City launches ‘Bicycle Safe Passage’ initiative, restarts helmet giveaways to protect riders

As construction on the final phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign project is underway, the city launches a new initiative to protect cyclists. (Photo courtesy of NYCDOT)

As bicycle ridership skyrockets across the five boroughs, officials from the Department of Transportation and the NYPD announced the continuation of the city’s “Bicycle Safe Passage” enforcement initiative at Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

The press briefing took place at the intersection of Yellowstone Boulevard and Jewel Avenue where the DOT has begun work on the long-delayed final phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign project that will extend the protected bike lane to Union Turnpike.

Once known as the “Boulevard of Death,” injuries along the thoroughfare have declined by 18 percent and severe injuries by 38 percent since 2016. The Boulevard has seen a total of five traffic deaths compared to 22 traffic deaths in 1997 alone.

“By combining strong, targeted enforcement with the kind of bold engineering changes that have led to a dramatic drop in fatalities and injuries on Queens Boulevard, we’re protecting cyclists and promoting the sustainable mobility that’s an essential part of New York’s recovery,” Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner of Education and Outreach at DOT, said.

(Photo courtesy of NYCDOT)

The “Bicycle Safe Passage” initiative will protect cyclists in bike lanes in all 77 police precincts citywide with a focus on infractions such as blocking bike lanes, double parking, failure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists and occupying no standing zones.

“Ensuring the safety of cyclists within New York City is at the foundation of the NYPD’s Vision Zero program,” NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Y. Royster said. “As the city continues to reopen, the NYPD will be continuing our bicycle safety citywide initiative aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians. Education and enforcement action will continue to be aimed at drivers that make the choice to block lanes and fail to yield to our most vulnerable road users.”

The DOT is also bringing back its popular bicycle helmet giveaways which were suspended last year during the height of the pandemic.

“Providing helmets to cyclists and renewing efforts to keep pedestrians and bike riders out of harm’s way are critical steps in preventing tragedies such as serious injuries and fatalities,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said. “Safety must always be the top priority.”

Nearly 30,000 bicycle helmets were distributed in 2019. New York State law requires helmets for all riders 14 years old and younger.

“Bicycle riding is a fun, healthy, and environmentally-friendly activity that we in government should be doing our utmost to encourage,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The best thing we can do to promote bicycling is to create conditions where cyclists can ride safely and confidently throughout our city. The Bicycle Safe Passage initiative will go a long way towards creating those conditions, so I commend the Department of Transportation and the New York City Police Department for this joint effort to protect our city’s cyclists.”

Jackson Heights resident Cristina Furlong, a co-founder of Make Queens Safer, has been a fierce advocate for safe streets since 2013 after three children were killed by reckless drivers in less than 10 months in Jackson Heights and surrounding communities.

“With the rise in cycling as well as so many vehicle alternatives making our streets a challenge,” Furlong said. “The Bicycle Safe Passage initiative not only protects cyclists, but importantly alerts and educates motorists on their role in preventing crashes and injuries. We thank the mayor, Vision Zero partners and the DOT for the return of helmet giveaways and commencement of Phase 4 of Queens Boulevard. Together, these actions continue to make cycling in New York City an option and alternative for so many, diverse citizens.”

More from Around New York