Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


New Bills: Biking On The Boss's Dollar

At its stated meeting September 25, several council members introduced legislation that makes a business liable when their delivery workers or bike messengers violate traffic regulations. Legislation was also introduced to allow advertising on sheds surrounding scaffolding.

Fining Bicyclists' Bosses

Councilmember Jessica Lappin received a letter from 9-year-old Annabel Azziz of the Upper East Side, saying she worried about bicyclists who violate traffic regulations. "Now we cannot take a simple walk without being nervous of bicycles zooming next to us in the park," Annabel wrote of her strolls with her father in Central Park.

The councilmember decided it was time for someone to pay. Not the bicyclist, Lappin said, but his or her employer.

Lappin introduced legislation (Intro 624) with Councilmember Alan Gerson that shifts the burden of traffic fines from the bicyclist to the bicyclist's employer. The move, Lappin said at a recent press conference on the City Hall steps, will encourage employers to train their messengers and delivery personnel and keep pedestrians safe on the city's sidewalks.

"For children and seniors, getting hit by a bicycle can be life threatening," said Lappin – one of her elderly residents was struck by a bike last month and needed hip replacement surgery. "So the message is simple. Businesses have to be held responsible for their bikers."

Currently, a bicyclist can be fined between $100 and $300 for violating traffic rules, and is also subject to an additional $200 fine if the rider hits a pedestrian. In 2006, Lappin said, the New York City Police Department issued approximately 40,000 traffic violations to cyclists. Because bicyclists are required to wear a logo or sign with their place of employment, the violation's transfer will be smooth, she added.

Restaurants and companies will likely comply with the legislation, Lappin added, because she hopes to publicize habitual offenders.

Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit advocacy group, supports the legislation. "(Employers) should be responsible in seeing that their workers follow these laws and culpable if they do not," the group said in a prepared statement.

Advertising on Scaffolding

Despite efforts by arts associations, the buildings department and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to eradicate illegal advertisements on the city's scaffolding, Councilmember Melinda Katz would like to see advertising on sidewalk sheds - the structures that enclose portions of scaffolding.

According to legislation (Intro 623) introduced last month, the commissioner of the Department of Buildings would set a price to lease space to businesses looking to place their ads. The sidewalk shed advertisements would only be permitted in commercial or manufacturing zones and could not abut a building or property located in a historic district or that is designated a landmark site.

Katz, who is a candidate in the 2009 race for city comptroller, said the advertising could boost city revenue. The legislation's critics contend the advertising can be an eyesore, and the removal of scaffolding could be stalled so the owner of the property could continue making a profit.

Retaining Walls

Councilmember Michael McMahon also introduced (Intro 625) legislation that requires the construction of retaining walls be scrutinized more thoroughly.

Currently, retaining walls are included in the Department of Buildings professional certification program, which allows plans submitted by a certified architect or engineer to go through the approval process more swiftly. In this program, the certified professional ensures the plans comply with all applicable city codes, and thus is not subject the same intense examination.

According to the legislation, retaining walls greater than 3 feet would no longer be included in the program, and thus construction would be subject to more scrutiny no matter who submits the plan.


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