Bikes in buildings? Don’t hold your breath

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The city’s much-hyped “bikes-in-buildings” law went into effect last Friday. Forgive us if we don’t get too excited.

Make no mistake — as cyclists, we support efforts to improve bike commuting by requiring commercial building owners to allow their tenants to bring their bicycles up to their offices.

But this law, championed by outgoing Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), is so rife with exemptions that it will be about as useful as a flat tire. As a law professor and council veteran himself, Yassky should be ashamed for grinding this particular piece of bureaucratic sausage.

Like so many times in the past, he and his colleagues failed to consider how a law would play out where the rubber actually hits the road.

In this case, the process is just too onerous. Indeed, before any bike gets to come in from the cold (or rain, or thieves), the cyclist must first write a letter to his boss asking the boss to send his own letter — by certified mail, no less — to the building owner seeking such access.

Why should employees be put in the position of asking their boss to wade into the bubbling cauldron of this city’s bicycle politics? Because it’s the law: “Convincing your employer of the benefits of having employees bike to work is up to you and your fellow cyclist co-workers,” the Department of Transportation fact sheet said.

The next roadblock: Bosses who want to get access for their bike-commuting employees must then initiate the formal request from the owner of their building.

It’s absurd to make the law’s purported beneficiaries — health-conscious employees and the bosses who want to keep them happy — be the instrument of its actual initiation.

And of course, the building owner has plenty of exemptions.

First of all, only buildings with freight elevators are covered — so if yours doesn’t have a heavy duty Otis, don’t bring your bike.

Next, the elevator must be inspected by the city — another hurdle — and declared “safe” (whatever that is).

And after all that, the building owner is not obligated to make it available beyond business hours anyway. So tough luck, all you midnight-oil-burning cyclists.

Bike advocates say that they got as much as they could from the Council, but if anyone had shown even a modicum of common sense, this flawed law would have never gotten out of committee.

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Reader Feedback

would-be cyclist from Fort Greene says:
Let me make sure I understand. MTA cuts service, then new law makes it hard to bring bikes into buildings. We're supposed to get around the city how? By driving?
Dec. 17, 2009, 9:18 am
Eric from McClure says:
Like they said, they got as much as they could from the Council. Which just about sums up the fine job that Speaker Christine Quinn and the clock-punching majority of Council members are doing.
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:04 pm

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