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DOT Contemplating Revolutionary, Pro-Cycling, Long-Overdue Rule Changes

Could it become a reality in New York City? Photo: Jonathan Maus with the Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

About freakin' time.

The city Department of Transportation is moving forward with a welter of ambitious rule changes designed to make cycling safer and less likely to attract the attention of police — and may finally be implementing a law to crack down on reckless driving that was supposed to be up and running by now.

It's all part of a document quietly filed last year that resurfaced last week when Twitter legend and lawyer Brandon Chamberlin noticed some of the agency's ambitions timelines. According to the document (embedded below), the agency will seek the following rule changes soon:

    • finally implementing the provisions of the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, which passed in 2020, but was immediately defunded and shelved by the de Blasio administration (this rule change is coming sometime between January and March of this year).
    • allowing cyclists to make right turns "during a steady red" light after a full stop and if no pedestrians are around (sometime between April and June this year).
    • allowing cyclists to roll through red lights or stop signs at "top of the T" intersections (intersections with no cross traffic), as long as there are no pedestrians. This rule change would formalize "existing behavior where there is no history of crashes" (sometime between April and June this year).
    • requiring car drivers and bicyclists to fully stop for pedestrians in crosswalks rather than merely yielding. The goal, the agency said, is to boost pedestrian safety by providing "greater clarity and public awareness on pedestrian right of way" (sometime in the first quarter of this year).
    • giving DOT the power to remove derelict bikes from city bike racks, a power currently only held by the DSNY, which does a well-documented poor job of clearing junked bikes (sometime between April-June).

Really? Well, not certainly.

"We are required to submit our anticipated plans for rulemaking to the City Record each year," agency spokesman Scott Gastel told Streetsblog. "If we move forward with rulemaking, the draft rule will be published and will go through the formal City Administrative Procedure Act process set forth in the NYC Charter. Stay tuned on these potential rules."

None of the rule changes above have yet been posted on the City Record, so "stay tuned" indeed. But let's take a moment to assess each possible change.

Activists are keenly interested in what will happen with the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, which would require drivers with 15 or more speed camera violations to take a safety course, yet was defunded by the mayor last year. Local Law 36 [PDF] requires the DOT to promulgate the rules for the program, so the May declaration could indicate some forward movement.

That said, activists pointed out that the city was required by the provisions of the law signed by Mayor de Blasio in February, 2020, to have the program up and running by October. The program sunsets in three years, regardless of how long it takes to set up.

"This is not optional for the city — the law uses the word 'shall' 20 times," said Marco Conner DiAquoi, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. "Yes, it's good to see some action, but this was exactly the time when we needed this law; immediately after COVID hit, speeding started going up. This would have been a great way to deal with the epidemic of reckless driving ... if the mayor had done his job."

The DOT didn't go into great depth about the timing, saying only that any rule change would be "at our discretion."

New permission for cyclists to yield, rather than stop, at red lights or "top of the T" intersections is a long-standing request of bicyclists, who risk interactions with police meeting ticket quotas and are also made less safe because of interactions with cars stopped at the same light. The state legislature is considering a bill that would legalize the so-called "Idaho stop" — also primarily as a safety measure and as a move to limit ticket stings (or, worse, racially biased policing) by the NYPD.

Advocates said there was a lot of good news in the proposed rule changes ... if they become rules, that is.

“Taken together, these rule changes could add up to a profound long-term shift in promoting New York City bike transportation," said Jon Orcutt of Bike New York. "They recognize that bikes and motor vehicles have radically different characteristics and could reduce quota-driven bike ticket stings that don’t improve anyone’s safety, while the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement program will allow the city to fairly sanction the worst drivers. It’s long past time to get that show on the road.”

As for the ability for the DOT to clear bike racks, Orcutt added, "Please do that yesterday."

On that one, Conner DiAquoi agreed ... to a point.

"Obviously, more bike parking is needed," said the TA deputy director, whose organization is like an usher yelling "Fire!" in the movie house of no bike parking. "But I can't help but think that DOT should use its resources to create more bike parking rather than create a new division to do the job that Sanitation is supposed to be doing. On the other hand, this is probably an agency that's frustrated and trying to take matters into its own hands. Clearly, if we had a mayor who cared about this issue, he would direct DSNY to do its job.

"All of these rules are long overdue, so I wish they'd gotten to them before the last year of Mayor de Blasio's term," he added.

DOT Fy2021 Capa Regulatory Agenda --Final by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

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