City hears feedback on transit proposals

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The City Council Transportation Committee heard testimony, some impassioned, on a variety of proposed laws ranging from requiring prior notice before parking meter rates go up to making it illegal to leave a parked vehicle’s engine idling.

Among advocates for the anti-idling measure was the father of a teenager killed when an idling car was stolen and struck the youth and his friend in Middle Village last winter.

Another would make employers of bicycle messengers and food deliverers responsible for the conduct of the cyclists, who some witnesses said often run traffic lights and ride counter to the flow of one-way streets.

City Deputy Commissioner of Transportation David Woloch and Deputy Police Commissioner Susan Petito spent two hours on the stand answering questions from Council members.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) took issue when Woloch said 60 days was too much lead time to advise motorists parking meter rates were going up.

“A 30-day time frame would more be appropriate,” Woloch said.

Petito objected to a part of the proposed bicycle safety bill that “removes the penalty for a bicycle operator failing to carry or produce the required identification and failing to wear the required helmet while seeking to hold the business solely liable for the violations.”

“There would be no basis for police officers to stop or give a summons to a bicycle operator who is committing a violation and therefore no way to determine who is, in fact, employed to make a delivery.”

Michele Birnbaum of Manhattan said, “I have frequently witnessed bicycles going against traffic, one-way streets and avenues, passing red lights, riding in bus lanes and on sidewalks.”

The proposed law on a Commuter Van Bill of Rights would require posting in such vehicles a statement of passengers’ rights about fares, payment and lodging of passenger complaints and compliments. One witness expressed approval with slight changes, although several van operators opposed it.

Among those who supported the no-idling bill, it was like a “loaded gun” in the view of Brendan Ogle of Middle Village. His son, Robert, 16, was killed Feb. 1 when a car left idling was stolen and smashed into the youth and a friend, Alex Paul, 20, who died later.

Both Liu and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who introduced the no idling legislation, expressed their condolences to Ogle.

The Council Transportation Committee will vote on the bills within the coming weeks, after which they will go before the full Council for approval.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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