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Construction Firms Must Create Safe Detour For Cyclists — Or Have Their Permits Revoked

12:01 AM EDT on May 29, 2019

Construction firms must now create a safe, alternative route for cyclists if they block a bike lane — or have their permit revoked. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The city will now be able to yank on-street construction permit from developers who block the bike lane and don't provide an alternative safe route for cyclists, thanks to a Department of Transportation-backed City Council bill that is expected to pass on Wednesday.

The city council’s transportation committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to support the bill by Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera that would require construction companies to provide safe detours for cyclists, instead of spitting them out into lanes of speeding traffic.

The first draft of the bill lacked enough teeth to actually make it work — those who blocked the lane would be slapped with just the current $100 fine. But with DOT support, the bill now gives DOT the power to revoke the permits it issues to construction firms to encroach on the street. The amended bill still lacks steeper cash penalties for non-compliance.

If the bill, Int. 1163-A, passes as expected by the full council Wednesday, it would go into effect immediately after the mayor signs it — and it's a step in the right direction for making streets safer, said Rivera in a statement to Streetsblog. 

“When construction impacts a bike lane it doesn’t just inconvenience bicyclists – it becomes a public safety hazard to all New Yorkers who have to navigate around these projects," said the legislator, who also thanked DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "I’m proud that my bill mandating DOT permits contain rules for the maintenance and protection of bike lanes during on-street construction work will be voted on tomorrow."

Currently, construction firms are only required to post signs warning cyclists when their work blocks a bike lane, but there is no mandate to create an alternate path and there are no uniform standards to create safe routes around the impasse — as a result, bike lanes are repeatedly blocked by construction companies.

Last year, DOT said it issued 126 summonses to companies for failing to put up a sign that the bike lane was blocked. Such summonses come with a $1,200 fine — a relative pittance for developers putting up multi-million-dollar towers. And existing law never required a protected detour. But under the Rivera-DOT bill, developers must provide a detour that is clearly demarcated, at least four feet wide, protected from cars by solid barriers, and separated from pedestrian traffic.

The Rivera bill passed the Transportation Committee on Tuesday along with another street safety bill that does not have the de Blasio administration's support — Manhattan Council member Ydanis Rodriguez’s Vision Zero Design Standard bill, which would require the city to redesign streets for safety. That proposal, which Speaker Corey Johnson sees as a way of putting pressure on the administration, passed unanimously. It has a veto-proof number of co-sponsors, suggesting a fight with Mayor de Blasio is on the horizon. It's also on the full Council agenda for Wednesday.

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