Council Bills May Convolute City Policy on Cyclist Safety and Derelict Bikes

The City Council transportation committee will take up a slate of bills tomorrow, including one that would create a “bicycle safety task force” that is opposed by Transportation Alternatives.

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The Sanitation Department is already authorized to remove abandoned bikes. The problem is the agency doesn’t act. Photo: LES BID

Intro 219, introduced in 2014 at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, would establish a panel to “develop recommendations on how make New York City more bicycle-friendly.” Speaking to AMNY, however, Matt Viggiano, director of land use and planning for bill sponsor Rosie Mendez, made it sound like the task force would be yet another venue for people to complain about delivery cyclists and e-bikes.

The two-year task force would have a broad agenda, examining issues that include the allocation of federal funding and the development of physical infrastructure. The group would be made up of commissioners or designees from DOT, the Department of City Planning, and the Parks Department, plus appointees selected by the mayor and council speaker.

Transportation Alternatives believes a task force focused exclusively on cycling should not be necessary, and that bike safety should be a major focus of the city’s existing Vision Zero Task Force instead. TA sent us this statement:

We oppose the bicycle task force bill because bicycling infrastructure and safety should be an integral part of the existing NYC Vision Zero Task Force, and not viewed as something separate. Rather than create an additional meeting and reporting structure, the spirit of this bill should be built into renewed inter-agency commitment to bike safety as a top Vision Zero priority. To that end, having the Department of City Planning’s active participation in the Vision Zero Task Force would only enhance conversations about bike lane expansion and acceleration in the Vision Zero context.

Another bill, Brad Lander’s Intro 787, deals with clearing abandoned bicycles. Under the bill, the city could impound a bike left unattended for 36 hours after it is tagged by an “enforcement officer” from an unspecified agency. Owners would either pay a fine to reclaim impounded bikes or contest impoundments at Environmental Control Board hearings.

Abandoned bikes render bike parking spots useless and turn into eyesores on sidewalks, which is why the Department of Sanitation already has a protocol [PDF] for removing them. As reported by WNYC in 2012, the problem is that DSNY is reluctant to remove bikes even when they are obviously discarded or forgotten. The agency generally doesn’t act unless someone wades through a cumbersome complaint process, leaving a lot of abandoned bikes littering the streets.

It’s not clear how legislation would solve this problem, as opposed to working with DSNY to make its process more effective. A proposed pilot program from the Lower East Side BID offers a model the agency could work from, with a protocol to systematically identify abandoned bikes and refurbish or recycle them [PDF].

Other bills on Wednesday’s agenda:

  • Intro 696, sponsored by transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, would require DOT to report the number of cyclist-involved crashes in parks as well as roadways, and report the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from those crashes.
  • Intros 603 and 604, from Jimmy Van Bramer, amend recently adopted legislation that attached fines to hit-and-run crashes. The bills would increase the minimum fine for repeat violations to $10,000 and require NYPD to report how many times civil penalties were applied and the amount of fines imposed.
  • Helen Rosenthal’s Intro 863 would specify that identifying information on vests worn by commercial cyclists be reflective and printed in a font not less than two inches high.

Tomorrow’s hearing begins at 10 a.m. in City Hall council chambers.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    TA is spot on. BTW – 2 years from now citibike will routinely have 80,000 trips a day and there will be approximately 300,000 total trips per day taken on bikes in the city ( most in Manhattan ) . Cyclists will be 15% of roadway traffic throughout the CBD. Cyclists will outnumber private cars in the CBD and other bike areas. Whatever anti-bike nonsense this team force tries to create will be shot down toute suite. beyond critical mass

    696 is going to be amusing – zero, zero,zero every year

  • Reader

    Task forces are a great way of not getting things done and are generally a waste of time and money.

    Thankfully, we know what needs to be done and that’s what’s worked in the past: more protected bike lanes, an expansion of Citi Bike, slower traffic speeds, more bike parking…

    This isn’t rocket science.

  • BBnet3000

    The existing protocol sucks. The bike has to be missing parts or have multiple parts showing visible rust (I guess Alu bikes get to stay forever?). This means that a bike has to sit there until it becomes completely shitty before it gets removed.

    I’d also like to see them add something about donating the bikes rather than sending them to the dump. That said, 36 hours is too short of a timeframe. There are lots of people who clearly store their bikes on the street rather than in their homes, and removing the bikeafter 36 hours may end up being little more than city-sanctioned theft for a lot of people. I think a timeframe more like 2 weeks or a month would be sufficient to clear out the bulk of bikes littering our bike parking without false positives.

  • ahwr

    Under the bill, the city could impound a bike left unattended for 36 hours after it is tagged by an “enforcement officer” from an unspecified agency. Owners would either pay a fine to reclaim impounded bikes or contest impoundments at Environmental Control Board hearings.

    I don’t know what the appropriate flag time would be, but as an added complication of an overly short one, what will the process be to prove ownership if a bike is impounded?

    http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Inside-San-Francisco-s-stolen-bike-warehouse-5014821.php

    There are rows of mountain bikes, road bikes, rusted clunkers, fat-tired cruisers, fancy carbon fiber, and new and old frames of every color.

    The cycling cache, which recently stood at more than 800, is the fruit of the San Francisco Police Department’s labor – the bicycles were recovered in stings, raids, stakeouts and chop shop busts – yet none of the bicycles has been claimed.

    The problem, according to Officer Matt Friedman, the department’s point man on bicycle theft, is that there’s no way to find the rightful owners.

    “We haven’t been able to identify the owners,” Friedman said. “It’s just an ongoing issue that the SFPD is continually responding to. … We need more people to actually report bike theft, to know their serial numbers and to take pictures of their bikes.”

  • Motorisims

    Since only about half of the hit and run drivers are apprehended, I don’t see how increasing fines will help. I say we just make hit-and-stop voluntary for motorists. You just drop a business card out the window at the scene, and deal with it when you’re free. We’re always in a hurry, and traffic isn’t ever good (because bikes).

    The derelict bike bill scares the crap out of me. If we remove bikes after just 36 hours, will cars be next? Can you imagine what a nightmare it’d be for us drivers who pay for parking (it costs many gallons of fuel to idle during alternate side parking) if our cars were towed (not simply ticketed) after just 36 hours?

  • ahwr
  • Motorisims

    Do they have to be in as poor a shape as bikes?

  • stairbob
  • stairbob

    (This is satire, right?)

  • Cars get seven days, assuming they are otherwise parked legally (though this is obviously not enforced):

    ***
    (9) Street storage of vehicles prohibited. When parking is not otherwise restricted, no person shall park any vehicle in any area, including a residential area, in excess of seven consecutive days.
    ***

    So if you can park a car for seven days you should be able to park a bike for at least that long too.

    –BikeSnobNYC

  • 311 Maven

    To get Sanitation to remove an abandoned bike, remove the chain and call 311 and tell them the bike is abandoned, inoperable and has no chain. It works like a charm. This tip was shared with me by a 311 operator who listed Sanitation’s definition of “inoperable” after I’d called about the same bike a half dozen times. Of course, you shouldn’t have to do this, but after years of fruitless calls to 311, it’s the only thing that’s produced quick, reliable results

  • Motorisims

    Turning the engine off and on hurts the car. Or so they say. I can’t risk hurting the car.