StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Bike Lane Obstruction and Intro 2159

We testified today during the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's remote oversight hearing on illegal parking and bike lanes, in support of legislation introduced by Council Member Stephen Levin and Speaker Corey Johnson that seeks to address the city's epidemic of dangerous illegal parking. Our testimony follows below.

StreetsPAC strongly supports Intro 2159, which would create a new violation and civil penalty for hazardous obstruction by a vehicle of a bike lane, bus lane (when bus-only restrictions are in effect), sidewalk, crosswalk, or fire hydrant, when the violation occurs with one quarter mile of a school building, entrance, or exit, imposing a fine of $175 for each such violation, judicable by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).

Intro 2159 would also require the Department of Transportation to create a civilian-reporting mechanism by which members of the public could report alleged violations and submit supporting evidence. If such violations were substantiated and DOT were to bring a case, the civilian complainant would be entitled to 25% of the penalty collected as a reward.

The reporting mechanism is modeled on the Department of Environmental Protection’s Citizens Air Complaint Program, which works the same way for idling violations, and a bit like the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s complaint system, which does not pay a reward. Both existing programs are considered successful, and allow the city to increase enforcement of harmful behavior without burdening law-enforcement personnel.

Illegal parking is rampant in New York City, and in too many cases, creates hazardous situations for people using the streets. One of the most tragic examples from recent memory was the death of tourist Madison Jane Lyden, who was killed in 2018 in a crash after being forced into traffic by a taxi driver illegally stopped in the bike lane on Central Park West.

While such incidents of illegal parking happen thousands, if not tens of thousands of times every day, and are reportable to 311, existing enforcement efforts are severely lacking. It often takes hours for police to respond, frequently well after the violator has driven off. Worse, in too many cases, police fail to take action when they do respond. Not only will Intro 2159 help hold those creating dangerous street conditions accountable, but it will, in many cases, free up police for other tasks.

Ideally, we’d like to see the bill advance without the quarter-mile restriction, since illegal parking can create danger anywhere – we're not sure, for example, if there is a school within 1,320 feet from where Madison was killed – but we support this legislation regardless. The concerns expressed by the administration can be addressed. We urge the Council to reconcile those concerns quickly, vote Intro 2159 out of committee, and pass it into law at the earliest opportunity.

Of course, this legislation alone won’t eradicate the rampant problem of illegal parking in bike lanes. We strongly support the use of bike-lane cameras, and would gladly work with the administration to help advance legislation permitting their use in Albany.

However, the best way to address the problem is to design and build bike lanes that can’t be parked or driven in. Too many of the city’s “protected” bike lanes are only protected by flexible plastic posts that drivers too often flout. A bike lane should only be counted as protected if it can’t be driven in, which means hard, physical protection in the form of parking protection, jersey barriers, or curbs that can’t be mounted.

We also strongly support expansion of the city’s pilot Neighborhood Loading Zone program. We urge that the program be expanded widely and made permanent.

Finally, it’s imperative that the Department of Transportation release its overdue Smart Truck Management Plan without any further delay. As the number of truck deliveries continues to soar, the potential exists to overwhelm neighborhoods with truck traffic. In Brooklyn’s Red Hook, for example, there are at least four e-commerce distribution centers planned, all as-of-right, in a neighborhood whose old cobblestone streets are ill-equipped to handle the onslaught.

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published this page in News 2021-01-12 12:52:02 -0500
StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.