2011-01-21 / Front Page

Ulrich Defends His Bike Plan

By Nicholas Briano

Councilmember Eric Ulrich has been under fire this week for a controversial proposal that would require New Yorkers to register their bicycles and place identification tags on their bicycles. Councilmember Eric Ulrich has been under fire this week for a controversial proposal that would require New Yorkers to register their bicycles and place identification tags on their bicycles. I n the midst of a media onslaught, Councilmember Eric Ulrich defended his controversial plan for bicycle identification stickers this week hoping to clarify what he introduced simply as a discussion of problems involving his constituents and bicycles.

The bill that Ulrich plans to draft by early next week will detail his plan to require adult bicycle riders to have a feefree license plate or sticker identification on their bicycle for what Ulrich describes as a means of “accountability.”

“This is not about charging little kids to ride their bikes,” Ulrich told The Wave this week. “The city is constantly trying to accommodate bicyclists, but at the same time we must put something in place to hold them accountable.”

Specifically, Ulrich is talking in regard to conversations he has had with people in Neponsit, among other areas of his district, about bicyclists who often fail to adhere to traffic rules, which potentially causes accidents. He cited a case in which a car was side-swiped in Neponsit by a bicyclist who destroyed a side view mirror and kept going. Despite media reports and the belief of advocacy groups, Ulrich says this is not meant to be a money-making scheme for the city; in fact there will be no registration fee for the bikes under his plan.

“There is no bill yet, no draft, just an idea that I submitted to the Council after receiving numerous complaints from constituents,” Ulrich said. “The concern here is for public safety.”

According to Ulrich, many of his colleagues on the Council actually support the idea and believe that the carelessness of some of the bicycling population is a problem in many of the districts in the outer boroughs.

“Ninety-nine percent of opposition has come from Manhattan. I do not work for them, all due respect, I understand their concerns, but my district is concerned about their safety. As a result, something has to be done.”

Specifics in Ulrich’s plan such as enforcement rules and potential penalties for non-compliant cyclists are still unclear. But one thing Ulrich doesn’t want is for cops to have a bicycle license sticker quota as he again insisted that the plan is not aimed to be a revenue generator for the city. The main purpose of this plan, according to Ulrich, is for identification; in the event that a bicycle causes an accident, the rider can be held accountable.

“We can’t get a red light for a school, but the city is bending over backwards for bike riders, giving them special traffic signals and miles of bike lanes, many in many neighborhoods that didn’t even request them.”

The accommodation to bicyclists isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Ulrich says, but the city needs some balance restored. Bicyclists that stop for red lights and are respectful towards others on the road, including pedestrians and motorists, remain the exception and not the rule, he continued. As Ulrich has already found out, many are against the rule.

“I don’t expect to please everyone all the time and safety trumps the rights of bicycle riders,” he said. “Remember, driving is not a right but a privilege and people pay for that privilege. I want to help bike riders maintain their free privilege, but it must be regulated.”

Not according to bicycle advocates such as Transportation Alternatives who have spoken with Ulrich and still remain up in arms about his plan.

In an email sent to Transportation Alternative members, the group called his plan “an attack on bicyclists and would criminalize bicycling.” They further go on to describe him as “hateful” in attacking everyone who owns a bicycle.

The focus of much media attention this week was the comparison of Ulrich’s plan to former Bronx City Councilmember Madeline Provenzano’s similar 2004 proposal. According to Ulrich, Provenzano’s bill would have required cyclists to pay for registration, get bike licenses and be covered by insurance. The New York Daily News compared the plans and gave Ulrich the “New York Knucklehead” award this week, sarcastically describing his actions as a “stroke of original genius.”

“Trust me, I’ve been called worst,” Ulrich said.

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