A new piece of legislation, which the City Council Transportation Committee passed yesterday afternoon by a 10-0 vote, would equip all public and private sanitation trucks in New York City with side guards—panels that are designed to prevent pedestrians and cyclists who are struck by trucks from being trapped underneath them.

City trucks make up less than 4 percent of vehicles on the road, yet collisions involving city trucks account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist fatalities.

In February, de Blasio approved a side-guard test run, equipping 240 city sanitation trucks with metal buffers. But this new legislation would have a much larger impact: The Transportation Committee estimates that 4,500 city-owned trucks over 10,000 pounds, and between 5,500 and 6,000 private sanitation trucks, would fall under the legislation.

According to the proposed legislation, "'Large vehicle' does not include street sweepers, fire engines, car carriers, off road construction vehicles, or any specialized vehicles or vehicle types on which side guard installation is deemed impractical" by the DOT.

Granted, this sort of large-scale update takes considerable time and money, especially since, according to Councilman Rodriguez spokesman Lucas Acosta, "A lot of these vehicles are really old, and there's no one-size-fits-all side guard." Because the side guards needed to fit every sanitation truck in the city don't exist yet, Acosta said optimistically, "We'd create the market." The legislation calls for all trucks to be updated by 2024, giving the side guard manufacturing industry nine years to catch up with demand.

It costs about $3,000 to install side guards on each truck. While the city will eat the cost for municipal sanitation trucks, private companies will be on their own.

Transportation Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez cast his ballot yesterday in honor of Hoyt Jacobs, who was struck and killed by a private sanitation truck driver in Queens, on January 17th. Hoyt was the first cyclist casualty of 2015 in NYC. "Though 2014 marked a watershed moment for our city in reducing the amount of pedestrian fatalities, it also showed a 15% increase in the number of cyclists falling victim to our roadways," Rodriguez said in a statement.

The issue is an important one for Transportation Alternatives, a cyclist advocacy group that has voiced frustration with the oversaturated private sanitation industry. There are currently 2,000 licensed private sanitation companies across the five boroughs, many of which follow overlapping and inefficient routes, increasing the likelihood of pedestrian and cyclist-involved accidents. At a Sanitation Committee hearing last month, Transalt spokesman Paul Steely White lamented, "Innocent New Yorkers are being struck, killed, and injured by these large commercial trucks."

He added yesterday, "Safe streets advocates spent a decade demanding action on pedestrian and cyclist fatalities involving trucks, and now change is finally coming. Mayor de Blasio made the right decision earlier this year by requiring side guards on city trucks larger than 10,000 pounds. Now Chairman Rodriguez and the Transportation Committee have taken things to the next level."

The mayor's office also seems cautiously optimistic about the legislation. Asked for comment on the issue, mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell was quick to mention de Blasio's steps to pilot a side guard program this winter. He added, "We’ve engaged collaboratively with the Council on the legislation and appreciate their responsiveness in helping overcome operational issues.”