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Queens Chronicle

Cyclists may face steep regulations

City Council to consider new group of bills that will administer biking

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Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:22 pm, Thu Jan 12, 2012.

In the early afternoon hours on Tuesday, three bicycle delivery men rode on Metropolitan Avenue, only one of them not obeying the city’s laws requiring commercial cyclists to wear helmets and identifiable vests.

“Most of these delivery guys on bikes actually are courteous and obey the rules,” said Mary Walsh, 52, a lifelong resident of Middle Village. “But come dinner time it gets pretty hectic and I once got hit while I was on the sidewalk.”

The City Council’s Transportation Committee will soon consider a group of bills that would regulate biking, most notably commercial cyclists, further.

“They’re delivering food and they’re in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean they can flout traffic laws,” Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca (D-Bronx) said.

The legislation would require establishments employing commercial cyclists to register all bicycles used for business purposes, outfit them with license plates and carry insurance on each cyclist employed.

The proposed law would also require deliverers on bicycles to wear reflective vests, instruct the Department of Transportation to post signs in areas that are used by both pedestrians and cyclists and require bicycle lane master plans.

“I’ve heard from some constituents that these deliverers are hard to spot at night. It is just a common-sense approach to make them more visible to pedestrians and motorists alike,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who helped draft the bill.

The DOT has not updated its bicycle master plan in over a decade, according to Vacca. His legislation would require the department to update its master plan every five years and share that information with the public. The plans would indicate whether the lanes would require the elimination of driving lanes and parking spots.

A spokesperson for the DOT said that they do not comment on legislation prior to testifying at a Council hearing.

“I get a lot of phone calls and a lot of concerns about rogue bicyclists. Too many bicyclists are going the wrong way on a one-way street, and also using the sidewalks,” Vacca said.

City laws require businesses to supply their bicycle delivery workers with helmets and other safety devices. The laws also require that commercial bike riders wear the helmets while cycling on the job. In addition, commercial cyclists are already required to wear vests with lettering visible up to 10 feet away that identifies the name of the establishment they are riding for.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who serves on the council’s Transportation Committee, said the group of bills “sounds like something I would support.” Ulrich said he could not provide further comment until after speaking with Vacca.

Bike advocates say that elected officials should focus on motorists, who pose a much greater threat to pedestrians, according to the DOT. As for the increasingly common electric bikes, used by many deliverers, Vacca said those are in a “gray area” and are illegal in New York State.

“I can’t speculate on Chairman Vacca’s motives, but if safety was really his priority, he’d join the supermajority of New Yorkers who support bike lanes in recognizing these safety benefits,” said Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocate group.

Although public hearing dates have not been scheduled, Vacca’s press officer said the target would be no later than March.

“I’m looking to make our streets safer for pedestrians first and foremost,” Vacca said.

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