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New law gives cyclists head start at intersections • Brooklyn Paper

New law gives cyclists head start at intersections

Getting the green light: A new law will allow cyclists to get ahead of motorists at intersections, biking with pedestrian crosslights before the cars beside them can go.
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Brooklyn bikers are getting the green light!

The City Council passed a law on Tuesday allowing cyclists to follow pedestrian signals — before traffic lights turn green — at thousands of New York City intersections, giving them a seven to 11-second head start on motorists.

The law will affect about 1,300 intersections in Brooklyn and more than 4,000 intersections citywide, or wherever traffic signals are set to provide a “Leading Pedestrian Interval,” which allows pedestrians — and now bikers — to begin crossing before parallel motor-vehicle traffic gets the green light.

The safety precaution could make cyclists more visible to turning cars and save lives in the process, according to the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park).

“We know that intersections are the most dangerous place for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Menchaca, who introduced the bill to the Council four years ago. “With this simple and common sense change to the law, every cyclist will have a safer way to cross intersections.”

The Council passed the new law with 31 votes in favor, and seven against. The vote comes during a bloody year for New York City’s cyclist community, which has seen 17 deaths since January, compared to 2018’s 10 fatalities. On Tuesday, two cyclists died in accidents: one 58-year-old victim collided with a box truck in Greenpoint, and another 17-year-old cyclist was struck by a flatbed truck in a Staten Island intersection.

For all the fanfare surrounding the passage of Menchaca’s bill, most Brooklyn cyclists already cross with the pedestrian signal — if they even wait that long, according to one biker.

“I didn’t know it was illegal,” said Tyler Wright, avid cyclist and Queens resident. “I’ve always run the lights.”

But to the Sunset Park legislator, the law signals more than a change in policy — it points to the city’s evolving view of cyclists.

“Today, I am proud to say that we are shifting the way the law treats cyclists to match reality,” said Councilman Menchaca in a statement on Tuesday. “We cannot ensure everyone’s safety on the road if we continue to treat cyclists like motor vehicles.”

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306.

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