BIKE SAFETY, IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

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To the Editor:
Reader Bunny Abraham asks Peter Goldwasser of Transportation Alternatives, “[W]hat has been done to alleviate the craziness of the bike riders besides ensuring that they wear helmets?” (Letter, Dec. 11)

Actually, the “helmet law” does not apply to adult civilian bikers; it applies only to children 12 and under, and commercial (i.e. delivery) bikers. So although it is certainly a good idea for  everyone to wear a helmet, civilian adults are not required to do so.

To answer Ms. Abraham’s overall question, the laws can be quickly summarized as follows. All bikers are subject to those provisions of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law that apply to bikes, including riding with traffic, obeying the lights, not riding on the sidewalk (except children 12 and under), having at least one ear open to ambient sound (i.e. only one ear may be connected to an audio device) and generally operating the bike in a manner so as not to endanger either oneself or others. As well, all bikes are required to have working brakes, front and back lights (for evening travel), a bell or other warning device and reflectors on the tires (or reflective tires). In addition, no rider may use a cell phone while riding.
Finally, Ms. Abraham comments that, “Nothing short of identification on the tail of their bikes…can work so that when a biker is not following the rules of the road they should know that pedestrians will be able to identify them.” Setting aside that bikers generally travel too fast to make such an identification even if an identifying item were required, NYC Administrative Code Section 10-157, which applies to commercial bikers, does require them to have (i) the name of the business and an “identification number” on their bike, and (ii) the name and telephone number of the business on a visible piece of clothing (optimally a reflective vest). It also requires businesses to keep a log book with details of each delivery and delivery person.

Regarding bicycle regulations and safety, groups like Transportation Alternatives and the Precinct Councils are tasked with “getting the word out.” As a member of a Precinct Council, and as someone extremely familiar with and supportive of Transportation Alternatives, I can assure Ms. Abraham that we, in fact, do everything we can to promote safe biking and to obey laws and regulations that apply to bikers.

Ian Alterman
Upper West Side

Note: The writer is vice president of the 20th Precinct Community Council
Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity.

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