Restler Rallies for Stalled Bike Legislation

Citizen enforcement of blocked bike lanes and notice requirements discussed in hearing

By Matthew Fischetti

Greenpoint and Downtown Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler rallied for two pieces of transit related legislation that have stalled in the council, prior to a hearing on the potential laws on Monday.

The first piece of legislation, Intro 417 would reform the notice requirements for bike lanes in order to eliminate 90 day delays, the byproduct of a 2011 law that safe street advocates say purposely delays the implementation of bike lanes.

Intro 501-A would create a $175 fine for illegal parking in bike lanes and sidewalks and would allow citizens to report the impediments via an app, similar to the vehicle idling program – where citizens can report vehicles that idle for more than three minutes. The original legislation, introduced last year, would have created a bounty system where citizen reporters could receive a 25 percent commission of the fines but has been nixed from the current version of the legislation.

Both bills have a majority of the council as co-sponsors.

“The sausage making process of getting legislation through isn’t always pretty. And we definitely made some compromises, to move it forward and to secure the hearing that we have today. But I think that the compromises that we’ve made make it a stronger bill,” Restler said at the press conference.

During the hearing, Restler highlighted the NYPD’s lack of self enforcement regarding parking violations as a reason for the creation of the civilian reporting program.

“If the NYPD officers are not following the law – and they are not – how can we expect there to be enforcement against the public?,” Restler said.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell refused to accept the framing that the NYPD is doing nothing regarding the issue, highlighting how the issue is a personal “pet peeve” and it a “top topic” in his borough commander meetings and has instituted over 5,000 inspections. Chell also noted in his testimony that he has issued 39 command disciplines for violations, a punitive action that can result in up to ten days of lost vacation time.

Restler questioned the utility of the inspections due to the ubiquitousness of the issue across the city.

“The idea that there is any enforcement around this issue is a joke,” Restler quipped, highlighting how he personally sees the issue everyday in his district.

According to a recent study, 70 of the 77 precincts the author visited had illegally parked vehicles on the sidewalk by officers.

At the City Hall testimony, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez signaled support for Intro 417 but held off on whether the agency supports Intro 501-A.

NYPD brass expressed concern regarding Intro 501-A, citing assaults and harassment against Transit Agents. Restler questioned the framing, highlighting the difference of highly visible uniformed officers issuing ordinances versus citizens taking photos from a distance.

Transportation Chief Kim Royster noted that she was not aware of any complaints filed for harassment or assaults of citizens recording idling trucks, when pressed by the Councilman.

“I think considering the, frankly, failure of the police department to enforce on these issues,” said Restler. “It’s clear that it’s time for citizens to step up and make our streets safer.”

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