Cyclist’s Death Inspires Driver’s Ed Legislation

פורסם: 3 בינו׳ 2011, 0:02 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 3 בינו׳ 2011, 0:15 ]
FG/CH News December 3, 2010, 10:06 am

Zachary Kussin

Cyclists took to the streets in favor of S. 8487, which would add bicycle safety to New York State driver education classes.

It was bicyclist Jasmine Herron’s death after she was hit by an opening car door on the corner of Washington and Atlantic Avenues in September that prompted State Senator Eric Adams to introduce Legislation S. 8487 to the New York State Senate.

Ms. Herron, a 23-year-old art-school graduate and barista, was killed in September after a car door knocked her off her bike and into the path of a city bus.

Senator Adams’ bill, which would require a unit of bicycle safety instruction as a part of the state’s mandatory pre-licensing driver education course, is designed to ensure that future motorists are aware of the potential dangers to bicyclists on the road.

“The menace of serious injury or death from accidents between bikes and motor vehicles is a reality that every cyclist faces, but it is imperative that we take every feasible action to increase bicycle safety,” Senator Adams said in a press statement.

The bill currently awaits approval in the New York State Senate. For now, it remains in the Rules Committee. After the legislative session begins in January, the bill will enter the Senate floor for a vote.

If approved, the Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner David Swarts will take lead to develop the bicycle safety curriculum.

A spokesperson for the DMV declined to comment on what the components of the curriculum would be.

Senator Adams has indicated that bicycling advocates and enthusiasts will be consulted in the bill’s development. This call for bicyclists’ participation inspired bicyclist and Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Joseph Sharkey to organize a group ride in Brooklyn in October. Though the group rode to honor Ms. Herron, they also sought to teach motorists to share the road.

“They can get a bit aggressive with bicycle traffic who isn’t moving as fast as they can move,” Mr. Sharkey said.

The most recent New York City accident report issued by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles shows a total of 21 bicyclists died in street accidents in 2008, four down from the previous year. So far this year, Transportation Alternatives, an organization that advocates bicycling, walking and the use of public transit, has reported three “dooring” deaths in New York City, including Jasmine Herron’s.

Dr. Lisandro Irizarry, chair of the Emergency Department at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, said he has seen an increase in dooring injuries in his emergency room. They typically range from scratches to fractures related to the force of impact, he said, even for bicyclists wearing helmets.

“No matter how much protective equipment you have, you will sustain significant traumatic injury,” he said.

Dr. Irizarry said he also has seen injuries to the driver or passenger of the car who opened the door into the bicyclist’s path.

You should have the understanding that you should look when opening the door, especially when you’re right next to a bicycle lane,” he said.

Paco Abraham, chairperson of Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Committee of Volunteers, said Senator Adams’ legislation is a step in the right direction.

“If it works, it’s a model pilot program,” said Mr. Abraham.

The creation of more new bicycle lanes is also necessary to increase safety for bicyclists, he said. The city’s Department of Transportation has added over 20 miles of bike lanes in Brooklyn since spring to tackle the issue of sharing road space. These lanes separate bicycle traffic from cars by at least four feet, which gives bicyclists extra space to ride and to avoid open doors. Still, many streets in Brooklyn don’t have bike lanes.

The infrastructure needs to be there,” Mr. Abraham said. “In a perfect world, every street is safe for all users.

Even as the Department of Transportation has encouraged more bike traffic to help ease street congestion, tensions between drivers and bicyclists over sharing road space have increased. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz did not welcome the DOT’s plan to construct a controversial bike lane along Prospect Park West.

“There are a number of issues—they’re related to motor vehicle access,” said Luke DePalma, a transportation analyst at the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office.

In a written statement, Mr. Markowitz said he disagreed with the plan to move parking into the middle of the street, which eliminated 25 parking spaces.

But the main problem is safety, said Mr. Markowitz. In his statement, Mr. Markowitz said two-way bike traffic along Prospect Park West endangers crossing pedestrians if bicyclists fail to yield.

Leah Todd, a bicyclist and Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, said she hopes relations between drivers and bicyclists will improve.

“We’ll work toward a culture of awareness and respect,” she said.

Photo: Zachary Kussin

Joseph Sharkey holds a picture of Jasmine Herron, who was killed in September when a car door knocked her into the path of a bus.

Transportation Alternatives offers some tips for cyclists in “Biking Rules: A New Streetcode for NYC Cyclists.”

Keep clear of car doors: Ride four feet away from parked cars, even if you end up taking up a whole lane of traffic. If you get doored, file a police report. Section 4-12 of the Rules of the City of New York says the motorist is at fault.

Be big in intersections: Transportation Alternatives says intersections are where most crashes occur. To avoid a crash, stay out of drivers’ blind spots, make eye contact, and use a bell and lights to be noticed. To avoid a turning conflict, mix with cars and make the same turn they make.

Use hand signals: Extend your left arm or right arm to indicate which direction you’re turning. Left arm means left turn, right arm means right turn. To indicate a stop, hold your right arm out at a downward 90 degree angle.

The Look: Wear a helmet to prevent serious head injury. Attach a mirror to help with switching lanes. Use a pant clip to keep your right pant leg from getting caught in the bike chain.


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