Earlier this year, New York City Councilman Carlos Menchaca introduced a bill that would allow cyclists to ride through certain red lights. Currently, cyclists and cars are treated the same way under the law. The bill would allow for cyclists to ride through red lights with Lead Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), which extend the duration of a red light to give pedestrians additional time to cross the street before traffic begins to move. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), there are almost 1,500 intersections throughout New York City that have LPIs. The DOT says that LPIs help keep pedestrians safe. Advocates of the bill believe the protection LPIs provide to pedestrians should be extended to cyclists so they would be less vulnerable to turning cars at intersections.
According to Councilman Menchaca, there are more cyclists on the streets. Between 2006 and 2014, 23 percent of turning crashes at intersections accounted for cyclist fatalities. Also, LPIs are shown to decrease pedestrian-vehicle collisions at intersections by 60 percent.
There were 4,884 pedestrians and 726 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since Mayor de Blasio implemented Vision Zero, a traffic safety initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries in New York City, traffic fatalities decreased by 15 percent but cyclist deaths rose drastically. According to the Gothamist, New York City experienced 20 cyclist deaths in 2014, up from 12 fatalities in 2013.
According to Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Transportation Committee, the bill draws a distinction between cars and cyclists. However, cyclists would still have to obey the current traffic laws and yield to pedestrians at these intersections.
NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan said, “Retraining officers to enforce a law only at certain intersections is a concern for the agency.” The NYPD would not only have to completely depart from their current policing, but thousands of officers would have to be retrained.
According to amNewYork, the ability to pass through LPI intersections is “championed by riders.” At a Transportation Committee hearing, Councilman Menchaca said, “This bill is an example of culture pointing us in the direction of legislation.”
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