Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s City Council have agreed on a $1.7 billion plan to sharply expand the number of protected bike lanes, as part of a sweeping effort to transform the city’s streetscape and make it less perilous for bikers. This year, 25 cyclists were killed on city streets – the highest toll in two decades.
Under pressure from City Council, the city would be required to build 250 miles of protected bike lanes in the coming years, along with a long list of other street safety upgrades. The city now has about 1,250 miles of bike lanes, including 126 miles on city streets that are protected by a barrier that separates the lanes from vehicles.
The cyclist deaths have prompted an outpouring of sadness and outrage. Victims have included a 10-year-old boy killed near his home by an unlicensed driver and a 52-year-old man hit by a careening car, which was captured in a horrifying video.
The bike lanes are a key part of City Council speaker Corey Johnson’s Streets Master Plan. The de Blasio’s administration initially expressed concerns about the bill, but the mayor got on board. Regardless, the plan could face some challenges. Bike lanes often face fierce opposition, including lawsuits, from community boards worried about losing parking spaces for local residents and businesses.
The bill calls for the Transportation Department to release a plan every five years to make streets safer and to prioritize public transit, starting in Dec. 2021. The city must hit targets every year, including building 150 miles of bus lanes that are physically separated from other traffic lanes or monitored by cameras.
Mr. de Blasio has completed 100 miles of protected bike lanes since 2014, but the City Council’s plan is more aggressive. After the recent spate of cyclist deaths, de Blasio’s administration pledged to add 30 miles of protected bike lanes a year, up from an average of 20 miles per year the past three years. The Streets Master Plan calls for 30 miles of protected bike lanes the first year and 50 miles each subsequent year. The city must also build 20 miles of bus lanes that are protected by a barrier or camera enforcement in the first year and at least 30 miles every year after.
Mr. de Blasio and his transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, have raised concerns about Mr. Johnson’s aggressive timeline. To gain de Blasio’s support, Johnson’s office agreed to push back the start date, from October 2019 to December 2021, around the time the next mayor takes office. Until then, the city will keep its current commitment to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes each year.
At a City Council hearing in June, Ms. Trottenberg said her agency would need billions of dollars in additional funding to implement the plans, along with new staff members, offices and construction equipment. The streets plan is expected to cost about $1.7 billion over 10 years, according to estimates from Mr. Johnson’s office.
The bill also calls for installing so-called transit signal priority at 750 intersections during the first year and 1,000 intersections per year thereafter. Transit signal priority allows buses to turn traffic lights green to speed them up. The city must also create one million square feet of pedestrian space in the first two years.
Source: The New York Times