Last week, the New York City Council passed a bill which will allow bicyclists to follow Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) traffic signals at intersections, permitting them to cross a few seconds before cars get the green light.
An LPI signal gives pedestrians a head-start of at least seven seconds to cross a street before drivers receive the signal to proceed through an intersection or to make a turn through crosswalks. Last year, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) conducted a seven-month pilot program (from April through October 2018) in which the agency installed temporary signs at 50 existing LPI locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens that instructed bicyclists to “Use Ped Signal” at intersections. Bicyclists were still required to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
DOT released the results of the LPI Pilot Program in late May. The report states that prior to the pilot study, the agency observed that “the vast majority of people biking currently proceed on the LPI and no conflicts or near misses were observed.” It also notes that this demonstrates that the “majority of cyclists prefer to utilize the extra green time and can do so safely.”
The study found that intersections are the most common place for serious bicycle crashes due to conflicts with turning drivers. Based on the pilot program, DOT states “allowing bicyclists to also benefit from head start provided by the Leading Pedestrian Interval should improve safety for bicyclists and reduce stressful interactions at intersections without increasing the burden to any pedestrian.”
DOT recommended that bicyclists be permitted to follow the LPI signals citywide but they must continue to yield to all pedestrians. DOT will determine certain intersections where bicyclists will not be allowed to move with the pedestrian signals and will put up signs indicating this at the specific locations.
“There are currently 4,052 LPIs installed citywide,” according to a DOT spokesperson. “The installation process will not change because of the passage of the legislation; LPIs will continue to be selected according to our pedestrian safety criteria. Cyclists will now also be able receive the safety benefit of this head start. Signs were used at the 50 study intersections, but there will not be signs with this new law. In December, it will be citywide law that cyclists can use the pedestrian signals at all signalized intersections unless directed otherwise by a sign or bicycle traffic signal.”
The new law will go into effect on December 20, 2019.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who sponsored the bill, announced its approval on Twitter last Tuesday.
The City Council passed the LPI bill two days before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of the $58 million Green Wave initiative to make NYC streets safer for bicyclists. The plan includes adding 30 miles of bike lanes per year, 80 more DOT staff, and ramping up NYPD bike lane enforcement at 100 city-identified “crash-prone areas.”
The safety measures follow a spate of bicycle-related deaths across the city. On Monday, July 29, an 18th bicyclist, 30-year-old Em Samolewicz, was killed when she swerved to avoid an opening car door and collided with a tractor-trailer on 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park.