De Blasio Says He Will Announce Safety Measures for Cyclists, Long After Other Cities Acted

The mayor's presser on Thursday.
The mayor's presser on Thursday.

Mayor de Blasio, who has been under fire for not ensuring cyclist safety during a surge of biking that led to a 43-percent increase in cyclist injuries this week, just told reporters that he would announce some improvements on Friday — long after cities around the world have built emergency bike lanes.

“We’ll have something for you,” he told Streetsblog when asked about the massive expansions of bike lanes in Bogota, Colombia and other cities, coupled with the large increase in injuries. “Wherever we can do a fast expansion we will. … We want people biking when they can.”

The mayor’s answer comes more than 10 days after Transportation Alternatives demanded temporary and emergency safety measures be implemented all over town in anticipation of a wave of new cycling that would accompany the coronavirus and its imperative to stay out of packed places like subways and buses.

Until today, the mayor and his Department of Transportation had said it was “reviewing” the proposals.

But on Wednesday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer upped the ante, issuing specific demands, including:

  • Protected north-south bike lanes on every other avenue, at the minimum (she cited First and Second avenues as an example).
  • New crosstown protected bike lanes every 25-30 blocks.
  • Widening the current crosstown lanes on 26/29th streets and 52/55th streets, which she called “small.”
  • Bus lanes on major crosstown thoroughfares and on additional north-south thoroughfares.
  • Expansion of sidewalk space in overly-congested areas in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

“It’s incredibly important that the DOT roll these out as soon as possible, to help encourage more New Yorkers to cycle,” Brewer said in a statement. “If we don’t increase street safety infrastructure, we could see cyclist deaths rise even higher, after the record year for deaths last year.”

Brewer did not return calls from Streetsblog, but the mayor did call her request “important.” He also begged for patience from New York’s cycling community.

“I think you understand we are trying to address many issues simultaneous,” he said. “The borough president has made an important proposal. We will get a sense quickly from the DOT where we can do that in real time.”

Other cities have been leading. The Colombian capital — a famous biking epicenter — is creating 47 miles of temporary bike lanes to reduce crowding on public transport and help prevent the spread of the virus (not to mention improve air quality), Smart Cities World reported.

Bogota already has 340 miles of protected bike lanes. New York has about 150.

And Mexico City — which is not known as a town that’s friendly to cyclists — is considering a four-fold increase its existing network.

The mayor’s tardiness in acting has frustrated advocates for street safety.

Doug Gordon, who tweets as BrooklynSpoke, said the mayor’s “Green Wave” plan, released last year during the worst year ever for New York cyclists, could be implemented quickly.

Others complained that the mayor was missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make important changes now so that the city comes back from the crisis more resilient.