Transit activists are calling on New York City to appoint a Bike Mayor to better represent the voice of those who cycle around the five boroughs in city government.
Transportation Alternatives launched a petition this week demanding Mayor Bill de Blasio appoint someone for the role.
“There is no better time than now to appoint a Bike Mayor in New York City: the protected bike lane network is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand, an influx of people on two wheels is coming with the expansion of Citi Bike and impending legalization of e-bikes and scooters, and, just one week into 2019, two people have been killed while biking on New York City streets,” the group said in a statement.
The concept of a specialized mayor isn’t something new in New York City, or beyond. In March 2018, the city named its first-ever “Nightlife Mayor,” and cities like London, Copenhagen and Amsterdam all have Bike Mayors of their own.
There’s even a Bicycle Mayors network, run by BYSC, an Amsterdam-based international organization that believes “bicycles transform cities.” That group says the role of Bike Mayor is to be “a catalyst to bring together the public and private realms to uncover the massive economic, health, and environmental benefits of increased cycling capacity.”
Photo: NYC DOT / Flickr
Anna Luten, who was Amsterdam’s (and the world’s) first Bike Mayor from June 2016 to Nov. 2017, now lives in New York City. She’s part of Transportation Alternatives’ push to get a New York City Bike Mayor, saying in a statement that since moving here, she’s seen how “it’s clear that people who ride bikes in the five boroughs are not well-represented in city government.”
What would an NYC Bike Mayor do?
“A Bike Mayor in New York would be instrumental for making it safer to ride a bike, which will lead to more people on bikes, less congestion and a smoother ride for everyone,” Luten said. “The Bike Mayor can take the lead in building meaningful campaigns to spread the right message towards all road users.”
In Amsterdam, Luten was able to build safe infrastructure for all citizens, she said, whether they bike or not — but this wouldn’t have been possible, according to her, if the city didn’t make “a commitment to people on bikes and [make] sure their interests had a voice in the administration.”
Corey Hilliard, who previously worked as a bike messenger in New York, told Metro he thinks “a bike representative in this and future administrations would be welcome.”
“It would also be great for bridging the communication gap between frivolous citations from the NYPD to everyday commuters for merely traveling,” he said. “The system as it currently functions is improving, but still needs a lot of work.”
The New York City Bike Mayor role would be the first for a major United States city, according to Transportation Alternatives.
Currently, Keene, New Hampshire is the only place in the nation with a bike mayor, but the number of bike commuters in New York City is double the number of total Keene residents, the group says, showing a need for the position here. Keene’s population is around 23,000 people; in New York City, there were 45,800 daily bike commutters in 2016, though the Department of Transportation said in 2018 that more than 828,000 New Yorkers bike regularly, meaning several times a month.
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation, said he supports the push for a Bike Mayor “to serve citywide in the interest of cyclists.”
“As a step further, I submitted a legislative request to establish an Office of Cyclists & Pedestrians, under the Department of Transportation, dedicated solely to pedestrian and cyclist initiatives,” he added. “In an urban setting like New York City, cyclists and pedestrians are as much a part of everyday transit options just as buses, vehicles, subways, and trains. The Office of Cyclists & Pedestrians will advocate for safer street design and promote bicycle and pedestrian travel, which will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit everyone in NYC.”