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Is the City's New Street Safety Campaign Doing Enough?

HUMENYUK:The eternal war between pedestrians, cyclists and cars in New York City continues. Since the pandemic, the number of e-bikes on the street has grown dramatically.


LEO: Indeed, now 70,000 delivery drivers use the streets as their workplace. In an attempt to keep the peace - and reduce fatalities for cyclists - the city has introduced a new education campaign to encourage street safety.


HUMENYUK: But as Cecilia Blotto reports, some advocates say it doesn’t go far enough.


[fade in ambi of Lind showing bike]


BLOTTO 1: Sara Lind lives on West 106th Street. She’s showing me the large blue e-bike that she takes her 10-year-old son to school with most mornings.  


LIND: “His own little stirrups for his feet, his own little handlebars”


BLOTTO 2: But this morning, her bike remains parked in the foyer of her apartment building. She’s not riding it today. It’s raining. 


LIND: “The ground is slick and I just don’t feel safe with my son on the bike.” 


[fade out ambi] 


BLOTTO 3: Safety matters to Lind. She says she’d ride more if the city was better built for bikes. 


SCHROEDER: “We call it the wild west out there. And I don't want to see one more victim of an e-vehicle or moped crash, pedestrian or cyclist” 


BLOTTO 4: Janet Schroeder is the co-founder of the E-Vehicle Safety Alliance. About 70 of the group’s 600 members have been hit by e-vehicles. She’s skeptical that improved safety rests on just reminding people of the rules. 


SCHROEDER:  “Whenever I've spoken to someone on an ebike and say ‘Hey, you're not supposed to be on a sidewalk, they know, they're not learning that for the first time.”


BLOTTO 5: Basic bike safety messages are a large part of the city’s new public service campaign.  


[campaign video fade in fade out “stay off the sidewalk”] 


According to the city’s Department of Transportation, more than 600,000 people are cycling on any given day, and with more bikes on the street, there has been an increase in crashes. Last year marked the city’s highest number of fatal crashes in decades. 27 of the 30 fatal biking crashes were e-bike-related…


MCCLURE: “Typically, education campaigns are probably the least effective means of improving safety.” 


BLOTTO 6: That’s Eric McClure, the executive director of StreetsPAC.


MCCLURE: “I don't think anybody gets on a bicycle intending to be reckless or take their lives or the lives of other people into their hands.” 


BLOTTO 7: McClure says the better move is for the city to create better infrastructure for cyclists to get around safely - things like protected bike lanes, double-wide lanes for both ebikes and regular bikes…and….

 

MCCLURE:  “improving intersection designs to help reduce the number of crashes at intersections really helps a lot.” 


BLOTTO 8: Beyond the public service messages, the city is also committed to creating better infrastructure and enforcing existing rules. But Alexa Sledge from Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, says it’s urgent, particularly because of the pressure delivery workers face from the companies they work for…. 


SLEDGE: “They don't care about you. They don't care about me. They don't care about a single person on New York City streets unless that person is a shareholder of that company.” 


BLOTTO 9: Sledge says the companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub should bear more responsibility for promising sometimes impossibly short delivery times that drivers must try to meet.


SLEDGE: “Delivery work in New York City is the most dangerous profession.  These are workers that deserve rights. They deserve safety. They deserve access to the same kind of protections that you and I do, and they don't have them.” 


BLOTTO 10: The issues around managing food delivery drivers and safety overall…is causing some division among bike advocates. 


Janet Schroeder of the E-Vehicle Safety Alliance, while not wishing any disproportionate impact on the delivery drivers, is fully behind a proposed bill that would require all e-vehicles to be licensed and registered. It’s a move she says would increase accountability. 


And so for her, these complexities only highlight how lightweight the city’s new safety campaign is….


SCHROEDER: “I'm not going to say that I ever am against education or that any of this is bad. It's just not enough. It's nowhere near enough. And it's sort of insulting to the problem.” 


BLOTTO: Schroeder will lead yet another rally at city hall next week, to push officials to change gears and pass e-bike registration. Cecilia Blotto, Columbia Radio News. 





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