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New Version of Bicycle Access Bill Surfaces in City Council

3:47 PM EDT on June 4, 2009

Without a secure place to put your bike, riding to work is a lot less appealing. In fact, as multiple studies have shown, fear of theft is the number one factor that keeps New York City cyclists from commuting by bike. So you could say there's a lot riding on the Bicycle Access Bill (Intro 871), which would make it much easier for cyclists to bring their bikes inside the workplace.

After an initial hearing in the City Council last December, the different parties -- including transportation advocates and the real estate industry -- headed to the negotiating table. The revised bill is now scheduled for a second hearing later this month, and you can peruse the latest version online.

This iteration of Intro 871 includes several new provisions, but the basics are intact: office building owners would have to grant access to bicycles if an employee or tenant requests it. Crucially, landlords won't be able to skirt the requirement simply because their buildings have only passenger elevators, not freight elevators. As long as the passenger elevator is big enough to accommodate a bike, cyclists would be able to bring their rides inside.

Mayor Bloomberg's office voiced support for the bill, which takes a page directly from PlaNYC. "It's something we want to see move forward very quickly,"  spokesperson Marc LaVorgna said. "We're working with the City Council on putting a final bill together that can be passed and that can work." LaVorgna confirmed that some aspects of the bill are likely to change before it comes up in committee, but declined to specify which provisions might be adjusted.

A spokesperson for Christine Quinn's office said it's too early for the Council Speaker to comment on the draft legislation.

One thing to keep an eye on as the bill progresses will be the exemption mechanism.

As Intro 871 is currently written, landlords don't have to comply if their building is within 600 feet or three blocks of "covered off-street or indoor
no-cost bicycle parking." Depending on what that language actually refers to, large swaths of buildings could skirt the requirement while their tenants are left without adequate, secure bike parking. We have a request in with the City Council to clear up the definition. (One theory is that this language refers to bike parking in garages and attended parking lots, which would become much more common under Intro 780, sponsored by Council Member Oliver Koppell.)

Building owners can also obtain an exemption by providing "sheltered bicycle storage in public/private plazas," another hazy term that we're trying to pin down.

Hearings on both the Bicycle Access Bill and Intro 780 are scheduled for the Council's transportation committee at 10:00 a.m. on June 15.

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