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#StuckAtDOT: City Delays Suggest Safe Cycling Rule Changes are Dead

Department of Transportation has still not implemented city regulations that it said more than three years ago would improve safety — and one activist thinks the rules are dead.

This is so simple.

Safety net or safety not?

The Department of Transportation has still not implemented city regulations that it said more than three years ago would improve safety by eliminating "threats to cyclists at intersections" — and at least one advocate thinks the Adams administration has flat-out killed the initiative.

In January 2021, the agency put forward rule changes that would allow cyclists to make right turns at stop lights and let cyclists to keep rolling through red lights at "top-of-the-T" intersections — and even though the agency has reposted those rule changes multiple times since, the rules remain not in effect.

Here's a classic top-of-the-T intersection in front of the Whole Foods in Gowanus. Under the long-stalled rule change, a cyclist would legally be able to roll through the red light — as long as there is no pedestrian present. Photo: Google

"No updates since you last inquired on this," DOT spokesman Vin Barone told Streetsblog, referring to our most-recent request for an update back in May 2023.

At that time, DOT had promised that these rule changes would be in effect by December 2023:

  • Turn on Red Signal: Cyclist must stop and yield to pedestrians and, if merging into a travel lane, yield to oncoming traffic on the intersecting street turningonto an intersecting street during a steady red light. Under this proposed rule a cyclist may not turn across opposing lanes of traffic.
  • Procced through red signal/stop signs at “Top of the T”: Cyclist must stop and yield to pedestrians before being allowed to proceed through red signalindication or Stop sign at “top of the T” locations.

In both cases, the stated objective was to "make cycling safer." Yet neither rule change has been made. Cyclists are getting impatient for safety — especially after 29 cyclists were killed on city streets last year.

"At this point, it's tough not to conclude that the commissioner or Mayor Adams's office has killed these positive changes, which were crafted under previous leadership," said Jon Orcutt, a former city DOT official who now advocates for Bike New York. (DOT declined to respond to that specific charge.)

But one doesn't needs to be an activist to support rule changes that the DOT itself admits will make roadways safer. You need only be a cyclist frustrated by arbitrary and capricious enforcement.

Here's George Calderaro with his tickets.

George Calderaro paid more than $2,000 in fines from four tickets issued on two occasions for pausing and proceeding at low speeds through red lights on empty streets, all issued by one cop. He supports the rule changes.

"These modest proposals would help rein in abusive ticketing by cops who are trying to make a quota, are bored or just don't like bikes," he said. "These steps will also begin to create much-needed distinctions between pedaling cyclists and cars which now weigh as much as trucks."

And it's not just the two cycling rules that DOT has failed to implement. In that same fiscal year 2021 regulatory agenda mentioned at the top of this post, the city had hoped to create rules regulating shared streets, to prevent drivers from blocking painted curb extensions and pedestrian islands, and to fully update the rules to reflect that cyclists are allowed to follow pedestrian signals.

"DOT’s inability keep its regulations up to date with laws passed by City Council and new street designs implemented by its own engineers contributes directly NYPD writing cyclists bogus tickets and the city’s inability to take action against dangerous drivers," said Brandon Chamberlin, a lawyer with Adam White Law (full disclosure: a Streetsblog advertiser).

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