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Once Anti-Cyclist, Queens Pol Now Wants Camera-Enforced Protected Bike Lanes

1:47 PM EDT on March 19, 2019

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker has said pedestrians are to blame for the city’s hit-and-run epidemic. Photo: David Meyer

A Queens Assembly Member who once wanted all cyclists to carry a license just like drivers now wants to enforce bike lanes with summons-issuing cameras — but some bike riders familiar with the pol’s previous attitude towards cyclists are suspicious if the bill is really a secretive move to harass the riding public.

Assembly Member Michael DenDekker said he introduced bill A6674 — which calls for camera enforcement to keep drivers out of protected bike lanes — after seeing cars and trucks in his western Queens district endangering cyclists by swerving into the new Queens Boulevard bike lane.

“Drivers illegally using these lanes must be held accountable,” the pol said on Twitter, later telling Streetsblog, "This particular bill was written about a lane on Queens Boulevard, a beautiful bike lane for our residents to use. Cars with four wheels and trucks occasionally drive in that lane, it’s not what that lane was designed for.”

The program would start out as a pilot with just 50 cameras placed in protected bike lanes throughout the five boroughs, said DenDekker, but that number could be increased each year.

Cars caught in a protected bike lane would get a ticket, likely similar to the one motorists get for driving in a bus lane, which is about $115-$150, said DenDekker. 

All you need to know. Photo: Scott Knobler
This photo of a 112th Precinct cop parked in the Queens Boulevard bike lane is all you need to know about the current state of enforcement of protected bike lanes. Photo: Scott Knobler

If DenDekker's name is familiar to Streetsblog readers, it is because he is the same lawmaker who once blamed “distracted pedestrians” for their own deaths and who, in 2011, wrote a bill that would have required bikers to get a license and would have set up cameras in bike lanes to keep an eye on them. 

That time around, the purpose of the cameras was to catch scofflaw cyclists for not a wearing helmet — which is not against the law — or to make sure they had lights. He also told Gothamist that he was concerned that cyclists were “riding in a manner which is accustomed to the lane or ... being reckless and endangering and hurting others.”

So cycling advocates are naturally wary of DenDekker's new bill.

“I’m still a little skeptical because it wasn’t too long ago that the Assemblyman wanted bikers to get licenses,” said Cristina Furlong, from Make Queens Safer. “But I have faith that he does kind of want to protect the obviously growing number of cyclists in the neighborhood.”

And other cyclists pointed out the bill’s use of the word "vehicles" instead of "motor vehicles" suggests that DenDekker's camera enforcement program would apply to 50-pound, unmotorized bicycles as well as 3,000-pound cars and 10,000-pound trucks.

“That would be something that would be need to cleared up, the language for owner of motor vehicle,” said Eric McClure of StreetsPAC, the political action committee. 

But DenDekker said the bill he wrote eight years ago and the one he introduced last week are entirely different, and he's not trying to sneak one past cyclists. In fact, he said he's willing to amend the language to further protect cyclists.

"We will make sure the language matches up with what we are trying to do," he said. "No way trying to penalize bikes for riding in a bike lane."

DenDekker also pledged not to reintroduce legislation requiring licenses for cyclists, according to his spokesman.

"I can unequivocally say that the issue with the withdrawn bill was resolved and that he has no intention of revisiting or reintroducing that legislation," said George Hadjiconstantinou. "Right now, our office is focused on keeping cars and trucks out of bicycles lanes.

The Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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