Drivers and pedestrians alike have long complained about bike messengers and food delivery personnel who seem to spring up on streets and sidewalks seemingly from every direction.
Now the City Council is hitting back from every direction, passing a package of bills aimed at cracking down on dangerous riders and their employers.
The primary bill has been tabbed “Stuart’s Law” for Stuart Gruskin, a 50-year-old man who was killed in 2009 by a commercial bicyclist going the wrong way down a one-way street in Manhattan.
In a statement last Thursday, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the strengthened regulations will protect the riders themselves as well as others.
“New York is a city on the go and we want to keep it that way, but we must do it safely,” Quinn said. “Business owners are responsible for the safety of their employees and anyone else in the workplace. City streets become an extension of that workplace the moment their employees leave to perform job-related duties on a bike.”
Measures include allowing the city’s Department of Transportation employees to enforce new and existing bike regulations, which now can only be enforced by the NYPD.
The bills also set civil penalties of $100 for businesses that do not furnish their riders with helmets and reflective vests; or that fail to offer proper training or identification for their riders.
“Businesses will have no excuses for not providing safety equipment to their cyclists,” said Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), chairman of the Transportation Committee. “Cyclists will have to know the rules of the road, and the DOT will have no excuse for failing to enforce them.”
Part of the multipronged strategy was sponsored by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). His bill, Intro. 683, requires every rider working on behalf of a business to wear a reflective vest, jacket or other reflective apparel on their upper body as the outermost garment while riding.
Van Bramer, in a statement issued by his office, said his bill is a common-sense approach.
“By making our commercial cyclists more visible we are helping improve the safety not only of those on two wheels, but also those in cars and on foot,” he said.
Other bills require bicyclists to take a bicycle safety course from a curriculum that will be posted on the DOT’s website. It will include instruction on safe-riding practices and the rules of the road.
Fines for violations run from $100 for a first offense to $250 for a second offense within 30 days.
Transportation Alternatives advocates more bicycle use to reduce automobile traffic in the city. Its spokesman, Michael Murphy, called the bills a good first step on Tuesday, but said businesses need more accountability.
He said there still is too much incentive for businesses to try and take shortcuts.
“The incentives still run the wrong way,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t get to the root causes. Food workers have to get the food to the customers as soon as possible. Their tips depend on it, and the restaurant’s reputation depends on it. They’re under pressure to come back, pick up the next order and get it out there.”