Get one thing straight: Council Member Antonio Reynoso doesn’t want to allow bicyclists to blow through red lights. What Reynoso does want are traffic laws that acknowledge the considerable differences between cars and bikes, and set expectations accordingly.
In a resolution Reynoso will introduce this afternoon, which got some withering coverage in the Post, the North Brooklyn rep calls for state traffic law to enable cyclists in New York City to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. (The version viewable on Legistar, which calls for both stop lights and stop signs to be treated as yield signs, is outdated, Reynoso said.)
In the absence of such a rule, NYPD’s periodic “bike blitzes” tend to consist of pointless stings at locations like T-intersections, where cyclists routinely break the letter of the law without jeopardizing anyone. The effect is to deter cycling in general, not the type of aggressive red light running that actually poses a risk to people.
The idea of aligning the rules of the road with how most people bike isn’t new. (Idaho enacted bike-specific rules in the 1980s, hence the shorthand “Idaho stop.”) But in New York City, it didn’t enjoy the legitimacy conferred by a real elected official making a real policy proposal until now.
Reynoso bikes regularly, and he thinks the time is right to get serious about changing the rules. “My experience on the road is that traffic policies in the city are not necessarily informed or practical,” he told Streetsblog. “This black and white, ‘vehicles and bikes are the same thing,’ doesn’t make any sense.”
Idaho isn’t the only place to give cyclists more flexibility at traffic signals. Paris, for instance, has started to let cyclists treat stop lights as yield signs at some intersections. In the U.S., there are no such recent precedents, though advocacy campaigns in Oregon and San Francisco have given it a shot.
Even New Yorkers with very short memories can recall the TV news segments about “bike bedlam” and City Council proposals for bike licenses and mandatory helmet use. There hasn’t been much of an opening to discuss things like the field of vision on a bike compared to the field of vision behind the windshield.
Reynoso wants to start talking about those differences, even if his bill comes up short this time around. “Some people might say it’s a long shot, but just having the conversation is a step in the right direction for our city,” he said. “Today is day one of being able to talk more openly about bikes as a transportation option in our city.”