Street safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to appoint the city’s first-ever “Bike Mayor,” an inter-agency representative who would serve as a liaison between city government and people who ride bikes in the five boroughs. (Petition here)
There is no better time than now to appoint a Bike Mayor in New York City: the protected bike lane network is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand, an influx of people on two wheels is coming with the expansion of Citi Bike and impending legalization of e-bikes and scooters, and, just one week into 2019, two people have been killed while biking on New York City streets. Also, late last year, two cyclists were killed while riding in unprotected bike lanes. One of the two cyclists killed this year was doored by a driver. These are the sort of threats that cyclists fear, yet non-cyclists would not know to think -- and much less worry -- about. It is unique dangers like these that make the need for a Bike Mayor all the more urgent.
According to BYCS, the international organization behind the Bicycle Mayors network, a Bike Mayor is intended to serve as “a catalyst to bring together the public and private realms to uncover the massive economic, health, and environmental benefits of increased cycling capacity.” Bike Mayors have been appointed in cities around the globe, including Sydney, Mexico City, São Paulo and Amsterdam.
“Since moving to New York, it's clear that people who ride bikes in the five boroughs are not well-represented in city government,” said Anna Luten, who served as Amsterdam’s Bike Mayor (the world’s first) from June 2016 until November 2017. “A Bike Mayor in New York would be instrumental for making it safer to ride a bike, which will lead to more people on bikes, less congestion and a smoother ride for everyone. The Bike Mayor can take the lead in building meaningful campaigns to spread the right message towards all road users. In Amsterdam, we were able to build safe infrastructure for all citizens. This would not have been possible if not for the City making a commitment to people on bikes and making sure their interests had a voice in the administration."
New York is well-positioned to be the first major US city to appoint a Bike Mayor. It was the first in the nation to adopt Vision Zero, has the largest bike share system, and has twice as many bike commuters as Keene, New Hampshire -- the only municipality in the United States with a Bike Mayor -- has residents. In fact, if the 1.6 million New Yorkers who ride a bike at least once a month established a city of their own, it would be the fifth-most populous in the country. That population of people who bike could grow dramatically with a Bike Mayor in office.
“It’s no secret that streets where people have physical protection from moving vehicles are safer and more attractive for biking. Although the New York City Department of Transportation has led an impressive expansion of the bike lane network over the last few years, there are still too many streets that repel would-be riders because they lack safe space for people on bikes,” said Ellen McDermott, Transportation Alternatives interim director. “A Bike Mayor would be instrumental in bringing safe bike accommodations to more neighborhoods, and could help advance the Vision Zero Street Design Standard, which would speed up the growth of the protected bike lane network by syncing street redesigns with repaving projects.”
The Bike Mayor wouldn’t be the first specialized “mayoral” post of its kind in New York: in 2018, Mayor de Blasio appointed a “Night Mayor” to facilitate relationships between late-night establishments and communities. Advocates believe de Blasio ought to appoint a Bike Mayor to serve as the face of the City’s bicycling initiatives and work alongside advocates and city agencies to provide vision, convene stakeholders, and demand accountability.