Cycling Scofflaws

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To the Editor:
Kudos to Joe Bolanos for his “No Café Permits for Scofflaws” piece (April 8), in which he applauds the decision of Community Board 7 to disapprove a sidewalk cafe permit to a restaurant with “a record of chronic delivery bicycle infractions.” Mr. Bolanos is on the money when he says that, “No matter how popular or successful a restaurant is, its bicycle policies, or lack thereof, are a direct affront to our community.” In this regard, the board’s use of its advisory veto power over outdoor cafe permits is not only appropriate, but necessary.

Mr. Bolanos also notes that, during his tenure as Council president, “the number one safety and quality of life issue… was the dangerous conditions posed by delivery bicyclists.” Sadly, this continues to be the case. However, he adds, “[T]he Police Department will offer statistics on bicycle violations issued during a certain period of time… but if enforcement is so effective, where is the deterrence?” One problem is that “moving” summonses currently can only be issued to the bicyclist. (Owners can be summonsed for other things, such as not keeping a delivery log, not providing lights and bells for bikes, and not providing a hat, vest or other clothing that clearly shows the name of the establishment.) What is needed is legislation that allows NYPD personnel to write summonses directly to restaurant owners for moving infractions of delivery staff. Only then is deterrence likely to be more effective.

As for the suggestion that traffic enforcement agents be allowed to issue summonses for cyclists, the problem here is that there is no way for the agent to forcibly stop the cyclist—and if they did, this would put them in harm’s way. Ultimately, if community boards use their advisory veto power (appropriately) in a “bully pulpit” fashion, and if the City Council passes legislation to make restaurant owners directly responsible for delivery staff, then we may finally see a decrease in the bad bicycle practices of restaurant delivery workers.

Ian Alterman
Vice president, 20th Precinct Community Council

Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity.

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