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NYC Debates Reining in Rogue Bike Messengers & Food Delivery Cyclists

Thursday, September 06, 2012 - 07:15 PM

A NYC DOT staffer handing out examples of educational material to members of the New York City Council (photo by Kate Hinds)

Businesses should be financially liable if their delivery people disobey cycling rules.

That's a goal of a package of four bills under discussion in the New York City Council. The legislation aims to educate commercial cyclists, as well and put teeth into rules that are already on the books. One of the bills would give the Department of Transportation the authority to issue civil fines to employers who don't post signs in the workplace about traffic laws, or fail to provide lights, helmets, bells and vests to their delivery people.

Jimmy Vacca, who chairs the council's transportation committee, said one of the main goals of the legislation is to take some of the burden off of the NYPD. "The New York City Police Department has been asked to do more with less for long enough," he said, "and commercial cycling enforcement in that agency has not been a priority."

The legislation piggybacks on a campaign currently underway in the DOT. This summer, the agency created a six-person unit tasked with educating businesses about commercial cycling rules. "This unit has already gone door-to-door to over 1,350 businesses," said Kate Slevin, an assistant commissioner for the NYC DOT, at a City Council hearing on Thursday. Its efforts are focused on Manhattan's restaurant-heavy West Side right now; it will expand to the East Side, as well as Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, by the end of this year.

Enforcement starts in January, when the unit's inspectors will begin issuing $100 tickets to businesses that aren't in compliance.

But whether a six-person unit can ensure that thousands of businesses are obeying the law is a big concern of the council -- not to mention the fact that moving violations are still under the purview of the NYPD.

"The extent of the problem that I see is tremendous," Vacca said, citing complaints about delivery people riding on sidewalks or against traffic. "I want to make sure that this unit has enough people in it to make everyone understand that the days of yesterday are gone."

He said he agreed with an idea that Council Member Peter Koo had floated earlier in the hearing about using the city's traffic agents to help enforce the rules. "What are they trained to do, just give summonses to people? ... It's an extension of their existing responsibility."

Sue Petito, a lawyer for the NYPD, tried to put the kibosh on that line of thinking. "It's a different body of laws and regulations," she said, "completely different from what their current mandate is."

Meanwhile, Robert Bookman of the New York City Hospitality Group said he wanted the council to cut restaurant owners some slack. "I just can't understand the logic of why an employer should get a summons for an employee who is provided with a helmet who chooses not to wear it," he said.

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said her office was reviewing the legislation and the findings from today's hearing.

(Minutes from the meeting can be found here. Read the legislation on the City Council's website.)

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Comments [6]

BlueStocking

What do ID cards have to do with the rules of the road? It seems to me that this crackdown may have more to do with victimizing illegal immigrants than with pedestrian or biker safety. Also missing from the piece were any statistics about injuries or fatalities. How many people are killed by cyclists? (My bet: zero fatalities.) How many by drivers (My bet: many, many.)

Sep. 27 2012 06:49 AM
Kate Hinds

Ed: it has to do with changing the category of the violation from criminal to civil. Shifting it to the latter means penalties for these specific violations would be doled out by the Environmental Control Board, not the city prosecutors, who often don't have the manpower to pursue these cases.

Sep. 11 2012 04:26 PM
Robert Wright

I'm a cyclist and have just moved from London to NYC. I have to say it was a bit of a shock to come across the food delivery riders, all of whom seem to be equipped with fairly powerful electric assist bikes and many of whom seem to take only a casual - to put it mildly - interest in the road rules and traffic safety. But the points made above about other dangers are correct. These riders represent nothing like as big a danger as, say, many cab drivers and the trucks that I see charging up sixth avenue grossly in excess of the speed limit. As I argue here - http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/07/grids-lights-and-why-new-yorks-traffic.html - New York's grid system seems to push nearly every road user into breaking the rules. The telling point is that there's so much fuss about cyclists - who do very little harm to other road users.

Invisible.

Sep. 10 2012 01:19 PM
Ed Ravin

Existing law already empowers the city to fine businesses that don't post a bicycle safety poster in the workplace. See NYS Administrative Code 10-157.1 and Rules of the City of NY (RCNY) Title 34 Section 4-12 (p)(4)).

Sep. 08 2012 04:12 PM
Tom

The packet includes condoms?

Sep. 07 2012 05:53 PM
T

Hmmm...when will they hand out educational materials and start enforcing the laws for delivery drivers? One such driver just ran over a woman on Houston St and dragged her body for four blocks.

Sep. 07 2012 11:54 AM

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