Council Passes New Delivery Cyclist Rules; Vacca to Target E-Bikes Next

Today the City Council passed four bills to tighten regulations on delivery cyclists. The bills, debated last month by the transportation committee, now go to the mayor for his expected signature.

Scourge of the streets? The City Council is on it. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/89239849@N00/1205542247/##erinsikorskystewart/Flickr##

Together, the legislative package would create civil penalties for what had until now been criminal offenses, extend enforcement authority to DOT in an effort to ensure compliance by employers, tighten requirements for reflective vests, and mandate bike safety courses for commercial cyclists. The bills do not address moving violations, such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way.

DOT has created a six-person commercial cycling unit to ensure that employers are properly educating and outfitting their employees. The agency says it has visited 2,640 businesses and hosted events for 900 delivery cyclists in Manhattan. Currently, the unit is visiting restaurants and providing education materials, focusing first on the West Side and expanding to the East Side, Lower Manhattan and Sunset Park by the end of the year. Starting in January, the unit will issue citations to employers who are violating the laws.

One of the bills, Intro 783, would require commercial cyclists to complete bike safety courses and is named after Stuart C. Gruskin, who died after being struck by a wrong-way bicyclist in Midtown in 2009.

In a statement today, DOT said that it supports the bills, but at a September hearing, the agency objected to the wording of Intro 783 on the grounds that administering a safety course for the city’s estimated 50,000 commercial cyclists would pose an excessive burden on DOT and the delivery industry.

Council members were all smiles as the legislation was passed. “For too long, we’ve been on streets that look like the wild wild west,” said transportation committee chair James Vacca. “Hopefully those days will come to an end with this legislation.”

“I want to thank Chair Vacca for his ongoing work on bicycle safety,” said Speaker Christine Quinn. “It’s an issue we hear persistent complaints about.”

Vacca indicated that he is interested in putting electric bicycles on the committee’s agenda in the near future.

In fiscal year 2012, 176 cyclists and pedestrians were killed in traffic, an 11 percent increase from the year before, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. In the same period, there was no known case of a cyclist hitting and killing a pedestrian in New York City. The last such case on record is Gruskin’s death in 2009.

The bills passed committee this morning, 11-0, with council members Darlene Mealy and Eric Ulrich absent. This afternoon, the legislative package passed the full council overwhelmingly. Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. abstained from votes on three of the bills and was the lone vote against Intro 783. According to DOT, Mayor Bloomberg will sign all four bills.

This post has been updated.

  • Joe R.

    I think the hidden agenda here is to push the delivery industry from bikes to cars. Why else have regulations which make absolutely no sense, such as the requirements for helmets and reflective vests? And why the push to make penalties for using electric bicycles more draconian? The only answer is to make it so burdensome to deliver by bike that it’s easier to use cars instead. Why the desire to have delivery people use cars? Perhaps some lobbying by the car industry who sees increased use of bicycles, particularly electric bicycles, as a threat to their domination.

    This has to be the worst legislation I’ve ever seen the City Council pass, and given their history of passing harmful or just plain useless legislation, that’s saying a lot.

    Vacca: “For too long, we’ve been on streets that look like the wild wild west. Hopefully those days will come to an end with this legislation.”

    Sorry Mr. Vacca, but it’s motor traffic which creates the wild west atmosphere, not a few delivery guys tooling around on electric bikes. If there was less competition between pedestrians and bikes for the scraps of space leftover from cars, there would be no delivery bike “problem”.

  • I mentioned this crackdown in a post at the weekend on my blog (
    http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/10/do-as-you-like-motorists-and-dont-blame.html). I agree that some of these delivery cyclists are irritating. I don’t enjoy having them come the wrong way down a cycle lane at me. But in the year to June 291 New Yorkers died after motor vehicles hit them, so it seems bizarre to be cracking down on the mode of transport that is mainly merely irritating, rather than killing, people.

    They should also, as Joe R notes, be careful about what they wish for. On Saturday in Brooklyn Heights, I saw a very badly driven car bearing the name of a local takeaway restaurant. Do we want to drive these deliveries into motor vehicles, where the delivery people can mow down large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists far more effectively?

    The nub, I suppose, is Chairman Vacca’s point about how they hear persistent complaints about delivery cyclists. That’s hardly surprising. If one attends a community meeting on the upper east side, residents are hardly likely to complain that they’re being allowed to tear down the West Side Highway at whatever speed they damn well please. They think that’s their right – and hang the consequences if a few cars every year crush someone on a crosswalk or slam into another vehicle. They complain because people always complain about other people whom they see as different from themselves.

  • Driver

    “One of the bills, Intro 783, would require commercial cyclists to complete bike safety courses and is named after Stuart C. Gruskin, who died after being struck by a wrong-way bicyclist in Midtown in 2009.”
    Funny how no one proposes a yield to pedestrians course for drivers.  I suppose if there was a victim to name it after it might be thought of as a worthy undertaking.

  • Anonymous

    @SB_Driver:disqus

    Funny how no one proposes a yield to pedestrians course for drivers. I suppose if there was a victim to name it after it might be thought of as a worthy undertaking.

    Yep, the more than 500 pedestrians and cyclists who’ve been killed by cars since Gruskin was killed by a bike just aren’t as *convenient* for the city to memorialize. He was a person. They’re just numbers.

  • Anonymous

    This is so fucking annoying.  I live in Battery Park City and I cross West Street (West Side Highway) every morning on foot or bike.  

    It is incredibly unsafe.  There are so many cars that run reds, roll through stop sighs, run the light coming out of the Battery Tunnel, and tons of peds jaywalk when crossing the egress of the Battery Tunnel, b/c it’s a long light.  It’s a recipe for disaster (we do have crossing guards for part of it, but, it’s not like they issue tix when people run the reds).

    It angers me to no end, that these fuckers are so intent on stamping out a non-existent problem.  We might as well be those assholes pushing all those BS voting id laws, to eliminate the phantom problem of in person voting impersonation. 

    It sucks what happened to Mr. Gruskin.  The perpetrator should be in jail.  It’s a crime.  Just enforce the damn law on the books. 

    Where are the Republicans!  Isn’t this burdensome regulations for small business owners?  Mandate a class?  If delivery guy X is biking recklessly, then give him a ticket!   

  • I walk and I vote

    Congratulations, Chris Quinn, Jess Lappin, and James Vacca! Your relentless crusade against delivery cyclists has been a success.  No one has been killed since 2009!

    Now, can you please do something about all the people who continue to be killed by cars? Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Stephen: Please check your factoid that 23% more peds and cyclists were killed in FY2012 than FY2011. I’m pretty sure the 23% figure covered *all* traffic fatalities; the increases were 47% for drivers and occupants, and “just” 11% for peds and cyclists. I provided those stats in this space two weeks ago: http://www.streetsblog.org/2012/09/28/tonights-ride-and-forum-are-for-livable-streets-for-all/.

  • Anonymous

    @Komanoff:disqus You are exactly right. Thank you for catching my error. I’ve corrected the post.

  • KillMoto

    More people are killed by motorists on NYC sidewalks than by cyclists, regardless of location.  

    Sad.

  • AdamDZ

    “Council members were all smiles as the legislation was passed. ”For too long, we’ve been on streets that look like the wild wild west,” said transportation committee chair James Vacca. “Hopefully those days will come to an end with this legislation.”

    Idiots. Real idiots.

  • KeNYC2030

    My big fear is that with the crackdown on electric bikes, the restaurants will turn to gas-powered, highly polluting motor scooters.  Have you ever been in a dense city where food is delivered by scooter at all hours of the night?  Most surely, you did not SLEEP in that city! 

  • krstrois

    I’m very sorry for Mrs Gruskin’s loss, but the untouchable halo of sanctity that her husband’s death has afforded her foundation is unwarranted, to say the very least. 

     

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, @cc36704b289cbef0ac72a06121c6c6d8:disqus for saying what we all think.  For every Nancy Gruskin there are quite literally THOUSANDS of family members who have lost people to motor vehicle in this city since 2009.  They have received no closed door meetings with Jimmy Vacca. Chris Quinn can barely mention their names or be bothered to act on their behalf. 

    Gruskin is free to advocate for whatever cause she wants and I don’t fault her for taking up this one.  Fine.  It’s the fact that Vacca, Quinn, and Lappin fall on their knees to worship her that disturbs me.  What are they doing for the family of Rubin Baum or Emma Blumstein?  Absolutely nothing!  Jess Lappin jumps to the podium every time someone is almost hit by a bike, but when an 80 year old man is killed after bravely saving his wife from the same fate she’s nowhere to be found.

  • LP

    My biggest concern with the measures being introduced is that it doesn’t seem that they’ve included any delivery cyclists in the conversation. Where are the voices of these people? Who is advocating for their safety?

  • fj

    More corruption of the rule of law with the legal system favoring the wealthy.

  • fj

    Why should we follow systems of rules that are unfair?

  • fj

    Why should we follow systems of rules that directly benefit the rich already quite skilled & successful at parting US from our money & rights?

  • fj

    Why should we follow systems of rules that are dangerous to our health?

  • Joe R.

    Suggestion to restaurants-in January when enforcement kicks in stop all deliveries. Make sure every single restaurant, including the big chains, is on onboard for this. Continue the no delivery policy until these ill-thought out laws, the reflective vest/helmet laws, and the city ban on e-bikes are repealed. The City Council obviously doesn’t listen to reason, but they will listen to people complaining they can no longer eat in.

  • Station44025

    OMG these guys are infuriating.  It’s great to see how hard these cynical clowns can work to look busy solving an imaginary problem, appeasing a small class of cranks by penalizing the poor and voiceless.  Meanwhile, actual problems go unmentioned and ignored.  The intellectual dishonesty is staggering.
    Wait, no one is concerned about their sacred parking spaces being taken up by the inevitable delivery cars?? Or didn’t they think that far ahead…  

    And banning e-bikes is the next solution in search of a problem?  Get to work guys!! Keep the Robert Moses dream alive!

  • moocow

    Here comes a whole lot of double parking!

  • fj

    Just like there are incentives for going green, solar, improving efficiencies, reducing emissions
    . . .

    There should be incentives for this type of zero emissions, zero energy, zero footprint,
    minimally dangerous delivery methods.

    Yet the cash rich & mature fossil fuel industry is subsidized on the order of $1 trillion per year.

  • Joe R.

    Note to City Council-You can’t legislate safety by taking away freedom. In fact, you can’t legislate safety any more than you can legislate morality. At best, you can engineer safety, but this job falls outside the prevue of legislators..

  • AdamDZ

    Meantime another pedestrian gets killed by a bus while Jimmy Vacca celebrates a bicycle safety victory. What a bunch of crooks.

  • David

    I think this is a good move. As an avid cyclist, I constantly see bike delivery guys speeding the wrong way down streets and lanes at all hours of the day and night. No lights, no identification of place of business. It’s nuts. The city could team up with lighting companies to offer these at a low cost. The electric bikes are the worst. 

  • KillMoto

    Wouldn’t this whole problem go away if there ware protected, two-way bike lanes on all Avenues and every 1 to 2 Streets? 

  • ron

    can anyone tell the public what kind of penalties will be issued to bikers that break the so called laws  that already in effect, and why aren’t these laws in effect for all bicyclist and who is going to enforce these laws is there going to be a new bike officer like traffic or police officer.

  • Anonymous

    ” The bills do not address moving violations, such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way.” Then what the hell’s the point?

  • Anonymous

    One person is killed by a bike and these assholes jump at the chance to create anti-bike legislation. 300+ people are killed by cars and it’s “oh yeah, whatever, shit happens.”

  • Joe R.

    @cetriche:disqus “Then what the hell’s the point?”

    The “point” is so these morons could feel good about passing legislation to do “something” about a problem which exists only in the minds of a few of their more vocal, cranky 1%er constituents who have no real problems in life. Of course, like so much other legislation the City Council passes, it accomplishes nothing except to cause the police to harass people who are just trying to earn a living. Really, these delivery cyclists have enough to deal with in the course of doing their jobs without worrying about complying with a bunch of nonsensical, counterproductive regulations. The fact that they’re mostly minorities might have something to do with all this. It’s really easy to drop the hammer on “people who don’t look like us”.

  • Anonymous

    What do you think about other cities cyclist rules?

  • mekineer

    Pedestrians kill cyclists, more so than the other way around, I would think. Especially on the Brooklyn Bridge. Cyclists don’t turn around on a whim or suddenly change directions.

  • Anonymous

    What? Pretty sure a pedestrian has never killed a cyclist on the Brooklyn Bridge.

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