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A ‘wheel’ shot in the arm for Brooklyn cyclists

Bicycling Brooklynites will be able to pedal up to their offices and stow their wheels right next to their desks thanks to a bill approved by the City Council.

The Bicycle Access bill, sponsored by Brooklyn Heights City Councilmember and City Comptroller candidate David Yassky, will require owners of large commercial buildings to provide access to bicyclists bringing their two-wheelers up to their offices.

For years, residents who take their bikes to work would complain about having to leave the bikes outside, where they would fall prey to thieves as well as the elements.

With the passage of his bill, those type of complaints could be a thing of the past, explained Yassky, who also said that the legislation would help the environment by encouraging more people to bike to work.

“In a city in which one in eight kids has asthma, this bill is a long overdue step toward reducing carbon emissions, improving public health, and building a sustainable transportation infrastructure,” Yassky said.

To prove the point, he and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn biked over to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge for a press conference hailing the bill, which passed the Council 46 to 1 Wednesday. The only dissenting vote was from Bushwick City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan.

“Every day, biking becomes a more established part of our transportation network and this legislation literally opens the door to making cycling an even more attractive and serious transportation option,” Sadik-Khan said. “Improved access is also a tremendous boon for businesses who want to encourage cycling among their employees, and it’s a catalyst for engineering a greener, greater New York City.”

To Paul Steely White, Executive Director of the bicycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, the ability to allow bicycles in commercial buildings was a long time in coming.

“No other city in the country has a policy like the one the City Council passed,” White said. “When we open the doors of New York City’s workplaces to cyclists, tens of thousands of commuters are going to get on two wheels.”

Yassky introduced the Bicycle Access bill in 2006. Thirty-five Council members -- an overwhelming majority -- sponsored the bill, which was also unanimously approved by the City Council’s transportation committee.

Commercial building owners initially balked at the proposal, claiming that bicycles would clutter up their hallways and damage the floors, and that it would also be a hardship to provide ramps and other forms of access to freight elevators, which bicyclists would need to use to get to upper floors.

According to the bill, which should go into effect later this year or early next year, a business will have to let their landlord know that their employees are allowed to bringbikes up to their offices.

Once that happens, the building owner can either provide access to the freight elevators, or set up a space in a secured parking lot in a nearby building they also control. If they feel they can’t provide access or that providing access could present a safety hazard, the building owner has the right to apply for an exemption with the Department of Buildings.

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