Treyger says bike-text ban aimed at safety, not raising money

November 14, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Mark Treyger (at podium) says his legislation to prohibit the use of handheld phones while riding a bicycle is not aimed at raising revenue for the city. Photo courtesy Treyger’s office
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Councilmember Mark Treyger, who introduced legislation that would prohibit bicycle riders from talking on cell phones or texting while riding, said his action isn’t aimed at generating revenue for the city through fines, but instead is aimed at promoting safety on city streets.

Treyger, who held a press conference outside City Hall on Nov. 13 to announce two bills he was introducing, said first time offenders would have the opportunity to take a bicycle safety course in lieu of paying a fine.

“I want to be clear that the only intention is safety, which is why I am also proposing the creation of bicycle safety courses instead of fines for some first offenses,” Treyger said.

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Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) introduced two bike safety bills on Thursday. The first bill prohibits the use of any handheld devices including cell phones, tablets or other electronics to make calls, send texts or to search the Internet. Fines for first offenses would start at $50. The second bill would create a bike safety course and allow cyclists to have the option of taking the course instead of paying the fine. The course would only be available in  cases where there were no injuries or property damage.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) quickly announced his support for the legislation.

“We are all partners in keeping our streets safe and I always welcome new ideas to improve street safety. No matter what you’re driving, distracted driving is unsafe and irresponsible. In a split second, the consequences can be devastating. It’s common sense, when you’re driving you should be focused on getting from point A to point B not reading or receiving text messages – especially if you’re on a bike trying to navigate New York City traffic,” Gentile said.

Treyger said he was prompted to take legislative action after witnessing a cyclist swerve into oncoming traffic near his district office on Stillwell Avenue. The cyclist nearly caused a serious multi-vehicle accident, Treyger said.

“We have made great progress in making our streets safer, but if we are truly serious about reaching the goal of eliminating all traffic deaths, we must recognize that everyone has a role in this effort. After watching a cyclist swerve into traffic while texting and riding along Stillwell Avenue, I felt it was important for the city to address this irresponsible behavior,” Treyger said.

Treyger also cited statistics that he said point to a troubling rise in the number of crashes involving cyclists with no motor vehicle involvement. In 2013, there were 343 such crashes, an increase from the previous year, when there were 277.

The councilmember said the legislation would enhance the de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero program, an initiative to increase pedestrian safety in New York. Under Vision Zero, the speed limit has been reduced to 25 mph.

The organization Bike New York has endorsed Treyger’s legislation.

“Making our streets safer is everyone’s responsibility, including cyclists. Councilman Treyger’s bill is not an onerous imposition on cyclists. It asks cyclists to make a simple, obvious contribution to Vision Zero,” said Rich Conroy, director of education at Bike New York.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights-Inwood), chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he supports Treyger’s bills. “This legislation is about making sure that every New Yorker knows they must have safety at the forefront of their minds. Bikers and pedestrians alike must be alert and aware when navigating our roadways because only then can we achieve Vision Zero,” Rodriguez said.

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