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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Council Bill Requires Buildings to Let Bikes In - NYC

Council Bill Requires Buildings to Let Bikes In

Cubicles around the city may be getting a little rounder now that the City Council has approved a bill requiring commercial building owners and managers to provide access for bicycles.

The law passed on Wednesday with a vote of 46 to 1, with Councilman Erik Martin Dilan of Brooklyn voting no. It takes effect in 120 days and requires buildings with freight elevators to allow employees to bring their bikes upstairs. “It shall be assumed that if a freight elevator is available for carrying freight, it is available for carrying bicycles,” the law reads.

Originally introduced by Councilman David Yassky in 2004, the access law has long been a goal of the cycling community and some on the Council. Lack of parking is the most common reason cited by New Yorkers for not biking to work, surveys by the city’s Planning Department have found.

“I believe that we have to be very aggressive in promoting alternative transportation in the city,” said Mr. Yassky, a Brooklyn Democrat who is running for comptroller. “Nothing is going to take the place of the subway, but if we’re going to continue to be the world’s capital, we’ve got to give people as many travel opportunities as we can.”

The law is a leap forward for advocates of cycling. In the past, riders have largely negotiated access to elevators and ad hoc storage areas on a piecemeal basis. The result was that few bikes made it into the workplace.

The new law contains exceptions for buildings without freight elevators, buildings in which transporting bikes in elevators would create a safety hazard and in buildings close to adequate “covered off-street or secure indoor no-cost bicycle parking” nearby. Such parking amenities — which do not include the dozens of new covered racks built by the city this year — are not available in most places in the city.

The law does not require buildings to add bike storage capacity. (Adding bike parking to new and renovated commercial and residential buildings of a certain size was included in zoning changes adopted by the Council in April.)

However, the law does not include any provision to encourage employers to allow bikes onto their floors, so the issue of where to put bikes in a crowded office will become a concern, and will likely need to be negotiated on an employer-by-employer basis. Any storage situation will need to comply with fire and building codes.

“It’s up to employers to make decisions about how they use their own office space, as long as they do so within the law,” said Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for cyclists and pedestrians, which supported the bill. “For most workplaces, this means hanging up bikes in an out-of-the-way storage closet or on a wall. And for workplaces unwilling or unable to spare the square footage, then that’s that.”

Another concern of some bike commuters is that the freight elevators will not be made available during commuting hours. Many such elevators must be staffed, and keeping someone around to run the elevators later in the evening, may not possible in many buildings.

“It’s a start,” Mr. Yassky said. “Rarely do you solve a problem completely on the first try. I believe that my original bill, which was not limited to freight elevators, is the best policy, but the legislative process involves compromises and we had to make compromises to get it passed. But I’m very happy with the bill we’ve got now. It solves the bulk of the problems preventing people from biking to work.”

the original story


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