Mayor announces vast bike lane expansion amid spate of cyclist deaths

Mayor announces vast bike lane expansion amid spate of cyclist deaths
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping, multimillion-dollar plan to vastly expand the city’s bike lane network in the wake of a bloody year that’s already claimed the lives of 17 cyclists, most of them in Brooklyn.

De Blasio will funnel $58.4 million to the Department of Transportation to construct 80 miles of protected bike lanes by the time he leaves office in 2021, as part of a grand scheme to lay out a connected network of bike paths that span the Five Boroughs, and hopefully prevent future fatalities, according to the mayor.

“The fact that this all happened in such a small amount of time — it’s a crisis and an emergency,” de Blasio said at a press conference at Bay Ridge’s PS 170. “We’ve got to see this end, it cannot go on like this. These last weeks have been something that should never be repeated in this city.”

Out of the 17 cyclist’s deaths, 12 occurred in Brooklyn, and the borough routinely rates as the deadliest place to bike in New York, according to figures provided by the DOT, which showed that more cyclists have died in Kings County than other boroughs in all but four years since 2008.

So, it seems fitting that — in addition to the 30 annual miles of bike lanes — the mayor’s plan calls for the construction of an additional 75 miles of bicycling infrastructure by in 10 priority districts, seven of which are in Kings County.

These priority zones include parts of Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, East Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Brownsville, and East New York.

The department will use most of the funds to hire 80 new transportation workers, adding to its existing 110 staff members.

In Brooklyn, the first phase of the bike lane expansion will bridge the large gap in existing cycling paths between Red Hook and Bay Ridge, with new protected bike lanes to create a continuous route along the Kings County waterfront by 2021, linking Greenpoint via the borough’s western and southern coasts to the frontiers of East New York, where riders can continue onto existing Queens bike lanes to distant Rockaway.

De Blasio also vowed to speed up construction of an ongoing Fourth Avenue bike lane through Park Slope and Sunset Park, connecting with existing bike paths that will take riders to Downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Park, and Bay Ridge, in addition to forging new eastbound routes connecting with Ocean Parkway.

Proposal: The Department of Transportation plans to connect several of the borough’s existing bike networks with new safe lanes, shown in yellow, by 2021. It also plans to study and lay out an additional 75 miles of bike lanes in so-called “priority districts” marked darker in Brooklyn and Queens.
Department of Transportation

Hizzoner also vowed to resist pressure from bike-wary community boards that shoot down city proposals to install bike lanes through their neighborhoods, saying that, while he valued their on-the-ground perspective, that he would use his executive mandate to roll out the cycling infrastructure regardless of any grassroots resistance.

“Community boards’ voices should always be heard, because sometimes what a community board offers is a perspective on how to do it better,” he said. “But you know, inaction is not acceptable. That’s the standard I’ve held. If a community board offers a critique or alternative that’s a better way to do things, great. If they simply want no change and we believe no change means less safety, I just give the order.”

The plan calls for the Police Department to crack down on risky driving behavior — such as speeding and failure to yield — in addition to featuring monthly enforcement sweeps, dubbed “operation safe passage,” targeting motorists blocking bike lanes.

And NYPD traffic agents will keep their eyes peeled for reckless truckers, according to de Blasio, who noted trucks have been involved in 40 percent of cycling deaths this year.

“I want everyone that drives a truck in this city to know that the NYPD will be watching and they will take action if any trucker does the wrong thing and endangers a bicyclist” he said.

The mayor touted the success of a three-week enforcement blitz he ordered police to conduct in the wake of a Williamsburg bike fatality during the first three weeks of July, when officers handed out double the amount of tickets for cars blocking bike lanes as compared to that same time period last year, hizzoner claimed.

But the mayor’s multimillion-dollar infrastructure scheme falls short for some bike advocates, including one Brooklyn lawmaker who said the mayor should do more to discourage New Yorkers from driving, saying cars remain at the heart of Kings County’s transit woes.

“The Mayor’s plan fails to address the root cause of our emergency,” Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) said in an emailed statement. “What we need is the courage to break the car culture and implement a master plan that protects the safety of our most vulnerable street users — cyclists and pedestrians.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Vision: The agency plans to have a city-wide network of protected lanes by 2030, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.
Department of Transportation