Brewer and Rosenthal Bill Would Allow Folding Bikes in Passenger Elevators

A bill from Gale Brewer and Helen Rosenthal would allow folding bike access in passenger elevators of commercial buildings.
A bill from Gale Brewer (left) and Helen Rosenthal would allow folding bike access in passenger elevators of commercial buildings.

Five years ago next month, the city opened the door for bike commuters — or more accurately, their bikes — with the Bicycle Access Law. That law provided, for the first time, a legal framework for New Yorkers to petition commercial landlords for bike storage space at work.

A new City Council bill could improve upon existing rules. Tomorrow, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Helen Rosenthal will introduce legislation that would require commercial buildings to permit folding bikes — so long as they are “fully folded” — on passenger elevators.

Under current law, access for all bikes can be limited to freight elevators. Intro 897 would simply allow commuters to access passenger elevators with the rough equivalent of a piece of carry-on luggage.

You may recall what a huge lift the Bicycle Access Law was in 2009. Ben Fried described it as “the biggest legislative victory ever achieved by bicycle advocates in New York City.” To get it passed, advocates and friendly electeds had to overcome what Ben called “some notion of office building propriety that the mere sight of a bicycle would violate.” The climate isn’t altogether different today — cyclists still have to contend with bike-averse landlords and security personnel. But in the era of Citi Bike, and even Vision Zero, maybe this common-sense bike access measure will have a smoother path.

  • BBnet3000

    Please pass this law. I don’t know what my next job will be but it would be nice to know that I can always take out my old Dahon to get there.

  • Jesse

    I didn’t know this was even a problem. People get so offended by the sight of bicycles it’s absurd. The rule should be: wherever you can bring a baby carriage unfolded, you can bring a full-sized bike, and wherever you can bring a baby carriage folded, you can bring a folding bike.

    The two are comparable. They are similar in size and nuissance they cause to people around you (even if the dimensions aren’t exactly the same). They are both exposed to the outside with wheels that touch the gross new york ground. (Sidewalk / Street… does it matter? They’re both filthy. In some ways a baby might be less hygienic even). They both tend to be lifestyle choices whose main benefit is to the person seeking the concession. People tend to get annoyed at both on the sidewalk.

    I am not saying baby carriages are a huge nuissance. I’m just saying that bikes aren’t either and if we can tolerate one we can tolerate the other.

  • soexcited

    My previous work building — 625 Madison Avenue — had a sign at the front desk that read “Ask about our bicycle access plan.” Turns out, the individual tenants of the building could decide they didn’t have space to store bikes and would disallow them based on that. My company told me I could pay $7 a day or $75 a month to park my bike at a parking garage two avenues away.

    Instead, I bought a folding bike and a cover for it and took the thing in the passenger elevator. It fit nicely under my desk, and no one ever said a thing.

  • R

    My building allows UPS, USPS and FedEx delivery personnel to take hand trucks loaded with packages on passenger elevators, but try to bring a folding bike on and they direct you to the freight elevator. Bikes really must do something to whatever area of the brain processes logic and reason.

    There is no reason not to vote for this bill.

  • qrt145

    Is there any reason not to apply it to residential buildings as well?

  • Alex

    I’m lucky that my office has a garage with an employee bike room at ground level. But a friend of mine works at an office building that has bike storage that you must take the freight elevator to access. The freight elevator is only open until 5pm and since she usually works until 6 so the bike room is useless to her.

  • Andres Dee

    If I carry a folder in a bag, it should be no one’s business.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I hope this passes. Been yelled at by security for bringing my folding bike into the elevator as they let luggage twice the size up with no complaint.

  • Greg Costikyan

    My email to Gail Brewer:

    Thanks for your support for the idea of permitting folding bicycles in elevators in office buildings.

    I’ve commuted by bicycle in New York for 20 years (I’m 54, so not your typical spandex-clad cyclist), and while in some cases I’ve been able to take my bike up on the freight elevator, it hasn’t always been so. Memorably, I was forced to lock my bike on the street on 9/11, and it was stolen then… Insult upon injury, to be sure.

    We can, however, go beyond this. In San Francisco (where I lived for 3 years before returning to New York), employers are required to provide secure bike storage, at least in new construction, and provide facilities to enable cyclists to bring their bicycles to it.

    We live in a dense, compact city, one in which the spread of cycle routes make it increasingly easy to get around on two wheels; in my 20 years of cycling, it’s become clear to me that, for journeys of <5m, bicycling is the fastest way to get around the city, and surely the most healthful. SF is in some ways an easier city to bicycle in (weather rarely above 70), but in others a more difficult one (those hills!). With the right policies, we have the opportunity to create, in NY, the first North American city to approach the share of journeys performed on two wheels by cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen in Europe. But to get there, we need employers to accommodate the needs of employees who are inclined to commute by cycle.

    This is an excellent first step, but we need to go considerably beyond this to get toward the kind of cycle share of transport that we can and should obtain.


    Greg C.

  • BBnet3000

    Thats so heavy compared to rolling it though.

  • ohhleary

    That’s exactly the problem in my building. It’s such a cop-out to say that there’s access via the freight elevator when there’s no leeway for working past 5pm.

  • andrelot

    each building should make its own rules. Like pets on elevators: some allow, some don’t.

  • qrt145

    That doesn’t answer my question, because what makes residential buildings different from commercial buildings in this regard? Why should residential buildings be allowed to have capricious rules while commercial buildings are not?

  • Joe R.

    If anything, it makes even less sense for a residential building to restrict bike access. You can always opt not to ride your bike to work if your work place doesn’t allow bike access. However, if where you live doesn’t allow bikes in the elevator, your only options are to lug the bike up the stairwell, or chain it outside. Other than people’s silly prejudices, there’s no reason not to allow bikes in passenger elevators. It’s a sad commentary on society that we even have to pass laws to force building owners to allow something which common sense says should be allowed.

  • andrelot

    Residential buildings are “private” in a way that commercial buildings are not. Multifamily buildings are already allowed to enshrine restrictions like limitations on noise (beyond citywide codes), pets, sub-letting of rentals or rentals altogether, production of vibrations (like certain laundry machines), restriction on skateboards, roller blades etc.

    Buildings are not allowed to pass discriminatory bylaws, like restricting dwelling to people of a certain religion, or enforce practices of a religion, excluding ethnic/racial groups or prohibiting people of certain legal professions from living here.

    I think regulation on transportation of bicycles within the building would fall on the first category: general rules that are meant to create a general set of behavioral expectations that comes with living on a building where a lot of private building space is shared with a number of other building dwellers.

  • andrelot

    Living in a multi-family building has some upsides and downsides. A downside is the need of rules that limits certain behaviors that interfere on the living experience of others. A secondary concern, but not to be ignored, is that if bicycles are allowed on elevators, staircases and hallways, the moment some third-party is hurt, a lawsuit is filled against the building management or its HOA, or whatever entity can be sued for accidents happening on common areas.

  • Joe R.

    My point is things like baby strollers are about the same size and can cause any of the problems a bike can. If you’re going to restrict bikes then to be fair you have to restrict any other type of wheeled conveyance of similar or larger size. That also includes wheelchairs. That’s really the problem here-the rules against bikes are prejudicial because it’s only bikes which are restricted. Either allow bikes, or restrict all the other things I mentioned. I’ve yet to hear any real good reason on why bikes shouldn’t be allowed on elevators, provided common courtesy is observed (i.e. if the elevator is full you wait for an empty one before taking your bike on board).

    Nearly anything can cause injuries to people. A building’s management shouldn’t be sued if a tenant causes an action which injures another tenant. That’s strictly a private matter to be resolved between both parties.

  • qrt145

    I’m all for respecting my neighbors and sharing the common space. I can even understand that there is some rationale against full-sized bikes because they take too much space in the elevator (another common excuse for the rule is that bikes are dirty, but that doesn’t fly in my book because bikes are no dirtier than strollers or even than boots).

    But we are talking about fully-folded folding bikes here. An item not bigger than a suitcase, a musical instrument, a (non-bike) sports item, and many other things that no one ever thinks to prohibit. There’s no valid rationale whatsoever against a folded bike on an elevator, and therefore a rule against it is arbitrary and unnecessary. It makes just as much sense as passing a house rule banning the wearing of Pink Floyd T-shirts on the elevator. It might not constitute discrimination against a protected class in the legal sense, but it sure is an affront to common sense.

    Singling out folding bikes (or even bikes in general) for their supposed risk of injuries to third parties in an elevator borders on comedy. You are more likely to injure someone in an elevator with stiletto shoes than with a bike.

  • Kevin Love

    Meanwhile, in the rest of the world…

    One does not have to look far, just to the City of Toronto to see mandatory bicycle parking guidelines for both residential and commercial buildings. Guidelines for both long-term parking for residents/employees and short-term parking for visitors/customers.

    Failure to follow the bicycle parking guidelines means that the building’s construction is not approved. And yes, the new car-free buildings do follow the guidelines. See:

  • andrelot

    There is a basic difference: wheelchairs and baby strollers stand on their own. They don’t fall if left alone. Bicycles can easily tumble sideways.

  • @andrelot – It would have been much more useful to put this notion forward when all those laws were passed requiring buildings to have car accommodations. Now that we’re surrounded by such disasters and need to contain the damage they’re doing, it’s pretty much the exact wrong time to invoke libertoonian notions.

  • @andrelot – A meaningless distinction.

  • Harry Liang

    Yup, just got harassed by the doorman today. It’s a folding bike, it fits in an elevator with plenty of room for others. Where is the common sense. We need this law to protect the right to bike.


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