A 33-year-old cicylist died in June after after she was struck by a white box truck on Sixth Avenue between W. 23rd and W. 24th Streets in Manhattan. (Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News)
Mayor de Blasio responded to a surge of cyclist deaths Thursday by promising to create a fully-unified network of bike lanes across the city and vowing to change the way motorists and cyclists share the road.
“It’s a crisis. It’s an emergency," de Blasio said at a press conference. “This year has been so shocking. We’re going to do everything we know how to do.”
Seventeen cyclists have died on city streets so far this year — compared to 10 deaths in all of 2018.
The mayor’s $58.4 million strategy, dubbed “Green Wave," aims to add 80 miles of on-street protected bike lanes to 120 now in place. De Blasio hopes to finish the project before he leaves office at the end of 2021.
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Department of Transportation has struggled to add more than 20 miles of protected lanes each year.
The lanes sometimes use plastic bollards or concrete curbs to separate bikes from cars, a design that has proven to save lives. Under the city’s guidelines, a bike lane may also be considered “protected” merely if there is space between the bike and car lanes.
De Blasio said his plan is more “realistic" than City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s plan to build 250 new miles of protected bike lanes by 2024.
“This is a major step forward,” Johnson said of the mayor’s plan. “The Council will continue working to pass my bill to design a comprehensive plan for city streets.”
Green Wave also directs the NYPD to crack down on trucks, which have been involved in more than 40% of the cyclist fatalities this year. Drivers who block bike lanes will also be hit with more tickets, the mayor said.
Under the plan the DOT will redesign 50 dangerous intersections where cyclists are regularly hit to reduce dangerous driving.
The plan incorporates several measures already underway, including a law passed by the City Council Tuesday that allows cyclists to follow pedestrian signals instead of traffic lights at some 3,000 intersections.
“A lot of what they mayor has announced are things happening throughout the city in a piecemeal approach,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).
“In my neighborhood (the Upper East Side), people are already getting bike safety education and bike safety enforcement," Kallos said. "But without a citywide approach, it won’t change behavior.”
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the new bike lanes will eliminate “thousands” of parking spaces. Opposition to elimination of parking spaces has stalled installation of new bike lanes for more than a decade.
Traffic deaths have hit near-record lows since de Blasio took office, in part due to his Vision Zero campaign to reduce deaths by automobile. Still, the mayor regularly catches flak from street safety advocates who say he kowtows to anti-bike community boards.
timeline of Bill de Blasio’s career in New York City politics
“We’ve moved Vision Zero projects in many areas where people said it was going to be politically impossible,” the mayor said Thursday. “Community boards’ voices should always be heard. Sometimes what a community board offers is a perspective on how to do it better.”
The DOT will get 80 additional staffers to help implement the plan. Many of them will be tasked with working with community groups and elected officials to get the lanes built on time.
Jon Orcutt, a former policy director at the Department of Transportation and the head of the advocacy program Bike New York, was eager to see how the DOT changes its approach to naysayers.
“Probably the biggest question is how you do it,” Orcutt said of the plan. “You could do plenty of outreach without bogging yourself down in a year’s worth of debate over a mile of bike lane. They should do outreach, but they should know what they want to implement.”