Bicycling and the Law

Bicycling in New York City has become a legal topic as opponents of the newly installed two-way parking separated experimental bicycle lane (EBL) on Prospect Park West filed a petition under CPLR §78 this month against the NYC Department of Transportation in Kings County Supreme Court. The suit seeks a court order declaring the installation of the EBL as arbitrary and capricious and seeking an order directing its removal. The NY Times article, Lawsuit Seeks to Erase Bike Lane in New York City, has more details on opponents of the EBLs stating: “The lawsuit, filed by a group with close ties to Iris Weinshall, the city’s transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, accuses the Transportation Department of misleading residents about the benefits of the lane, cherry-picking statistics on safety improvements and collaborating with bicycle activists to quash community opposition.”

Last month, the City Council enacted a series of three laws requiring police to provide monthly reports of traffic accidents and summonses. The legislation requires the information to be posted on the DOT website. The three bills are Intro 0370-2010 (in relation to pedestrian safety reporting), Intro 0374-2010 (in relation to requiring the compilation of bicycle crash data), and Intro 0377-2010 (in relation to traffic study determinations). Brooklyn Law School Adjunct Associate Professor of Law Brad S. Lander, a City Council Member representing Park Slope, supported the three bills which require New York City’s Department of Transportation to begin annual reporting on the number of bike and pedestrian crashes broken down by police precincts. The Bloomberg administration worked with the City Council to produce bills that made sense of the crash data. The mayor signed all three bills into law on February 22. The local law relating to the compilations of bicycle crash data became effective immediately upon enactment.

The information collected from the new city bike-crash data law, aside from helping those injured in accidents, will be of use to both friends and foes of bike lanes as both sides think the data will support their views. A January 2011 report by the NYC DOT on the Prospect Park West bike lane shows that it has made the neighborhood safer for drivers and for cyclists. Data showed that crashes were down 16 %; those that occurred were half as likely to include an injury; cars were much more likely to drive at or below the speed limit; and no pedestrian injuries or pedestrian-cyclist crashes occurred since the lane was installed last June. The controvery over the Prospect Park West bike lane has local political implications as well as ones that go beyond Brooklyn. See this article (How one New York bike lane could affect the future of cycling worldwide) from the Guardian in the UK.