We gave the following testimony to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation at their November 15, 2016 hearing covering several pieces of legislation intended to make walking and biking safer and easier.
We offer our strong support for Intro 1072, which would allow people on bikes to adhere to pedestrian signals at intersections.
This is a common-sense bill that would greatly improve the safety at intersections of people riding bicycles, by allowing them to proceed on green leading pedestrian intervals. The measure should significantly reduce turning conflicts and “right-hook” collisions between motorists and people on bikes, while also allowing cyclists to safely establish themselves in drivers’ fields of vision when starting out from a signalized intersection.
This legislation would not require the installation of any type of special signal for cyclists, and would cost the city nothing, and it would normalize and codify a practice that is already common among people riding bikes, who frequently use LPIs as a head start for self-preservation. Furthermore, it does not require any compromise in pedestrian safety, as a person crossing an intersection on foot would retain the right of way in relation to turning cyclists.
We urge you to advance Intro 1072 out of committee without delay.
We also offer our support for Intro 1285, which would require the Department of Transportation to study locations with significant pedestrian traffic and to develop strategies for reducing crowding.
We all know places in New York City bursting with pedestrian activity, where people walking spill into the street in search of a clear path as they merely try to go about their daily business. Whether it’s on Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, on Seventh Avenue around Penn Station, in and around Times Square or on the streets surrounding the World Trade Center, pedestrian demand is outstripping our infrastructure.
While we have made some strides in reclaiming space for people to walk, the progress hasn’t kept pace with the need. This legislation will help the Department of Transportation get a handle on the issue, and will aid in developing plans to alleviate crowding. Our guess is that the answer is to take back some of the massive amount of space we have given over to private automobiles – New York City’s sidewalks were much more generously proportioned a century ago – but this bill will help us figure that out with certainty.
We urge the swift passage of Intro 1285.
We also support Intro 1177, which would require the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of implementing Barnes dances at the 25 most dangerous intersections in New York City.
Barnes dances, or pedestrian scrambles as they’re sometimes known, stop all vehicular traffic at an intersection to allow people on foot to cross in all directions. While we know NYC DOT has concerns about maintaining vehicular and pedestrian flow, Vision Zero dictates that our primary emphasis must be on safety, especially at intersections that have been proven to be dangerous.
We urge the passage of this bill.
Finally, as to the larger and encompassing issue of making walking and cycling safer and easier in New York City, we applaud this committee and the City Council as a whole for prioritizing the safety of vulnerable street users.
We have made progress towards Vision Zero, to be sure, but the city will likely end this year with more traffic deaths than in 2015. We must work together to make certain that 2016 becomes a blip on a trend line moving relentlessly in the right direction, and that will take a major financial commitment to reengineering streets in lockstep with the moral commitment to end these preventable tragedies.