A bill intended to create a real-time data map of bike routes and disruptions in NYC has passed the City Council as of press time, and is headed to the Mayor Eric Adams’s desk for signature. Spearheaded by District 2 Council Member Carlina Rivera–who represents Manhattan neighborhoods ranging from the Lower East Side to the Flatiron District–Int. 298 will centralize “useful and regularly updated information” collected by the Department of Transportation (DOT), in order to “enhance safety, quality of life, and the citywide bicycle network.” NYC recently marked an ugly milestone of having 18 biking deaths over the first six months of 2023, seemingly making the aim of the bill uniquely timely and necessary.
Despite the unfortunate statistics, a press conference near the Brooklyn Bridge saw Council Member Rivera and a cast of her allies exulting about the bill’s impeding passage. The vicious heat wave the city recently saw had dissipated, replaced by cool and overcast weather that would be perfect for a bike ride.
Rivera took the lead at the podium, rhetorically asking her audience: “If we put just a fraction of the investment that goes to drivers in terms of alerting people to [biking] infrastructure, can you imagine the city that we can build?” That city, specifically, would be the “most pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city in America,” Rivera believes. She added that more cycling would mean healthier lifestyles, and that she thinks public transportation such as biking is an equalizing force.
Rivera added that the legislation was drafted to keep in mind the needs of “historically disenfranchised” neighborhoods, which she said have not gotten the “same attention as certain affluent Manhattan-based neighborhoods.” She claimed, with a noticeable hint of disdain, that Mayor Eric Adams’s administration had not made the bill a “priority.”
Shawn Garcia, a member of advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, made an impression at the mic by bringing his adorable eight-year old daughter along. He said it was no surprise that the legislation would resonate with her, considering that they run into potholes regularly while biking to her school–not to mention that “you don’t realize how dangerous biking in the city can be” until you have an eight-year old with you.
Garcia also echoed Council Member Rivera by proclaiming that in “outer boroughs and in communities of color, the reporting and the enforcement of detours...doesn’t happen in the hood! What happens? People don’t bike. People get injured, or people get killed.” He emphasized his hopes that the new real-time disruption-mapping bill can change that.
In an interview with Straus News after the conference, Rivera clarified just how she hopes biking data gaps would be filled in and how riders would access this info. “Right now, the bike maps are really utilizing information that is published annually by the Department of Transportation,” she said. In other words, as Jon Orcutt of Bike New York added, relevant bike route info “is just a static PDF” today. GIS (or geographic information system) data that the DOT already possesses is now mandated to be pushed out via a searchable map, or maybe even a tweet alert system.
”The DOT Commissioner likes to talk about how they’re such a bike-friendly agency...so come on!” Orcutt cheekily quipped. “We want them to act,” Rivera concluded.