Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 14th, 2008 at 10:00 am
The streets of Washington DC, Chicago, and New York City will get better for bikes thanks to new laws.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Lawmakers from three major U.S. cities have recently passed laws that will help create safer biking conditions. The City Councils of Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C. have voted for measures that increase bike safety, improve traffic engineering practices, and create new funding streams for bikeway infrastructure.
In Chicago, four new laws aimed directly at the behavior of car drivers were passed unanimously by their City Council. After the vote, Mayor Richard Daley told the Chicago Tribune, “We are committed to making Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the country, and safety is a very critical part of the plan.”
Here are the four laws that were passed (carrying fines of $150 to up to $500 if a crash results):
- Turning Left or Right in Front of a Bicyclist
- Overtaking a Bicyclist at an Unsafe Distance (defined as three feet)
- Opening a Vehicle Door into the Path of a Bicyclist
- Driving, Standing or Parking Bike Lanes or Marked Shared Lanes
Chicago bike advocates admit that enforcing these laws will be difficult, but they say this heightened official awareness and respect of bike safety is just as important as catching someone in the act.
In the run-up to the vote, the ordinances were (surprisingly) backed by the Chicago chapter of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
I have heard that the Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has contacted the Oregon chapter of the AAA regarding bike issues and I hope to bring you more about that soon.
And in New York City, Metro reports that the Pedestrian Bicycle and Safety Act was unanimously passed by City Council yesterday, “demanding the Department of Transportation identify the 20 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and examine possible safety and capital improvements for these hot spots.”
This is interesting because it seems to be similar to steps taken here in Portland after two fatal crashes in October resulted in the identification of 14 dangerous intersections and a plan to improve them. However, that effort was pushed through as more of a stop-gap, emergency measure, whereas the NYC law is more comprehensive and larger in scope.
And finally, in Washington D.C., Streetsblog reports that a new ordinance passed by City Council will test “performance parking pricing”. The ordinance says that 75 percent of the meter revenue, after initial expenses and maintenance, “Shall be used solely for the purpose of non-automobile transportation improvements in that pilot zone.”
According to Streetsblog, those improvements include, “a menu of transit, bicycling and pedestrian improvements including sidewalk widenings, traffic calming, separated bikeways and real-time information signs for buses and trains.” The new parking ordinance will be a pilot and will run for two years. More information can be found at GreaterGreaterWashington.org.
All this positive news from around the country in the same week gives a sense of momentum to the burgeoning national movement toward safer streets for all users.
Here in Portland, with so many bike-friendly candidates vying for spots on City Council, I wonder if we’ll see similar new ordinances in the months to come.