Antonio Reynoso: Let’s Talk About Bike Laws That Make Sense for NYC Streets

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.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Photo via City Council

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 (The version viewable on Legistar, which calls for both stop lights and stop signs to be treated as yield signs, is outdated, Reynoso said.)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.”

  • eThinkAgain

    the simple answer is: The city should embrace tighter safety regulations: licensing,
    registration, insurance coverage, and penalties for violations on
    everything from traffic infractions to parking illegally.

  • eThinkAgain

    ummm — “Cyclists have excellent visibility and situational awareness” is your unsubstantiated opinion. Not one is required to take a vision test!

  • eThinkAgain

    ummm : “cyclists can stop and maneuver much more effectively than motor vehicles” is your unsubstantiated opinion. Not one is required to take a test on such skills.

  • Joe R.

    I’m asking that you be banned from posting here. You’re flooding this board with the same nonsense in a bunch of posts. If you said it once or twice, that would have been fine but based on your responses it’s apparent you’re not here for any type of serious discussion.

  • eThinkAgain

    death is not the only danger … but fair discussion with this well-funded bike lobby is impossible — they are narcissistic supremacists. TIME TO ORGANIZE the citizens of New York City, petition the city to enforce NYC DOT Traffic Rules and Regulations, NYC Administration Codes and NYS Vehicle and Traffic Laws on all bicycle(s), skating or gliding on in-line skate(s), electric powered bicycle(s), hover board(s) and any vehicle(s) covered and mentioned in NYS and NYC DOT and DMV law. https://www.change.org/p/the-city-of-new-york-mayor-bill-bill-de-blasio-charles-schumer-nypd-brad-hoylman-rosie-mendez-nyc-to-enforce-vision-zero

  • eThinkAgain

    to whomever reviews this ban request: Joe R posted 7:46 a.m., Thursday Nov. 26 “You know what, your replies aren’t even rational. My 76 year mother who is starting to get dementia makes more sense than you. All you’re here to do is demonize cyclists, not for any rational discussion. Go fuck yourself, the conversation’s over.”

  • Joe R.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/about/comment-moderation-policy/

    Relevant parts emphasized by me:

    Streetsblog is a moderated forum. We work hard to maintain a high level of quality and collegiality in Streetsblog’s comments section. We may edit or delete ad hominem attacks, unnecessary or uncreative profanity, off-topic posts, lengthy or poorly written rants, flat-earth arguments, sock-puppeting, and comments that we feel don’t add any real value to the conversation that’s underway.

    Commenters who use a real name or established identity and have participated for some time in the online community will generally be given much more leeway than those who post anonymously.

    We prefer that the Streetsblog comments not become a Livable Streets advocacy echo chamber. We encourage debate and are happy to see opposing viewpoints intelligently expressed and cogently argued in the comments section.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    8 New Yorkers killed by bikes versus 2,500 killed by drivers in prior 14 years.

    Cyclists are .003 of problem. Drivers are 99.997 of the problem.

    Drivers also maimed 700,000 additional New Yorkers over same period.

    Methinks your efforts might bear more fruit asking for 25 MPH speed limit & failure to yield to be enforced.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Joe,

    he has a whopping 4 signatures on his petition.

  • Joe R.

    Yeah, I doubt it’ll go anywhere given that the entire petition itself is based on a falsehood, namely NYC doesn’t enforce traffic laws on bicycles. We both know it does, and to a much larger extent than needed for safety. Still, it should be amusing to see what happens to this petition.

  • Susan_SS

    It would make sense if more bike riders were respectful of pedestrians, Bikes are a good transportation option but riders have to cooperate. Too many bicyclists are inconsiderate, too aggressive and scare the ^*&^%& daylights out of vulnerable seniors and others.

  • bolwerk

    *shrug*

    If you don’t want tons of dumb shit, don’t install disqus. :-p

  • ThereIveSaidIt

    1) Cyclists have “potential” excellent visibility and situational awareness. In practice, they tend to have an overblown sense of invincibility and are deluded about what they can and can’t pull off. Stand on the corner of 14th st and Broadway every day and watch cyclists zig zag at high speed through dense crowds of pedestrians on the crossing. They think they’re in the Tour de France. I have seen cycle/pedestrian collisions here on numerous occasions.

    2) Traffic signals and stop signs exist because certain road users – whether it be car drivers, cyclists or pedestrians – cannot be trusted to use good judgment. The idea that cyclists are somehow more responsible than motorists is clearly nonsense.

    3) “Often safer” does not mean “safe enough to abolish red lights for them altogether.”

    4) Convenience does not trump safety

    5) Once again you’re presuming that cyclists are inherently safe and responsible road users. My everyday experience and observations suggest that this is not the case at all.

    6) Yes it IS behavior that cyclists regularly engage in. I see it EVERY SINGLE DAY in this city.

    7) Potential severity of injuries is not an argument. A person can crack their skull and die just from falling over. A pedestrian/cycle collision can result in broken limbs, lacerations and brain damage. Just as an illustration, I know someone who collided with a luggage cart being pushed out of a building on Park Avenue, fell over, hit his head and lost his hearing in one ear.

    8) That is possibly the most ridiculous use of the race card I have ever heard – well done! Desperate times, desperate arguments…

    9) You could say the same about ticketing a motorist for blowing a red light on a quiet street. Do you think that cars should also be able to drive through red lights if there is clearly nothing coming?

  • ThereIveSaidIt

    “Drivers are worse” is not an argument. Regardless of how reckless motor vehicle drivers are or aren’t, the fact remains that cyclists are also reckless, and collisions between bicycles and pedestrians have the potential to be fatal. Those are the salient points here.

  • ThereIveSaidIt

    Well to begin with, there are many times more cars on the road than bicycles. And secondly, the number of injuries or deaths caused by motor vehicles does not in any way mean that bicycles are more or less potentially dangerous to pedestrians. I just knew that in making my argument, the replies would largely consist of people yelling “but cars are more dangerous!” Fine, cars are more dangerous. This has absolutely no influence whatsoever on the question of whether or not it’s a good idea to let cyclists blow red lights. As a thought experiment, imagine there are no cars, only cyclists and pedestrians. What then would be your answer to my argument, given that you couldn’t compare bicycles with cars? Also, if you replaced all of those cars with bicycles then I have no doubt that the number of pedestrian/bicycle collisions would skyrocket. And these collisions can cause serious injuries, life changing injuries and death.

  • Joe R.

    The reality is lots of cyclists are doing and will continue to do exactly what the law seeks to legalize whether it is legal or not. Moreover, they’re doing it safely for the most part. Your complaints seem to be based on those who might be operating unsafely. This law would let the police focus on the most dangerous cyclists, instead of just going after cyclists for safe but technical infractions. Along the same lines of thought, I would rather the police ticket motorists for failure to yield, lane jockeying, tailgating, and aggressive driving rather than for BS like tinted windows, not wearing seatbelts, or going 10 mph over the limit on a mostly empty street. If safer streets are really your goal, you should favor this law. If you favor ticketing cyclists for the sake of ticketing them just to reach summons quotas, then keep the status quo.

    This whole nonsense about getting cyclists to follow motor vehicle traffic laws to the letter has been going on for decades. We haven’t had any success with it. We never will. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. Cyclists will follow laws which respect and make sense for their mode, just as pedestrians will (i.e. I think pedestrians crossing on red when there’s no cross traffic should be legalized also). That’s what this law is about.

    On your last question (“Do you think that cars should also be able to drive through red lights if there is clearly nothing coming?”) my answer is if lines of sight are good enough for them to safely do so, then yes. However, if that’s the case, then you shouldn’t have a traffic signal there in the first place. You should have a stop sign or yield sign instead.

  • Joe R.

    Picking your nose has the potential to be fatal also. What reasonable people go by are probabilities. What are the probabilities bikes operated recklessly will kill or injure someone? They’re very small. The fact only 8 people have been killed by bikes in the last 15 years, despite the rampant reckless operation of bikes you say exists, is testimony to that fact. It’s not good public policy to focus on things with low probability of causing death or injury. Suppose the city spent large sums getting police to arrest people who were out during thunderstorms in order to prevent deaths by lightning? Wouldn’t you think that was a gross misuse of police resources? Bikes kill fewer NYers than lightning.

  • Joe R.

    If there were only cyclists and pedestrians, the red light argument would be moot because there wouldn’t be any need whatsoever for traffic signals. No place in the world where there are only cyclists and pedestrians uses traffic signals. To do so would be ridiculous and pointless since both users are perfectly capable of negotiating space on their own.

  • eThinkAgain

    And yet, Joe R., at 7:46 a.m., Thursday Nov. 26 you posted to me: “You know what, your replies aren’t even rational. My 76 year mother who is starting to get dementia makes more sense than you. All you’re here to do is demonize cyclists, not for any rational discussion. Go fuck yourself, the conversation’s over.”

  • eThinkAgain

    Fair discussion with this well-funded bike lobby is impossible.Please consider the new petition to enforce the current laws. https://www.change.org/p/the-city-of-new-york-mayor-bill-bill-de-blasio-charles-schumer-nypd-brad-hoylman-rosie-mendez-nyc-to-enforce-vision-zero

  • Alexander Vucelic

    FYI the guy is using 2 accounts

  • Andrew

    all bicycle(s), skating or gliding on in-line
    skate(s), electric powered bicycle(s), hover board(s) and any vehicle(s) covered and mentioned in NYS and NYC DOT and DMV law.

    It’s cute how you somehow neglect to list the type of vehicle that is responsible for the overwhelming majority of fatalities and injuries.

    Eliminating a mere half of one percent of motorist-on-ped fatalities would save significantly more lives than eliminating all cyclist-on-ped fatalities. Any enforcement resource directed toward “bicycle(s), skating or gliding on in-line skate(s), electric powered bicycle(s), hover board(s)” is an enforcement resource not directed toward motorists.

  • Alicia

    Wait, are you saying you think “visibility” and “vision” are the same thing? Heh.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    I have to say that any study outside an urban environment is really completely invalid. As a core Manhattan cyclist and a former Brooklyn cyclist and before that a North Shore of LI cyclist (and a Parisian and London cyclist) I can tell you the modern suburban driver will hit anything and everything. Why? Their environment has been engineered to allow them to focus on taking their pills, hitting their kids in the back seat, drinking, texting, eating and watching DVDs while driving. Looking left, right, in the rearview mirrors or paying attention is not necessary. A well seasoned city (urban) driver is a different story, they bring their A game most days. BTW Staten Island (Satan Island), Queens, Brooklyn are in the suburban category. Trucks SHOULD not BE on Manhattan streets! Large buses should not be on Manhattan streets or at least cross streets. Fun fact, Peter Pan, Bolt, Greyhound use only major avenues, you never see them plying the cross streets, yet King Coal, and a thousand other major tour bus line do.

    And this brings me to http://bicycleuniverse.info/tr.. Again, anything outside of a core urban environment London, Paris, Manhattan, Rome etc. is bullshit stats. Dallas, Huston, Darien CT. is all bullshit.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    When NYC gets pedestrian killed by car to zero than you can trot out your stupid petition. Seriously, well funded bike lobby. Do you live in the city? Or are you upset about having to OBEY THE TRAFFIC LAWS as written for automobile drivers FIRST as they do nearly ALL THE KILLING! If you are scared about walking around outside that is what you should be fearful about. In addition and this is important the automobile lobby including Eunice Bratton is much more “well-funded” than the bike lobby will ever be and a I suspect you know this.

  • Joe R.

    Dallas and Houston are office parks connected by highways. To call them cities, outside of maybe the very small and still not very dense CBDs, is an insult to real cities.

    BTW Staten Island (Satan Island), Queens, Brooklyn are in the suburban category.

    I might categorize them as suburbs interspersed with a few small cities (i.e. the denser parts like downtown Flushing or Jamaica).

  • Alicia

    .. and so you want to discourage bicycles in favor of cars. In the name of pedestrian safety, of course.

  • Susan_SS

    Don’t be ridiculous. Asking bicycle riders to respect pedestrians doesn’t mean cars are exempt from the rules.

  • • So of course, naturally, “blow through” is the wording used in the Murdoch tabloid headline.

  • @Geck – Which is of course what “treat STOP signs as yields, red lights as STOP signs” would codify.

  • @ThereIveSaidIt – Bottom line, if it’s the “blow red lights” behavior you object to, you should support this bill because it would focus enforcement on that behavior instead of on the harmless behavior that #myNYPD goes after.

  • @eThinkAgain – DoRab? Is it really you?

  • @ThereIveSaidIt – To begin with, how many more times, exactly? These comments (and this site) are filled with actual statistics and they don’t support your arguments. Hand-waving about “more” without any attempt at establishing the common denominator — the bare minimum rudiment of any discussion about statistics — doesn’t cut it here.

  • @Joe R. – Overall bicyclist visibility and awareness doesn’t count, apparently, because this one guy somewhere wasn’t paying attention. Meanwhile, we’re perfectly fine with an “accident” in which a motorist drives onto a sidewalk and kills people if he can claim to have had a medical event of some kind.

  • @Matthew Smithburger – You are correct, studies that are largely suburban or which are spread around metropolitan statistical areas are a poor reflection of urban bicycling reality. I will also say further that NYC is particularly different from other cities due to its highest density, lowest car ownership, and unique No Turn On Red situation.

  • @Alexander Vucelic – His spamming comments on this story alone outnumber his signatures.

  • @Susan_SS – Sounds like you should be fully in support of the proposed law, then, because it directs the NYPD to enforce behaviors that are an actual hazard to pedestrians. As was explained in the article.

  • Susan_SS

    I think most bike riders would exercise good judgment, but many pay little attention – and some actually seem to enjoy- scaring the &%$^%*&R&^ out of pedestrians. By the way, I am a 70+ bike rider.

  • Luke Elmer

    I am a commuter cyclist here in Brooklyn. I consider myself a courteous cyclist, and while up till a couple years ago, I would frequently go through red lights in a safe manner, I was never cutting off pedestrians or flying through crossing lanes.
    Growing up in the city it’s been come to be expected that bikes will do this, and now when I make a full stop at a stop sign it slows down things for everyone, every time in my experience, because the drivers just expect me to go ahead, and we end up in exaggerated hand signals ushering one another to go ahead.
    Going back to a couple years ago, I moved back to the city after being away for five years, and proceeded to ride my bike as I always had, not knowing the city had begun ticketing cyclists for red light infractions. Low and behold, I had stacked four over the next couple years.
    The courts being backed up as they are, I didn’t end up in court for the first one until I had already incurred the others. And much to my surprise the fine doesn’t end at $190.
    I payed about $960 for my third ticket. For safely riding my bike through a quiet intersection on an arterial road commuting to work.
    Coming up February 22nd I will go to court for my fourth and final ticket from that time and have no idea what to expect. I have not run a red light in at least two years (I’ve postponed this hearing a couple times), but fear I will be asked to pay another fine of $960 (or even greater??).
    I am a hair stylist at the beginning of my career, making less than $25,000 annually. Cycling to work is the most practical way for me to get around this city. I have never hit a pedestrian, or been hit by a vehicle.

  • MG

    Hi Susan,
    I am fully supportive of respectful and considerate cycling and walking. I agree that there are too many inconsiderate and aggressive people In NYC, and I find the proportions the same in the driving, walking and cycling communities. To directly contrast your statement about inconsiderate cyclists, I feel too many pedestrians are inconsiderate and impatient. If you cycle in NYC you have undoubtedly experienced this. On my 14 miles to/from work every I routinely have to doge pedestrians that are impatiently waiting in the bike lane or in the street, stepping off the curb without looking, and crossing by darting out from between parked cars. When this happens it scares the daylights out of us both! However, when this or other uncomfortable situations arise due to cycling/pedestrian interactions I don’t view it as a personal problem or attack, I view it as a system problem. What is it about NYC that creates so many spaces in NYC that pedestrians and cyclists come so close they scare each other? I refuse to see it as only problem with the cyclist him/herself.

  • MG

    I disagree with your cyclist hate speech.

    I do agree that traffic enforcement in this city is ridiculously bad and I would like the Major to get the Police force to enforce the road laws that everybody (pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and taxis) breaks regularly.

    We are essentially all here because we have ideas on how to make this city safer, but we also want to reduce traffic and get everywhere quicker. As a motorist it angers me to see bicycles zipping around at night without any lights. As a cyclists it angers men to see pedestrians stepping out into my path without looking up and with headphones in, when electric bikes are zooming past me in the bike lane, and when cars and trucks are illegally standing in the bike lane.

    I’ll sign your petition if you edit your post which calls me an abusive, arrogant scofflaw, nut-job narcissist.

  • MG

    I get what you are saying and I see that too, I also see:

    TOO MANY motorists distracted driving, parking and standing where it is illegal and not signaling their turns.

    *everyday I see motorists texting, looking down at their phone and holding their phones while driving

    *everyday I see cars and trucks alike not signal their turns

    *everyday I see cars, taxis, livery cars, trucks and bicycles not yield to pedestrians crossing

    *everyday I see taxi drivers counting their money or writing notes on a pad on their steering wheel while driving

    *everyday I see cars and trucks, UPS, FedEx, Fresh Direct, livery cars, taxis etc parked in bike lanes, double parked on one way streets forcing cyclists to swerve into traffic

    ***I find this to be the most astonishing, many of these actors are PROFESSIONAL COMMERCIAL drivers so you’d expect they are better trained to know the laws and qualified to operate more safely than civilians. ALAS it seems to have the opposite effect, that they feel more entitled to the road and their industry encourages them to break parking law or drive aggressively if it makes more money***

    *everyday I see pedestrians waiting several steps off the sidewalk and into the street blocking bike traffic and cars making turns alike

    *everyday I see cars at the front of a line of traffic not realize the light has turned green because they are distracted

    I’m a ped, I’m a motorist, I’m a biker. What I’m not is a complainer. I just deal with the conditions and don’t get too upset. I personally will do what I think is safest for me, even if it means disobeying a sign. I’m extremely considerate of pedestrians who are crossing and have the right of way. If nobody is coming I’d much rather pass a light and bike without car traffic behind me than wait and then have to get started pedaling while a column of impatient motorists speeds by me. 2c

  • MG

    Hi ThereIveSaidit,

    May I propose a logical reason for safety and arguments sake? Our bike lanes have been engineered so that we may have a car or truck turning right ACROSS a cyclists lane who is going straight. Please agree that we would never design an intersection of motor vehicle lanes like this! I understand why cyclists feel endangered when a light turns green and as they start pedaling the truck right next to them turns straight into them, because that is DANGEROUS! I realize that the law says cyclists should stop on the line next to the cars and trucks, but after too many close encounters I prefer to get ahead enough of the first car so I enter their forward view. You can’t ASSUME they are signaling, looking around them and using your mirrors. I learned that in driving school!

    Second, you are exaggerating the proposal by saying “blow a red light”, which suggests carelessly speeding, rather than “yield”.

    Why not let car drivers do the same? Orders of magnitude difference in mass, size, speed, momentum, force and overall lethality. You were just saying that as a joke right?

    Third, disregarding your views or biases on specific reckless people who are cyclists (yes I see them too, and they piss me off), standard game-theory logic would say that an organism who is vulnerable, underpowered and unprotected is going to act more cautious than one who is encased in metal, overpowered and lethal. However I don’t think that “them whole thing” even presumes that.

    Fourth, the potential for injury in a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian is real. That said, a bicycle occupy’s very little width in the road and there is enough room for a bicycle to avoid a pedestrian, unlike a car or truck which takes up the entire lane. I know you must agree with me because you’ve witnessed a lot of cyclists weave through crossing pedestrians without catastrophe. A car could not do that. THAT is the difference between bicycles and motor vehicles.

  • MG

    Are you suggesting we replace all the cars with bicycles? That is BRILLIANT!

    You keep coming back to bicycles being ABLE to cause serious injuries, yet when people bring up statistics you refuse to contend that while they CAN hurt, they in reality BARELY EVER do.

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