2023/01 – NY State Budget and Legislative Priorities

New York has made significant investments in bike infrastructure over the past decade—$39 million to create the Walkway over the Hudson; $200 million to complete the Empire State Trail; and $400 million to put a bikeway across the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. Despite these investments, bicycle mode share across New York remains a fraction of that in states and municipalities around the world. 

Measures to make cycling safer and easier enhances sustainability, resilience, public health, affordability and equity. It also increased home values. And every resident who bikes as a primary means of transport reduces the need to fund more expensive modes.

Portland, OR (pop. 600K) determined that its bike grid saved it and its residents $2.6 billion per year from leaving the city.


Extend the Empire State Trail across the George Washington Bridge by expanding its south path into a modern bikeway ($60 million).

Overview

The George Washington Bridge is the sole bike-able Hudson crossing between NYC and North Jersey and is linchpin of the proposed 1650 mile Tri-State Trail Network.  It connects directly to the Empire State Trail at Hudson Greenway—the most heavily-biked road in the U.S.

But its 1931-era, 7 foot wide paths are grossly inadequate to meet current demand, let alone support future growth.  Over a six-month period in 2015, NYCDOT recorded regular peak use exceeding 500 users per hour, making it NYC’s third busiest bike crossing

Since that study, NYC’s bike grid tripled in size to 1500 miles and annual bike share trips grew to 27 million. Notwithstanding, the Port Authority (“PA”) will rip-out-and-replace the mile-long walkways as part of a $1.9 billion recabling project, but will only restore them to 7 foot

This is a pedestrian standard and grossly inadequate to support current use, let alone future growth.  This decision will expose the PA to endless litigation, unless it makes everyone walk—which is apparently what it’s decided to do!

NORTHWALK Darren Bartels2NYC entrance to GWB North Path, Darren Bartels 

The impact to the region will be severe. An economic model like the one used for Walkway Over the Hudson, projects that a linear park across the GWB would attract $42 million per year in new tourist spending

Support for path expansion includes some 200 organizations and communities. It would also realize the original vision of the spans as a great public space.

Recommendation:


Create a bike-ped crossing along the Palisades Interstate Parkway to connect Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks (“7 Lakes Drive Connector”)

Overview

In order to bike the 14 miles between Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks along 7 Lakes Drive, one must travel half a mile along the Palisades Interstate Parkway.  However it is illegal to do so. The Palisades Interstate Park Police (PIPP) turns back anyone who attempts it—effectively alienating the parks from what the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC) has identified as a core constituency.

To address this, the PIPC, in collaboration with the Office of Parks, Recreational and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) have proposed creating a shared used path (SUP) through the Anthony Wayne parking lot at a cost of $3.8 million.

Recommendations:

  • Fund the Anthony Wayne SUP from a mix of federal and state sources whose mandate is to fund projects which grow jobs, local economies and tourism and enhance resident access to green space.
  • In addition, because the funding, design and construction of the AWSUP is apt to take five years, the PIPC-OPRHP should expedite a bikeway along the north edge of the PIP that leverages the overpass by Queensboro Lake.

Much, if not all, of the proposed 7 Lakes Drive connector (7LDC) can be accomplished in the course of regular road maintenance. And because the alignment confines itself to the existing roadbed, the project should merit a categorical exclusion from environmental review.

7LD Red Route (modified) Proposed 7 Lakes Drive Connector – Red Route (modified).

The Henry Hudson Drive (the “Drive”) is an eight-mile stretch cresting the NJ Palisades between Edgewater and Alpine.  It connects directly to NYC’s Hudson Greenway via the GWB.  The Drive is a “naturally occurring linear park” and a preeminent destination for the region’s cyclists. 

However, it is frequently damaged by rock slides, and whole sections were ruined during Hurricane Ida. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission has requested $3.5 million to restore the Drive to a state of good repair.  Ten bike clubs, representing thousands of area cyclists, have signed a letter in support.

Strava, Palisades Interstate Parks Commission


Subsidize municipalities’ implementation of bike master plans (A8936/S3897)

Overview

In part due to cost constraints, few municipalities have implemented comprehensive bicycle master plans needed to make bike travel safe and efficient.  A08936/S03897 reduces the cost to match federal funding for complete streets improvements from 5% to 2.5%.

Recommendation:

  • Now that the bill has has been signed into law, push for funding in the Executive Budget.

Grayways—500 miles of recreational bikeways connecting New York City parks.


Amend Highway Law §331 to require complete streets upgrades on all road resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects (A1280/S2714)

Overview

Since its passage in 2011, Highway Law §331, as relates to the implementation of complete streets improvements, has categorically excluded resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects.  As a result, nearly 80% of transportation funding and numerous road projects exclude pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure.

Recommendation:

  • Amend A1280/S2714 to read: “For all state, county and local transportation projects, DOTs shall include complete streets design features in resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling of such projects … .”

ghostbike Victor J. Blue Bicycling MagazineAmend the Vehicle & Traffic Law (V&TL) to allow cyclists to treat stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yields (“Idaho Stop,” A—-/S2643)

Overview

In 2019, 27 NYC cyclists were killed—more than half by commercial vehicles.   Empowering cyclists to enter signaled intersections before lights turn green would let them avoid getting hooked by turning vehicles and hit-from-behind when bike lanes are obstructed.

Allowing cyclists to yield at a stop sign would shorten their exposure in the conflict zone.  It would also facilitate DOTs’ routing of bike networks along secondary roads

In March, 2022, NHTSA concluded that stop-as-yield (“Idaho Stop”) laws enhanced cyclist safety in states where they were evaluated.

Recommendation:

  • The legislation should be passed and enacted into law. 

Amend the Vehicle & Traffic Law to require motorists outside of New York City, to maintain a minimum 3 ft safe distance while passing cyclists (“3-Foot Safe Passing Law,” AXXXX/S1724)

Overview

The Department of Transportation considers 3 ft as the minimum passing distance to provide adequate space for bicyclists to safely travel on the road—and a distance easily understood by motorists. The bill exempts New York City as its population-dense environment creates unique challenges to implementation.

Recommendation:

  • The legislation should be passed and enacted into law. 

Sustainable Travel Surcharge

Overview

Voter approval of the 2022 Environmental Bond Act will create a one-time infusion of funds as down payment on the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA”).  But to sustain a commitment in outlying years, New York needs dedicated streams of funding.

And with the transportation sector generating 36% of NY’s total emissions, there should be penalties and incentives for NY’s transportation agencies to invest in the infrastructure needed to reduce emissions of their “tenants and customers.” (aka “Scope 3” emissions).

In 2019, European governments—at the behest of air carriers who were experiencing a loss of customers due to the “flight-shame” movement—began to levy “éco-contributions” of 3-14% the price of a ticket.  France, in particular, would ring-fence the proceeds towards sustainable travel projects. In early 2020, Delta and Jet Blue began programs to offset their customers’ emissions.  

Recommendations:

  • Following these examples, the Governor should call on the Port Authority of NY&NJ, regional airport operators and carriers to assess a Sustainable Travel Surcharge (“STS”) of $10 per passenger on all flights in-out of New York airports.  In 2018, an STS on enplaned passengers out of LGA, JFK and Stewart airports would have generated $425 million for reinvestment.
  • The Legislature should authorize a Sustainable Travel Fund (“STF”) to hold and invest STS proceeds.  Projects consistent with CLCPA guidelines would be selected by regional MPOs.
  • To incentivize bridge operators to expand bike-ped access, they should be paid $2-5 per user.
NYSAMPO

New York State Associations of MPOs