StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Curbs, Curb Extensions & the George Washington Bridge

StreetsPAC Executive Director Eric McClure presented the following testimony today to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, at its oversight hearing on curbs and sidewalks:

Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts on oversight of curbs and sidewalks. StreetsPAC would like to express its support for several of the measures under consideration today by the Committee.

Intro 0131-2018 & Intro 0953-2018 – Support

We support Intros 0131-2018 and 0953-2018, which together would place greater restrictions on the creation of curb cuts, and compel the restoration of illegally removed curbs.

There are likely thousands of illegal curb cuts citywide, many of which undoubtedly create unsafe conditions for pedestrians. We support requiring property owners to restore curbs where they’ve been illegally removed, as well as mandating community notification for planned curb cuts. Personally, as someone who tried in vain to oppose a neighbor’s curb cut – implemented on a block that already had two existing curb cuts, and for no other reason than the owner’s desire to have a private parking space – I urge the committee to lend its support to this legislation.

Intro 0237-2018 – Support

We also support Intro 0237-2018, which would require the city to implement curb extensions at certain dangerous intersections.

Curb extensions have been shown to significantly improve pedestrian safety, both by shortening the distance pedestrians must travel across an intersection, and by providing increased visibility through daylighting. Curb extensions are the type of treatment that should be a high priority under Vision Zero.

Requiring the implementation of curb extensions at a minimum of five intersections in each borough annually would set the city on a path to having a robust program for creating these important aspects of safety infrastructure.

Intro T2018-1956 – Support

We also support Intro T2018-1956, which would require the city to paint curbs adjacent to fire hydrants and bus stops to alert motorists that they can’t park, stand or stop there.

While drivers in New York City should be aware of the rules governing parking near hydrants and bus stops, it’s clear from their behavior that many are ignorant, or dismissive, of the law. As much as the additional delineation of curbs will help drivers avoid parking illegally, it will also help police and traffic enforcement agents identify illegal parking, and issue summonses accordingly. Too often, police and TEAs give motorists the benefit of the doubt, and since illegal parking creates safety hazards around hydrants and bus stops, we support any effort at more rigorous enforcement.

One caution, however – we would vigorously oppose allowing drivers to cite absence of paint or the wearing of painted curbs as an affirmative defense in contesting a summons. We would urge that such language be included in an amended bill. This legislation should in no way be construed as a way of alleviating driver responsibility for illegal parking.

Resolution 0103-2018 – Support

Lastly, we strongly support Resolution 0103-2018, which calls upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to widen the multi-use paths across the George Washington Bridge.

The planned renovations to the George Washington Bridge present a generational opportunity to increase access for pedestrians, runners, and cyclists, who are using the bridge in ever-increasing numbers. The GWB is the only walkable and bike-able connection between northern New Jersey and New York City, and now carries nearly 4,000 cyclists on weekends, on a path that is among the narrowest bridge crossings in New York City.

A widened path would also have tourism and resiliency benefits. Let’s not miss this crucial opportunity to bring George Washington Bridge access into the 21st century. We urge the committee, and the full Council, to pass this resolution without hesitation.


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