Cycling gets a lift in New York City

Law will help cycle commuters who work in tower blocks

A new law which has just come into effect in New York City allows bicycles to be carried in freight elevators, so workers in tower blocks can take their bikes into the office rather than having to leave them locked up in the street.

The way it works is that employees can call for the implementation of a Bicycle Access Plan. Unless the building operator is exempt – on grounds of existing cycle parking provision, a safety risk in the lift or because they don't have a freight lift – they must comply.

While the law appears limited – it does not require building operators or business tenants to provide indoor storage or parking space for bicycles – it does at least ensure that where there is a will to do this, access can be guaranteed.

The legislation is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to encourage bicycle commuting. The idea is that if people can park their bikes securely at or near their workplace, they are more likely to want to use them to commute.

Commuter cycling in New York is already accelerating rapidly, with a 26 percent increase in the past year alone, according to the City’s Department of Transportation.

"A lack of secure bike access and parking at the office is one of the biggest deal-breakers for commuters who want to get to work by bike," said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "While commuter cycling continues to grow, this new law unlocks a barrier that has stopped an untold number of bike commutes before they even started." 

The city runs a Bike Friendly Business Competition to recognise companies that go the extra mile for cyclists. This year the winner in the Bicycle Friendly Building Owner category was Trinity Church, one of the largest landowners in Manhattan.

Trinity's buildings offer a variety of bike access and bike parking options, from freight elevator access to tenant space, to bike parking on loading docks, to indoor bike parking rooms.

Another winner was Ogilvy and Mather, an advertising agency which provided 50 commuter bikes for employees to use to get between meetings along with accompanying bike parking, showers, lockers and training. Also up there was Lenny’s sandwich shop, which has introduced ways to ensure its bicycle delivery staff follow traffic rules.

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