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Electeds Roll Out ‘Bike Safe’ Campaign While Admitting Cars are the Real Source of Danger

A trio of elected officials on the West Side are asking cyclists to be more mindful of pedestrians on the sidewalk, stop at red lights, and refrain from biking the wrong way in traffic.

12:04 AM EST on January 19, 2024

Council Member Bottcher's office|

Council Member Erik Bottcher unveils a new bike education campaign.

He wants you to slow your roll.

Manhattan City Council Member Erik Bottcher on Thursday unveiled a new public awareness campaign targeted at cyclists, asking them to be more mindful of pedestrians by stopping at red lights and refraining from biking against traffic and on the sidewalk.

The new campaign, “Slow Your Roll, Respect The Stroll,” will kick off this week on LinkNYC kiosks throughout Bottcher's Hudson Square, West Village, Chelsea, Hells Kitchen, and Times Square district. Bottcher acknowledged that the biggest threat to New Yorkers when it comes to traffic violence is reckless drivers behind the wheel of multi-ton cars and trucks, but added that his constituents consistently bring up cyclists as their principal fear.

In Bottcher's District 4 last year there were 2,215 total reported crashes, injuring 870 people, including 267 pedestrians and 218 cyclists. Of the five fatalities, three were pedestrians — all of whom were killed by car or truck drivers according to city stats compiled by Crashmapper.

“It is important to note that the vast majority of deaths and injuries are caused by cars. And the focus of our efforts as a city really needs to be on reducing those numbers of fatalities and injuries, but we should also be talking about safe cycling,” Bottcher said. “This is something that I’ve been hearing about from almost a dozen people a day calling the office, and it goes hand in hand with what we’re doing to promote safe cycling and safe cycling infrastructure around the city.”

Bottcher's colleagues in state government joined him at Eighth Avenue and W. 23rd Street for the launch of the campaign, which will first go live in just English and Spanish and then expand to other languages.

“It should not be that if you're a senior, a parent with young children, if you're a person with a disability or just an everyday New Yorker that you feel like you're putting your life in your hands when you go out on the sidewalk for a walk — that needs to change,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who represents the Upper West Side. “Yes, cars are the most dangerous entity on our streets, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make cyclists more aware of being civic-minded and understanding of the concerns of pedestrians on sidewalks.”

Council Member Erik Bottcher joined by Assembly Member Tony Simone and state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal to his left.

The campaign is reminiscent of a similar initiative from the 1990s, when Transportation Alternatives launched what was called “Give Respect/Get Respect,” targeting cyclists on the sidewalk and those going the wrong way. The campaign was started after a delivery cyclist struck and killed a 68-year-old man on an Upper West Side sidewalk in 1997, inciting public outcry and then-Mayor Giuliani calling bicycles a "very big quality-of-life problem." At least one cyclist wrote in the opinion pages of Streetsblog last year that he'd like that campaign revived.

More than two decades later, only the imagery has changed. Now a pink beach cruiser is the face of the inaugural campaign, but the prime focus is still on the delivery workers, whose ranks have swelled to more than 65,000 workers on faster e-bikes and more recently on gas-powered mopeds. Many of these workers commit minor, yet sometimes dangerous, infractions on the road in order to keep up with the demands of their job.

“In Albany, my colleagues and I are working to pass statewide laws that would address ... dangerous behavior by bikers, particularly when that behavior is encouraged by delivery apps that are forcing workers to break the law in order to deliver food more quickly,” said Assembly Member Tony Simone, who also represents Midtown and the West Side.

Even as her workers were being described as discourteous, the head of the Workers Justice Project said the education campaign is a step in the right direction — but also redirected the spotlight on the app companies and away from workers who have long been exploited and harassed.

“Delivery workers are subject to dangerous risks on the streets every day as food delivery apps routinely push them to drive faster and recklessly to meet demand or risk facing predatory penalties,” said Ligia Guallpa.

But since the passage and implementation of a long-delayed minimum pay rate for delivery workers, there have been reports that delivery workers are indeed slowing down, stopping at red lights, and more closely following the rules of the road because they are no longer incentivized to break the law.

"Since the delivery worker minimum pay rate has been implemented, educational campaigns like this are important as we continue to empower workers across the city. And it’s helpful to have electeds be engaged and lead education efforts that also center the voices of workers," Guallpa said.

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