Felder, Transportation Alternatives Lock Horns Over Bike Safety Legislation

Michael Rosenthal MS Ride 2016 Finish
Gonzo Journalist Michael Eric Rosenthal on his bicycle. Contributed photo

Forget Vision Zero, the city initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities, a state senator is introducing a packet of legislation dubbed Vision 2.Zero.

State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring the package, says the legislation is geared towards addressing what some critics say is an out of control bicycle, e-bike, and e-scooter saturation on the road.

The legislation includes(S7203) requiring a helmet when operating a bicycle, e-bike or e-scooter; (S7204), which establishes a Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Bicycle and E-vehicle Education Course and license; (S7205) creating a double licensure path for people that both drive cars and are cyclist/e-vehicle riders; (S7206) requiring registration and license plates for bicycles/e-vehicles,’and (S7294) requiring liability insurance for bicycles/e-vehicles.

State Sen. Simcha Felder

​​”The City should have codified road rules and educated cyclists back in 2013 when it launched Citi Bike. Instead, it provided a false sense of security by promoting cycling to the mainstream. Vision Zero was introduced a year later, but the numbers of cyclist injuries and fatalities from 2013-2019 remain comparable,” wrote Felder in a recent PoliticsNY op-ed.

“While failing to secure cyclists’ safety, the City went on to legalize a host of e-vehicles. While bikes and e-vehicles are not cars, they are responsible for a rapidly rising number of catastrophic injuries and fatalities. We must do better,” he added.

But Transportation Alternatives (TA) – a commuter advocacy group – slammed Felder’s proposals as counter-productive.

“These bills are a distraction and proven time and time again to be the wrong way to keep New Yorkers safe,” said TA Spokesperson Cory Epstein. “If Senator Felder truly cared about making roads safe, he wouldn’t have voted against Sammy’s Law, a measure to allow New York City to set safer speed limits, last month.”

TA, other bike advocacy groups and de Blasio prefer to crack down on reckless motorists. They support the Crash Victim Rights & Safety Act

The bill would allow the lowering of speed limits, codified in “Sammy’s Law”. The Safety Act includes increased speed camera use, education of drivers on how to safely share the road, and enforcement of a 3-foot minimum distance when passing cyclists. 

At the moment, Felder is unsure whether his proposal has any co-sponsors in the state senate or assembly. He sees the proposals as a stick to force action from the city government if they fail to act on the crisis.  

“As a general rule, I don’t like mandating anything,” he said. “I’m just trying to move the needle forward.”