Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photography Office
“We have a unique opportunity to make biking easier, safer, and more accessible and fundamentally shift how the next generation thinks about getting around our city,” Stringer said.
By Forum Staff
City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Thursday proposed a first-of-its-kind bike-to-school plan to encourage safe and sustainable biking options for city high school students on their commutes to and from school. Stringer’s plan calls on the City, in partnership with the philanthropic community, to build out 1.5 miles each of protected bike lanes around 50 NYC high school buildings in the next year, and to provide free bicycles or Citi Bike memberships to every low-income public high school student.
With reductions in bus and subway service, school buses operating at extremely limited capacity and the continued need for social distancing on public transit, Stringer said his bike-to-school proposal offers a safe and efficient transportation option for New York City’s young people.
“Reimagining our streets is not a job we can postpone until after the pandemic. Congestion is soaring, bus speeds are falling, and New Yorkers are concerned for the quality of life in their neighborhoods. We should rethink our transportation strategy and encourage sustainable alternatives both now and in the years ahead,” Stringer said. “Building out bike lanes around New York City high schools and providing bikes to lower-income students would open the door to biking for hundreds of thousands of young people. By taking this action, we can allow New York City’s youth to get around their city, improve health and educational outcomes, and connect with their communities. We have a unique opportunity to make biking easier, safer, and more accessible and fundamentally shift how the next generation thinks about getting around our city.”
The comptroller said his plan calls on the City and philanthropic partners to:
Build Out Protected Bike Lanes
The City should build out one and a half miles of protected bike lanes around 50 New York City high school buildings within the next year, and at the remainder of high schools within the next five years, to safely connect residential areas and commercial corridors to local schools. These bike lanes should link to a larger network to improve mobility within and around New York City neighborhoods.
To achieve this ambitious rollout plan, the Department of Transportation will have to overhaul the design and implementation of new bike lanes. As an intermediate step, it should look to the rapid deployment of emergency bike lanes in Berlin and Paris during the COVID-19 pandemic. Berlin’s 10-Day deployment model — using temporary barriers and techniques borrowed from construction sites — offers a wise path forward.
Pedestrianize the Block in Front of 100 Public Schools to Allow for Easier Access, Pick-Up, and Drop-Offs for Students
Following the lead of Paris, the City should open up the block in front of 100 public schools in the next year. These open streets should connect to the larger bike lane network, making it easier for students to access, enter, and park in front of schools and to congregate before and after the school day.
Provide Free Citi Bike Membership for all Low-Income New York City High School Students
The City and private philanthropy should work with Citi Bike to provide free membership for all high school students whose homes and schools are located within Citi Bike territory. Citi Bike currently offers reduced rates for NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients and should wave these monthly fees for all low-income students. In Paris, bike share is free to all 14-18 year olds (Citi Bike is currently restricted to 16 and up) and in New York City, the MTA provides free MetroCards for public school students.
As part of these efforts, the Department of Transportation and Citi Bike should accelerate their timetable for expansion into the south Bronx, central Brooklyn, and western Queens and begin to develop a full-scale, five-borough plan.
Provide a Free Bike to Every Lower-Income Public High School Student Living or Traveling to School Outside of Citi Bike Territory
Private philanthropists and local foundations should step up and actively support the City’s Bike-to-School efforts. In conjunction with the Mayor’s Fund and bike manufacturers, they should provide a free bike to every low-income public high school student who commutes outside of Citi Bike territory.
Conduct an Annual Survey of Student Commutes
The DOE should conduct an annual survey of student commuting and work with schools to increase bike ridership and walking as safe, easier ways to get to school.
Dedicate Indoor and Outdoor School Space for Bike Parking and Maintenance
With approximately 74 percent of City high schools below capacity in 2019, once the City emerges from the pandemic, under-capacity schools should dedicate available space for indoor (and outdoor) parking, bike maintenance, and courses on maintenance to help students care for their bicycles and to prepare some students for careers in a growing field.
Expand the Bike Safety Education Program
The City should work with Bike New York to dramatically expand the Bike Safety Education Program — which currently includes just 21 of the city’s public schools. Classes teaching students how to ride a bike, how to safely navigate city streets, and other basics should be widely available.
“Our schools, including New York City kids’ daily commutes, should not just be relatively safe, they must be safe havens. Biking is a low-cost, healthy and sustainable transportation tool that more and more New Yorkers are choosing, especially during this pandemic. The more kids who ride bikes the better off they and our city will be. This plan is a bold solution rooted in common sense and it is precisely what we need at this moment,” Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi said. “I want to thank Comptroller Stringer for advancing this excellent plan; Transportation Alternatives, together with our partners, looks forward to helping make it a reality.”
CUNY University Student Senate Chairperson Timothy Hunter added, “Our most marginalized communities in New York City rely heavily on our public education system and our public transit system, both of which are facing looming budget cuts that will disproportionately impact low-income students. Our country is still in the midst of battling a global pandemic, and we as a city must unite and push for a cleaner and more cost efficient means of transportation for everyone especially as we are heading back to school, and as many parents question the safety of public transportation.”