Five Months On, Bike Access to Buildings Law Showing Results

bicycle_access_locations_map.jpgThe location of every building with an official bicycle access plan. Image: City Council [PDF]

On the eve of Bike to Work Day, the New York City Council released new stats today measuring the impact of the Bicycle Access to Buildings Law. Five months after taking effect, the law has made it easier for well over a thousand New Yorkers to bike to work. An estimated 1,764 bike commuters now have somewhere to store their bike safely at work, thanks to the implementation of 176 "bicycle access plans." 

The law requires commercial buildings with freight elevators to allow cyclists entry to the building, as long as their employer consents to have bikes in the workplace. Surveys have repeatedly shown that New Yorkers who bike cite the lack of secure parking as the number one reason they don’t ride to work.

According to DOT statistics, 346 tenants have filed formal requests for their buildings to create bike access plans. Many of those requests are still pending, with the buildings within the deadline for compliance. That’s a level of participation "beyond my wildest expectations," said Council Member Gale Brewer, one of the law’s sponsors. 

The real impact of the Bike Access Law might be far greater, said Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell. "For every one of the requests that makes its way to the DOT," he said, "there are many more instances of buildings that are implementing bike access policies of their own accord." Watching City Council pass such a pro-cycling law was an impetus, he argued, for many building managers and landlords to better accommodate cyclists. 

For example, the press conference announcing these numbers this morning — headlined by Brewer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and transportation chair Jimmy Vacca — was held in front of Seven World Trade Center, where developer Larry Silverstein installed a slew of bike amenities without the prompt of a formal request for bicycle access. Another landlord with a major portfolio of office buildings, Trinity Real Estate, has also implemented bike amenities in many of its properties. 

Although the law is an important and innovative way to provide bike parking in New York City, there are still a few holes. In some buildings, for instance, freight elevators shut down at 5:00 PM, leaving cyclists unable to bring their bike out of their office after work. Brewer noted that bike access plans are concentrated in Manhattan, and especially Midtown. "I’m hoping that in other parts of the city, other people will be able to do this too," she said. 

There aren’t any plans to revise the law just yet, according to Brewer and Norvell. "We’re starting to get a sense of ways to expand or improve it, but we’re only five months in," said Norvell. "It needs some room to breathe." He expects a second look at the law to come in a year or two.

  • JK

    No comments? Why? This is so cool. The City Council is releasing maps and stats on the best bike bill it’s ever passed and council leadership is holding a press conf with a real estate billionaire to show off his bike parking. What city is this? I think the bike parking bill is the story of the year, maybe the decade if bike share doesn’t happen. At this stage it is a little snowball just starting to roll down a long, steep, hill. Long after the current DOT, mayor and council leadership are gone, this law is going to be putting ten of thousands of cyclists on the street everyday. This, and its more potent successor — the 2.0 version — are the legislative backbone of bicycling in NYC as surely as the greenways, bridges and protected lanes are the physical.

  • J

    Ugh. It’s been almost five months since my company submitted the application. Still no bike access, though.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I’m in limbo too. Cheers to those who’ve gotten their access, hope to join you soon. SL Green sucks.

  • NattyB

    Yah, um this law is like helpful for some, but that’s about it.

    I still have to park my bike on the street everyday, though, after checking the map, apparently another tenant in my building has a workable plan.

    My next employer (changing jobs in about 4 months) doesn’t have a plan, and I know that they don’t have good street parking nearby either. Nor, do I want to rock the boat and be “that guy” who has to make my employer deal with the regulatory $hit.

    I mean yah, if I worked at some creative design media type firm, then this would be great if the reason I couldn’t bring my bike in was the building management.

    But, I happen to work in a fairly conservative industry, such that, it looks unlikely I’ll be able to avail myself of the benefits of this law.

  • Matt

    @NattyB – There’s very little “regulatory shit” involved. It’s one simple form and then some waiting. It doesn’t take much.

    That said, I would like to see numbers on exemptions too. Our building managed to get an exemption because the freight elevator is not on file with the DOB, so it doesn’t count as a freight elevator (despite being designated for freight, manned, without call buttons, and a separate expense for deliveries). We’re in the middle of attempting a protest with the DOB, but there’s no procedure for it, and it’s been a long quiet road. Even so, I’m incredibly supportive of the law and am jealous of the buildings that do have bike access plans.

  • Noah Kazis

    @Matt: Here are some preliminary numbers on exemptions. 19 buildings filed freight elevator exception requests, and 38 filed alternate parking exception requests, in which they say they have some other way of providing parking instead of allowing bikes in the building. I’m not sure if they were all approved, or if cases like yours count as a formal exception request, but it’s a start.

  • Brad

    My building (Chrysler building) told me they have a bike room built and all ready to go but the DOT hasn’t approved it yet and it’s been months. I asked if we could at least use it for bike to work day and they called the DOT and still said no.

  • They’re full of it. The DOT doesn’t have to approve a bike room. They could open it up tomorrow and allow you to use it. The only thing the DOT would have to approve is whether the bike room satisfies the requirements of the bike access plan law.

  • Gwin

    Uh, what about all the people who can’t bring their bikes in because their building’s freight elevators have restrictive, unreasonable hours? This is a huge loophole in the Bicycle Access Bill!

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