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Make room for bikes - Push is on to open up Brooklyn buildings

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City Councilmember David Yassky and other cycling advocates convened on the steps of City Hall last week to push Yassky’s bill requiring office buildings to accommodate bike parking for people who work in them.

The bill, which Yassky originally authored in 2004 but has not gotten out of the City Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, currently has the support of more than 30 of the 51 councilmembers.

“Thousands of people in this city want to bike to work, but they can’t do it if they’ve got to worry about their bikes being stolen or ruined by the weather. New Yorkers want a greener city, and they’re ready to help us build one,” said Yassky at the press conference.

Yassky said he plans on reintroducing the bill in committee sometime this year.

“This bill has waited long enough for its chance at a vote. Now, with over 30 councilmembers supporting this legislation, I am optimistic that we can finally pass it and take the next step toward becoming a truly bike-friendly city this year,” he said.

Many suspect the bill’s inability to get beyond committee owes to the opposition of the Real Estate Board of New York, or REBNY, the city’s largest and most powerful real estate trade association.

Marolyn Davenport, senior vice president of REBNY, told this paper in July that the bill was “not realistic at all.”

“What if there’s no space for bikes? What if there’s mechanical equipment in the basement? And you can’t mandate that people be allowed to put bikes on freight elevators. What if somebody is moving in and out? It’s just not practical,” she said.

While the bill requires landlords to accommodate bikes, it specifically avoids stipulations on how that access must be afforded. Instead, it allows landlords to develop individual access plans.

“The strength of this bill is that it recognizes the unique ability of landlords to decide how to accommodate bikes in their own buildings. This is something every building can do without negative consequenc­es,” Yassky said.

According to a study by the Department of City Planning, lack of secure bike parking is the number one factor in people not biking to work.

Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, the cyclist and pedestrian advocacy organization, said it was “astounding that New York City’s commercial buildings allow strollers and handcarts indoors, but frequently refuse bicycle access.”

“The Bikes in Buildings bill will instantly enable tens of thousands of New Yorkers to ride their bike to work without fear of bike theft,” he said.

Other supportive councilmembers touted the bill’s environmental, transportation, and health benefits.

“Secure bike parking in buildings allows choice in transportation, which promotes a greener and more sustainable New York City,” said fellow Brooklyn Councilmember Letitia James.

“Bike access has become a necessity as we move forward to support bicycling to work, as well as encourage health and wellness in this new century.”

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