Sunset Park

Menchaca bill would allow bikers to obey pedestrian signals

February 9, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, an avid bike rider, says his bill will improve safety for bicyclists. Photo courtesy of Menchaca’s office
Share this:

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who is an avid bike rider, has introduced a bill that would allow bicyclists to follow pedestrian control signals instead of the red/yellow/green signals controlling motor vehicle traffic.

Menchaca, who introduced his bill on Feb. 5, said that while pedestrian control signals are usually synchronized with signals controlling motor vehicles, there is a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) at some intersections which gives pedestrians a three to seven second head start when entering an intersection.

LPIs have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions by as much as 60 percent, according to Menchaca, who said he wants the same safety protection for bike riders.

The new rule would not alter the fact that pedestrians have the right of way when cyclists are in motion, Menchaca said.

Fellow Brooklyn Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick-Williamsburg) and Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) are joining Menchaca as sponsors of the legislation.

The bill would be in keeping with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, a project announced by the mayor in 2014 to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries on city streets.

Under this new bill, bicyclists could enjoy an extra sense of security and the same sense of safety that pedestrians feel when they are given the opportunity to get a head start over traffic, according to Menchaca.

“As a bicyclist myself, this small head start over traffic provides me with an added sense of security that the streets on which I travel are being made significantly safer for bicyclists like me in the city. This bill is part of a larger conversation we are having as a city through the Vision Zero Plan and I invite every New Yorker to join this conversation and these efforts to make our commute safer,” Menchaca said in a statement.

Reynoso called the proposed legislation “a step toward acknowledging that cyclists are not cars,” and said the city protect bike riders with “sensible rules that address their needs and promote their safety.”

Lander, who said the LPIs are working well, said extending the same safety measure to bike riders makes sense. “Leading pedestrian intervals are already working well, providing people with an important window of protection when they are most vulnerable crossing dangerous intersections. Extending this protection to cyclists who are vulnerable in intersections in the same way is an important step and has the added advantage of allowing cyclists to get ahead of traffic as they proceed down the street making them much safer that way as well,” he said.

Bike riders and advocates enthusiastically endorsed the bill.

“As someone who rides a bike around New York City for transportation, I often wish I could proceed through dangerous intersections before drivers have the chance to ignore my right of way. By reducing mid-intersection conflicts between people on bikes and turning vehicles, this bill, if enacted, is certain to reduce injuries and fatalities on our streets,” Joanna Oltman Smith said.

“Councilmember Menchaca’s bill is a much needed step forward on the road to Vision Zero. It will give people who bike a brief head start as they contend with multi-ton vehicles beside them.  It will give those who drive a few extra seconds to notice their fellow New Yorkers who are more vulnerable to danger, all while preserving a pedestrian’s right of way when crossing our city streets,” said Paco Abraham.

Eric McClure of the group StreetsPAC said his group worked with Menchaca and his staff to craft the bill. “Allowing people on bikes to roll ahead on the LPI will increase their visibility to motorists, and significantly increase their safety at intersections,” he said.

“It is incredibly intimidating to have a driver gunning the engine while we wait for the light to change, vulnerably sitting right in front of them,” said bike rider Hilda Cohen. “Half the time my son on his bike is not even visible to the driver if their vehicle is large enough. Those precious moments the LPI allows gives us time and distance to get ahead of the vehicles, to make that transition safer for everyone.”


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment