanes, separated from traffic, each year under a bill proposed by Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The city would have to install at least 30 miles of bus lanes, separated from traffic, each year under a bill proposed by Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Preserving bike lanes

The governing body also passed a bill from Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera that ensures cycling space is preserved on streets where construction projects spill into bike lanes. The city’s Department of Transportation said Wednesday that it had updated its stipulations to comply with the bill, mandating construction permit holders to maintain a temporary bicycle lane should the striped plane be blocked.

“When construction impacts a bike lane, it doesn’t just inconvenience cyclists, it becomes a public safety hazard for all New Yorkers,” Rivera said. “And this just creates safer culture for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.”

It was the first time the DOT updated its bike lane stipulations for such work in about 10 years.

Ydanis Rodriguez, the council’s Transportation Committee chairman, sponsored the second bill that passed, which requires a new safety-oriented system through which the DOT must complete when tackling street redesign projects.

Under the bill, the department must run through a checklist of street design elements that could be added as part of the work — including bike lanes, wider sidewalks and pedestrian islands. If a certain element on the list is not used, the city must provide an explanation as to why on its website.

Rodriguez has championed the bill as a way to make the city’s street projects more transparent.

“This bill goes along with the goal to make our city the most walkable, pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly in the nation,” Rodriguez said.

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