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Will This Be the Year When DOT Finally Legalizes Key Pro-Cycling Rules?

12:01 AM EDT on May 24, 2023

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

Try, try again.

The city Department of Transportation is once again claiming it will tweak its rules to promote cycling and make it safer by allowing bike riders to glide through stop signs or through red lights at certain intersections — a failed effort that goes back many, many years.

According to a notice in the City Record last week, the DOT is again working on two rule changes that cyclists have long sought:

    • Allow cyclists to keep going through red lights and stop signs at so-called "Top of the T" intersections — so long as they yield to pedestrians if present. This is a version of the so-called Idaho stop, which allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs, albeit limited to intersections with no cross traffic.
    • Allow cyclists to make a right turn on a red light, again after yielding.

The agency says both changes will be implemented in the second quarter of fiscal year 2024, or sometime between October and December 2023.

Don't get your hopes up, though. In early 2021, the agency said it would make both rule changes between April and June 2021. The agency included the rule changes in its fiscal year 2022 agenda, too, and still said implementation would be between April and June 2021.

But those changes never happened. DOT spokesman Vin Barone said that delays in regulations are fairly common, but that "DOT still intends to pursue these rule changes and will follow up as we move our street safety program forward."

Meanwhile, the City Council is also getting in on the act, with Council Member Lincoln Restler (D-Williamsburg) putting up a resolution calling for the state to pass its "Idaho stop" law (S.2643/A.3986). Problem 1? Restler's reso has all of six sponsors. Seven if you include him. Problem 2? The state bills are stuck in committee, where they have been ... for years.

Restler did not return several calls, but his resolution points out many of the known benefits of allowing cyclists more flexibility on the roads. For one thing, giving cyclists a jump on a light helps "keep them out of the way of heavy automobile traffic."

And a much-cited 2010 University of California study showed double-digit percentage decreases in cyclist injuries after the implementation of the Idaho stop in Idaho.

As much as cyclists bemoan police enforcement of red lights, the NYPD doesn't write very many tickets against cyclists for running reds or stop signs. According to the NYPD, last year, cops wrote 8,869 total tickets for running reds or stop signs, or about 24 per day.

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