‘Vision 2.Zero’: Felder, Transportation Alternatives lock horns over new bike legislation

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
A woman rides a Citi bike in Brooklyn.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Forget Vision Zero, the city initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities, a state senator is introducing a packet of legislation dubbed Vision 2.Zero.

Borough Park state Sen. Simcha Felder, who is sponsoring the package, says the legislation aims to address what some say is an out of control bicycle, e-bike, and e-scooter saturation on the road.

The legislation includes S7203, requiring a helmet when operating a bicycle, e-bike or e-scooter; S7204, which establishes a Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Bicycle and E-vehicle Education Course and license; S7205 creating a double licensure path for people that both drive cars and are cyclist/e-vehicle riders; S7206 requiring registration and license plates for bicycles/e-vehicles, and S7294 requiring liability insurance for bicycles/e-vehicles.

“The City should have codified road rules and educated cyclists back in 2013 when it launched Citi Bike. Instead, it provided a false sense of security by promoting cycling to the mainstream. Vision Zero was introduced a year later, but the numbers of cyclist injuries and fatalities from 2013-2019 remain comparable,” wrote Felder in a recent PoliticsNY op-ed.

“While failing to secure cyclists’ safety, the City went on to legalize a host of e-vehicles. While bikes and e-vehicles are not cars, they are responsible for a rapidly rising number of catastrophic injuries and fatalities. We must do better,” he added.

But commuter advocacy group Transportation Alternatives slammed Felder’s proposals as counter-productive. Like other bike advocacy groups and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Transportation Alternatives supports the Crash Victim Rights & Safety Act, which would help crack down on reckless motorists.

The bill would allow the lowering of speed limits, codified in “Sammy’s Law” — named after Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old who was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West in 2013 — which Felder voted against in June. The legislation also includes increased speed camera use, education of drivers on how to safely share the road, and enforcement of a 3-foot minimum distance when passing cyclists. 

“These bills are a distraction and proven time and time again to be the wrong way to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Transportation Alternatives Spokesperson Cory Epstein. “If Senator Felder truly cared about making roads safe, he wouldn’t have voted against Sammy’s Law, a measure to allow New York City to set safer speed limits, last month.”

At the moment, Felder is unsure whether his proposal has any co-sponsors in the state senate or assembly. He sees the proposals as a stick to force action from the city government if they fail to act on the crisis.  

“As a general rule, I don’t like mandating anything,” he said. “I’m just trying to move the needle forward.”

A version of this story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com.