By DANIELLE KOGAN
A City Council committee tackled the problem of growing bicyclist fatalities on Thursday by backing stiffer fines against motorists who don’t allow enough space when passing bikes.
A bill under consideration would require vehicles to leave three feet of space, or pay a $50 fine when illegally passing cyclists on the road.
The action comes as transportation activists seem to be losing faith in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate the traffic-related deaths as outlined in his Vision Zero plan.
“I mean I hope people don’t lose faith in Vision Zero,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, “and this year, obviously, it’s a terrible tragedy in terms of cycling fatalities.”
Trottenberg said the three feet of space would be more educational than enforceable, and added she ultimately believed it would allow for safer streets.
One potential strategy to lessen the number of fatalities on the road proposed by the DOT in the meeting was an increase in Leading Pedestrian Interval signals for cyclists in high-volume areas. LPIs give pedestrians between three and seven seconds to enter an intersection with a green signal ahead of traffic traveling in the same direction, and the DOT argues giving the same rights to cyclists would allow more motor vehicles to see them and avoid crashes and fatalities.
“These numbers are out of control we need to do whatever we have to do,” said Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez. “There’s not enough resources right now…there is one person dying every week.”
According to Councilman Donovan J. Richards, a potentially bigger problem related to cyclist’s safety is vehicles parked in their lane. Richards showed a video of police cars parked perpendicular to traffic and in a bike lane.
Police Transit Chief Thomas Chan reported a 28.5% of bike lane summonses since July 2019.
Families for Safe Streets member Mirza Molberg led the City Council in reading the names of cyclists who died. They were between 10 and 72 years old. Molberg’s girlfriend Lauren Davis was slain by a motorist while riding a bike in Brooklyn in 2016.
“What hasn’t worked is this: in the wake of cyclists being killed, police officers being sent out to the same areas and issuing tickets for things that aren’t even illegal, like not wearing a helmet,” Richards said.
Photo by Danielle Kogan