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De Blasio unveils $58.4M bike safety plan amid surge of cyclist fatalities

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“This year has been so shocking,” said the mayor

Michael Appleton

After a recent uptick of cyclist fatalities, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $58.4 million effort Thursday geared toward promoting biking and building safe cycling infrastructure across the city.

The five-year “Green Wave” plan calls for the installation of 30 miles of protected bike lanes per year—up from the 20-mile average—redesigning 50 intersections with a history of collisions, and adjusting traffic signals so riders traveling at 15 miles per hour can pass through consecutive green lights. The plan comes after 17 cyclists were struck and killed on city streets this year—that’s up from 10 in all of 2018 and is the highest number through July of any year since the launch of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative in 2014.

“This crisis we’re going through is absolutely unacceptable and the steps we’re talking today are meant to end this crisis now,” de Blasio said at a somber press conference. “We will keep doing all we have to do to turn things around.”

An expansion of the city’s bike lane network, which will eliminate “thousands” of parking spots, is the crux of the initiative, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The city aims to add 80 miles of protected bike lanes to the 120 currently in place. Traditional and protected bike lanes will be rolled out to 10 new “bike priority districts” in Brooklyn and Queens, which have scant infrastructure but account for the largest number of fatalities and serious cyclist injuries across the city. In Brooklyn alone, twelve cyclists were struck and killed in the borough this year.

The new districts include Bay Ridge, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, and Brownsville in Brooklyn, and sections of East Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights in Queens. The DOT has committed to building 75 miles of bicycle infrastructure in those areas by 2022. DOT will hire 80 new staffers to realize the plan.

“I think we’ve created a plan that is ambitious and realistic,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg Thursday. “It has the resources and the personnel and meets the urgency of this tragic moment.”

Beefed up enforcement is another component of the plan with NYPD officers targeting “100 most crash-prone intersections.” Drivers who speed, fail to yield, and block bike lanes will be ticketed—meaning heightened enforcement of laws that are already on the books. The NYPD is also indefinitely extending its three-week ticketing blitz on dangerous drivers.

Transportation advocates were cautiously optimistic with the plan’s 24-page blueprint and are eager to see how the de Blasio administration steps up to implement the initiative.

“We’re hopeful that this plan will get Vision Zero back on track and help alleviate the anxiety that comes with riding a bike lately in the five boroughs,” said Transportation Alternatives Deputy Directory Marco Conner.

Others were not impressed with the plan and likened it to a rebranding of de Blasio’s 2017 Vision Zero safety initiative that featured “high-crash priority” areas that are similar to the new priority districts. One Brooklyn City Council member charged that it doesn’t go far enough to keep cycling New Yorkers safe.

“We must break car culture to protect cyclists in NYC,” Councilmember Antonio Reynoso said on Twitter Thursday. “[They mayor’s] new bike plan—largely an expansion & acceleration of Vision Zero—falls short. Reckless drivers will continue to terrorize our streets until there’s a culture shift to prioritize pedestrians & cyclists.”