Bicycle Safety May Be Added to New York Driver Education Classes

P1000241One of the "5E's" of the Bike League's Bicycle Friendly Communities is Education. Education includes teaching cyclists of all ages how to ride safely in any area, from multi-use paths to congested city streets, as well as teaching motorists how to share the road safely with cyclists. New York City has been balancing between adding a multitude of new infrastructure facilities and public policies. Zachary Kussin from CUNY reported in The Local edition of the New York Times, how a new law may be introduced that would require bicycle safety instruction.

Jasmine Herron’s died in September after she was hit by an opening car door which knocked her off her bike and into the path of a city bus. The death of Ms. Herron, a 23-year-old art-school graduate and barista, prompted State Senator Eric Adams to introduce Legislation S. 8487 to the New York State Senate. Senator Adams’ bill, which would require bicycle safety instruction as a part of the state’s mandatory pre-licensing driver education course, is designed to ensure that future motorists are aware of the potential dangers to bicyclists on the road.

"The menace of serious injury or death from accidents between bikes and motor vehicles is a reality that every cyclist faces, but it is imperative that we take every feasible action to increase bicycle safety,” Senator Adams said in a press statement.

The bill currently awaits approval in the New York State Senate. For now, it remains in the Rules Committee. After the legislative session begins in January, the bill will enter the Senate floor for a vote. If approved, the Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner David Swarts will take lead to develop the bicycle safety curriculum. Senator Adams has indicated that bicycling advocates and enthusiasts will be consulted in the bill’s development.

The most recent New York City accident report issued by the New York State DMV shows a total of 21 bicyclists died in street accidents in 2008, four down from the previous year. So far this year, Transportation Alternatives, an organization that I have mentioned in previous posts that advocates bicycling, walking and the use of public transit, has reported three “dooring” deaths in New York City, including Jasmine Herron’s.

Paco Abraham, chairperson of Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Committee of Volunteers, said Senator Adams’ legislation is a step in the right direction.

“If it works, it’s a model pilot program,” said Mr. Abraham.

The creation of more new bicycle lanes is also necessary to increase safety for bicyclists, he said. The city’s Department of Transportation has added over 20 miles of bike lanes in Brooklyn since spring to tackle the issue of sharing road space. These lanes separate bicycle traffic from cars by at least four feet, which gives bicyclists extra space to ride and to avoid open doors. Still, many streets in Brooklyn don’t have bike lanes.

“The infrastructure needs to be there,” Mr. Abraham said. “In a perfect world, every street is safe for all users.”

Even as the Department of Transportation has encouraged more bike traffic to help ease street congestion, tensions between drivers and bicyclists over sharing road space have increased.

Transportation Alternatives offers some tips for cyclists in “Biking Rules: A New Streetcode for NYC Cyclists.”

Keep clear of car doors: Ride four feet away from parked cars, even if you end up taking up a whole lane of traffic. If you get doored, file a police report. Section 4-12 of the Rules of the City of New York says the motorist is at fault.

Be big in intersections: Transportation Alternatives says intersections are where most crashes occur. To avoid a crash, say out of drivers’ blind spots, make eye contact, and use a bell and lights to be noticed. To avoid a turning conflict, mix with cars and make the same turn they make.

Use hand signals: Extend your left arm or right arm to indicate which direction you’re turning. Left arm means left turn, right arm means right turn. To indicate a stop, hold your right arm out at a downward 90 degree angle.

The Look: Wear a helmet to prevent serious head injury. Attach a mirror to help with switching lanes. Use a pant clip to keep your right pant leg from getting caught in the bike chain.