By Victoria Merlino
Three Queens councilmembers voted to oppose a bicycle safety bill Tuesday, hours before yet another cyclist was struck and critically injured by an SUV driver in Woodhaven. The bill, which would enable cyclists crossing at certain intersections to follow pedestrian signals instead of vehicular traffic signals, passed the council 37-6.
Councilmembers Rory Lancman, Robert Holden and Karen Koslowitz were among the six city lawmakers who voted against the legislation, with two citing concerns about pedestrian safety — though the bill states that cyclists still have to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
“We know that intersections are the most dangerous places for cyclists and pedestrians. Bike lanes — especially protected bike lanes — are critical for safety, but it is intersections where cyclists and pedestrians are most vulnerable to being killed by motor vehicles,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca Menchaca, the bill’s sponsor, according to the Brooklyn Eagle.
The cyclist critically injured in Queens later Tuesday night was hit near the crosswalk between Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, CBS New York reported. It was unclear whether the SUV driver or the cyclist had the green light at the time of the early morning crash, according to CBS, but the driver stayed on the scene.
Tuesday also saw the deaths of a 58-year-old cyclist in Brooklyn and a 17-year-old cyclist in Staten Island after both were hit by trucks. So far, 17 cyclists were killed this year, prompting transit advocates to label the crash epidemic a “crisis.”
When reached by the Eagle, two of the councilmembers said they voted against the bill because they were concerned for pedestrian safety.
A spokesperson for Koslowitz said the councilmember viewed the bill as “dangerous for pedestrians.” When asked to elaborate, the spokesperson reiterated the initial statement, adding that cyclists would pose an “inherent danger” to pedestrians in crosswalks if the bill became law.
The bill allows cyclists to utilize the same few-second headstart that pedestrians receive at intersections, where pedestrians will see a walk signal before the traffic light turns red for parallel traffic.
"Creating turning rules for bicycles that are different from cars will make our streets even more chaotic and confusing, and reduce safety for pedestrians," Lancman said in a statement.
Queens Councilmember I. Daneek Miller, who was initially recorded as voting against the bill on the City Council’s website, actually abstained from voting, according to a spokesman for the councilmember. Councilmember Adrienne Adams also abstained.
Holden did not respond to request for comment as of press time.