By Oona Milliken | [email protected]
Bikers can pedal easier knowing that new bike lanes are coming to the city faster than before. On Dec. 6th, Councilmember Lincoln Restler, alongside Borough President Antonio Reynoso, passed legislation that would eliminate the three month waiting period before bike lanes can be put in. The legislation, Intro 417, cuts that waiting period down to 14 days instead of 90.
Aside from the 90 day waiting period, the Department of Transportation also had to wait 20-15 days for approval from Major Transportation Projects before beginning construction of bike lanes. Now, that waiting time is also repealed. In a statement from Restler, the Councilmember said that the new legislation would go toward building infrastructure for protected bike lanes, reduce cars on the road and aid in preventing the climate crisis.
“Every day, New Yorkers make more than 550,000 bike trips,” Restler said in a press release. “Each trip helps us reduce the number of cars on the road and combat the climate crisis. The best way to encourage more biking is to make it safer by building a truly protected network of bike lanes.”
Jon Orcutt, Director of Advocacy for Bike New York, an organization that seeks to empower New Yorkers through bicycling, said the bill removes an extra burden on creating new bike networks throughout the city. Orcutt said the 90-day waiting period was initially put in place in 2011 during a period bicycle activists call the “Bike Lash,” when community members were reacting to the Bloomberg administration implementing a lot of protected bike lanes at a fast pace. The 2011 legislation, Intro 412, required the DOT to give due notice to community boards when any bike lanes were constructed or removed.
“They tried to slow bike lane development down with this additional set of rules for notifying community boards about the project,” Orcutt said. “The legislation that Councilmember Restler put together basically repealed that and so now bike lanes are treated like any other change in street configuration.”
Though Orcutt said the bill was a win for bike advocates across the city, he said the current mayoral administration has been opposed to creation of new bike infrastructure in places like Grenpoint, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights.
“The most bittersweet part of it is that now that we sort of have this streamlined bike lane production in terms of the procedural part, we have an administration who’s been intervening in bike lane development in a bad way,” Orcutt said. “It’s fantastic that Lincoln was able to push this through. But, now it’s sort of back in the city administration’s court to use this new procedure to get more done.”
Elizabeth Adams, Deputy Executive Director for Public Affairs at Transportation Alternatives, also gave her support for the bill. Transportation Alternatives is a New York based organization that seeks to prioritize walking, biking and public transportation for the city, rather than relying on cars. In a press release, Adams said that the bill would go towards helping bikers stay safe in New York.
“To combat the rising levels of bike riders killed in traffic crashes, achieve the legal mandates of the NYC Streets Plan, and meet our climate goals, New York City needs to build more protected bike lanes. Yet, current law makes it harder to build a protected bike lane than other street safety projects. New Yorkers cannot afford delays,” Adams said. “We applaud Council Member Restler and the City Council for passing Intro 417 so bike lane projects are no longer singled out with arbitrary delays and waiting periods that other street projects don’t face.”