Council Passes New Delivery Cyclist Rules; Vacca to Target E-Bikes Next

Today the City Council passed four bills to tighten regulations on delivery cyclists. The bills, debated last month by the transportation committee, now go to the mayor for his expected signature.

Scourge of the streets? The City Council is on it. Photo: ##

Together, the legislative package would create civil penalties for what had until now been criminal offenses, extend enforcement authority to DOT in an effort to ensure compliance by employers, tighten requirements for reflective vests, and mandate bike safety courses for commercial cyclists. The bills do not address moving violations, such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way.

DOT has created a six-person commercial cycling unit to ensure that employers are properly educating and outfitting their employees. The agency says it has visited 2,640 businesses and hosted events for 900 delivery cyclists in Manhattan. Currently, the unit is visiting restaurants and providing education materials, focusing first on the West Side and expanding to the East Side, Lower Manhattan and Sunset Park by the end of the year. Starting in January, the unit will issue citations to employers who are violating the laws.

One of the bills, Intro 783, would require commercial cyclists to complete bike safety courses and is named after Stuart C. Gruskin, who died after being struck by a wrong-way bicyclist in Midtown in 2009.

In a statement today, DOT said that it supports the bills, but at a September hearing, the agency objected to the wording of Intro 783 on the grounds that administering a safety course for the city’s estimated 50,000 commercial cyclists would pose an excessive burden on DOT and the delivery industry.

Council members were all smiles as the legislation was passed. “For too long, we’ve been on streets that look like the wild wild west,” said transportation committee chair James Vacca. “Hopefully those days will come to an end with this legislation.”

“I want to thank Chair Vacca for his ongoing work on bicycle safety,” said Speaker Christine Quinn. “It’s an issue we hear persistent complaints about.”

Vacca indicated that he is interested in putting electric bicycles on the committee’s agenda in the near future.

In fiscal year 2012, 176 cyclists and pedestrians were killed in traffic, an 11 percent increase from the year before, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. In the same period, there was no known case of a cyclist hitting and killing a pedestrian in New York City. The last such case on record is Gruskin’s death in 2009.

The bills passed committee this morning, 11-0, with council members Darlene Mealy and Eric Ulrich absent. This afternoon, the legislative package passed the full council overwhelmingly. Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. abstained from votes on three of the bills and was the lone vote against Intro 783. According to DOT, Mayor Bloomberg will sign all four bills.

This post has been updated.