New Council Bills Will Create a Bike and a Pedestrian Mayor

Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez (left) and Carlina Rivera.
Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez (left) and Carlina Rivera.

We’re not only getting a bike mayor — we’re getting a pedestrian mayor, too!

On Tuesday at City Hall, Council Members Carlina Rivera and Ydanis Rodriguez, both of Manhattan, will introduce a package of legislation to create two new agencies: an Office of Active Transportation, and an Office of Pedestrians.

“Pedestrians and cyclists [are the] two most vulnerable road users,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement in support of the paired legislation. “These bills will ensure that not only safety improvements are implemented, but also ensure that all projects are done using best practices. They will also serve as a liaison between residents and agencies for issues affecting pedestrians, cyclists and other active transportation users.”

In Amsterdam, the bike mayor wears a ceremonial crest (which is really just a piece of a gear).
In Amsterdam, the bike mayor wears a ceremonial crest (which is really just a piece of a gear).

It’s not the first time that Rivera and Rodriguez have pushed the creation of a so-called “bike mayor” modeled on offices that have helped cities such as London and Amsterdam dramatically increase the number of bike trips. But rarely have those discussions included proposals specific to pedestrian safety as well. Indeed, a TA petition drive seeking the creation of a “bike mayor” office did not mention pedestrians, though the organization has long supported more safety for walkers. (London’s bike mayor, Will Norman, is officially the Walking and Cycling Commissioner.)

Tuesday’s rally will be on the steps of City Hall at noon.

A person who has seen the bills briefed Streetsblog on their contents, saying the new bike and pedestrian mayors would work inside the Mayor’s Office, rather than a DOT, so that they can operate across agencies in a way that hasn’t always been very coordinated within the current “Vision Zero partnerships” among the DOT, NYPD, Sanitation and other agencies.

“These people will assess conditions for safe biking and walking in the city and make recommendations for improvements,” the source said. “It’s critical that these positions are outside DOT — but, of course, they are more or less only as influential as the mayor, whomever that is, wants them to be.”

The office holders will comb through 311, for example, to make sure such things as double-parking hotspots or individual pedestrian choke points aren’t being lost in the millions of complaints received every year by city operators. (It is well known, of course, that the NYPD does not respond to many 311 complaints that get routed to the agency, as Streetsblog showed earlier this year.)

On the plus side, of course, the right bike mayor could become an ambassador for cycling itself, finally boosting the numbers of bike trips into the double-digits, which remains an unrealized goal of the de Blasio administration.

“Both bills will ensure that pedestrians and cyclists among many others who share the road with vehicles remain protected and secured,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

The push for the new offices comes amid a particularly bloody year in New York, with total road deaths up more than 8 percent this year. Mayor de Blasio, under fire as 28 cyclists have died so far in 2019, issued a cycling safety plan called “The Green Wave” over the summer, but it failed to create specific City Hall positions for cyclist and pedestrian advocates. The plan included no strategies to reduce the single biggest danger to pedestrians and cyclists: cars.

In fact, Mayor de Blasio has resisted the call to create a bike mayor position. A City Hall spokesman once famously said de Blasio was “already the bike mayor.”

After initial publication of this story, City Hall spokesman William Baskin-Gerwitz sent over the following statement:

New York City already has a mayor who has prioritized cyclists second to none. During the de Blasio Administration, cycling has grown faster than any other mode of travel in New York City, with a half-million rides per day. In just under six years the city has implemented Vision Zero and the Green Wave plans, installed more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes, dramatically expanded Citi Bike, and signed into law the Safe Streets plan making it safer and easier for New Yorkers who bike and walk to get around. We will review this legislation.

Streetsblog and its partner site Streetfilms, has been calling for a NYC Bike Mayor for years.

This is a breaking story. We will update later.

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A group of uptown elected officials, including City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, sent a letter today to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to include dedicated funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects in his executive budget [PDF]. The request echoes a call from street safety advocates and comes as the de Blasio administration must marshal resources […]