Presentation for League of American Bicyclists’ 2023 Bike Summit: “How your club can engage with local advocacy,” 3/26/23
My name is Neile Weissman, I head up Complete George, a bike advocacy. I’m also a past President of New York Cycle Club and its current Public Relations Director.
Today I will touch on five campaigns—two NYCC, three CG—to safeguard and enhance an urban club’s wherewithal to organize member activities.
New York Cycle Club
#1 – Central Park Drive
Central Park Drive is a key facility for NYC cyclists to meetup, engage in training rides and early morning races.
Following the summer of 2014 when two pedestrians were killed in crashes with bikes, NYCC got twenty clubs to sign onto a Central Park Protocol which stressed pedestrian safety and limited group training to early weekday mornings.
Park police later credited the Protocol with reducing incidents by 30%. And bike clubs have been permitted to continue to use the Drive since.
Maintaining engagement is key. NYCC participates in park user committees and has been responsive to park officials and police when incidents occur.
Cycling Protocol for Central Park
#2 – Bikes on Trains
Because few of NYCC’s three thousand members own cars, we require capacity on the regional railroads to facilitate group rides and weekends. To this end, we’ve waged multiple campaigns with Metro North, Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit to expand access.
• To eliminate the bike ban during weekday rush hours if traveling “cross peak.”
• To eliminate NJ Transit’s ban on bikes boarding and disembarking at “low-platform” stations which comprise 60% of the system.
• To permission conductors to open “dead-head” cars for bike storage which created capacity to transport thousands of cyclists on weekends.
• To establish liaisons with railroad Operations to coordinate group rides and weekends.
Metro North, Long Island Railroad
Metro North Railroad.
#3 – George Washington Bridge
Complete George was started in 2014 as an unaffiliated bike advocacy. Its signature campaign has been to lobby the Port Authority of NY&NJ to upgrade the GWB’s walkways into modern bikeways as part of its $1.9 billion construction program to “Restore the George.”
In 2011, the PA announced they’d replace the support cables and connected roadways, but mentioned no plans to widen the mile long, 1931-era, 7-foot wide walkways.
For six months in 2015, NYCDOT recorded an average 3700 trips per day on weekends, making the GWB the third most heavily biked bridge in NYC, yet at 7-foot the GWB had by far the narrowest path.
The GWB is the sole bikeable Hudson crossing for 10 million residents of NYC and North Jersey and linchpin of the proposed 1650 mile Tri-State Trail Network. Two hundred organizations and communities have voiced support.
One configuration would replace the temporary catwalk beneath the South Path walkway with a permanent bikeway. Images: Neile Weissman, Joseph Lertola
Letter to Governor and Legislature asking for $60M for a bikeway across South Path
The benefits of widening the paths fully align with New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection and Environmental Bond Acts:
Benefit Underserved Constituencies
Create Jobs and Develop Local Economies
Preserve Access to Green Space
Invest in Resilient Infrastructure
Have a Positive Effect on Climate Change
“GWB Reconstruction Misses the Mark on Sustainability,” Regional Plan Association Blog, 7/25/17, https://tinyurl.com/4cw4xm56
“Opinion: The GWB’s Revamped Bike-Ped Paths are Not Enough,” StreetsBlog, 2/14/23, https://tinyurl.com/3pp58shk
National Standards (bridges) – AASHTO, FHWA, USDOT, National Cooperative Highway Research, National Academy of Sciences
#4 – Idaho Stop
In 2020, Complete George took up the campaign to pass an Idaho Stop law across New York State. The bill would permit cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs—and stop lights as stop signs. Initially, only the bill’s sponsors were in support and the legislation had not yet gotten out of committee.
In 2021, S920A/A3104A, passed the Assembly Transportation Committee 22-4.
For 2023-2024, A3986/S2643, has been re-introduced with two dozen legislative co-sponsors and forty cycling organizations in support.
Victor J. Blue, “What’s Really Killing New York’s Cyclists,” Bicycling.com
• Twenty seven cyclists were killed in NYC in 2019—more than half by commercial vehicles. Allowing cyclists to enter a signaled intersection before the light turns green gets them out of truck drivers’ blind spots and around blocked bike lanes before traffic overtakes them.
• It will facilitate city planners and traffic engineers to route bikeways along secondary roads whose intersections are governed by stop signs.
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that stop-as-yield laws enhanced cyclist safety in states they evaluated.
• The legislation will also save pedestrian lives. Making cycling safer and easier will reduce car trips—which cause nearly all pedestrian fatalities.
#5 – Grayways
Grayways is a proposal which calls on the NYC Departments of Transportation and Parks & Recreation to designate 500 miles of recreational bike routes connecting city parks. The full proposal include 23 routes as well as strategies to upgrade the network to make it accessible to less experienced cyclists. Seventeen bike clubs are in support.
“A great bike network is made up of great bike routes.” — League of American Bicyclists
Four criteria for a recreational bike club to engage in advocacy.
#1 – The campaign should safeguard, or enhance, the Club’s ability to provide bicycling activities for its members.
#2 – The issue is not being addressed by transportation advocates. They may not see support for recreational cycling as part of their mission, or simply, that they lack the bandwidth.
#3 – Issues common to all cyclists—infrastructure funding and pro-cycling legislation—where the club can contribute to a coalition.
#4 – That a member, or group of members, will commit to sustain engagement, given that campaigns can take years, if not decades, to achieve success.
Neile Weissman heads up Complete George a bike advocacy based in New York City which focuses on recreational cycling. He’s also a past President and current Public Relations Director for New York Cycle Club.
North-South County Trailway (Bronx-Westchester-Putnam). Image Alex Lektchinov.