James Vacca, chair of the City Council Transportation Committee, says he will push through tough new safety rules for cyclists in 2012 and demand strict enforcement of the current laws. In an interview with CBS 2, Vacca says, "We’ve got to make it clear that when you use a bicycle you have to go the right way on a one way street, you have to obey red lights, you have to stay off sidewalks. You have to consider motorists and pedestrians. You have to consider all users of public space in the city."
Speaking to the Post, Vacca vowed to focus on delivery cyclists, whom he says tend to be the biggest scofflaws. "Because they’re delivering and they’re in a hurry, they sometimes just flout traffic laws, and we can’t have that," the councilman told the tabloid. Last year the NYPD, acting on complaints from UES residents, orchestrated a crackdown on cyclists, particularly delivery bikers, issuing 360 summonses within a single month's time.
Vacca tells the Post he's considering the following cyclist-related legislation:
- Bills that require reflective gear for commercial bikers, with an identification number on the back.
- Requiring delivery cyclists or the companies they work for to register and insure commercial bikes.
- Requiring the DOT to submit to the council master plans for the installation of bike lanes on city roads.
- A bill mandating that city agencies post prominent signs warning cyclists to slow down and yield to pedestrians who share their bike paths.
The council member explains, "I get a lot of phone calls and a lot of concerns about rogue bicyclists." And another bill introduced last week would prohibit cyclists from chaining their bikes to trees. The continued City Council focus on cyclists comes as their numbers have swelled enormously, with the number of commuter cyclists doubling since 2007. But it also comes at the end of a long year of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, and what some see as a lack of police enforcement against reckless drivers—who kill astronomically more people than bike riders. Today Streetsblog published this gut-wrenching memorial to the many individuals killed by drivers in 2011.
Asked for comment, Transportation Alternatives spokesman Michael Murphy asks, "Bikes again? [Vacca] seems oddly preoccupied with passing new bike laws given the many pressing transportation challenges facing our city. I'd love to see Chairman Vacca show this level of commitment to cracking down on the plague of dangerous drivers mowing people down with impunity. Or maybe he's noticed that Cuomo's tax deal took $320 million from the already-broke MTA. He could be asking for the city to increase its contribution to transit funding to help save the subways and buses that millions of New Yorkers depend on every day."