The law was wheeled out with much fanfare last year: Bicyclists finally had a clear legal path for bringing their bikes to the work place.
The legislation was seen as the perfect complement to the city’s ambitious initiatives to get more of us pedaling every day. The reality, however, has proved to be bumpy, with questions of effective enforcement.
Indeed, some bicycle commuters are contending with building managers challenging their petitions for bike access or ignoring their requests altogether.
Fort Greene resident Sabrina Lau, 28, has one word for it: “Frustrating.” Lau said her building’s owner on Broadway in lower Manhattan has banned bikes indoors, telling her they would cause “wear and tear.” Despite her employer putting in an application after the law went into effect in December, nothing has changed, she added.
For Ed Ravin, 48, who commutes from Brooklyn to Manhattan, his building owner snubbed his employer’s request, and only last month did management finally allow bikes inside – past the 30-day window in which landlords must implement a bicycle access plan for the building under the law.
“The city has a great website, but they don’t explain enforcement,” Ravin said.
The ”Bikes in Buildings” law allows tenants of office buildings with freight elevators to petition the owners for bicycle access. It’s up to the tenants, not the building owner, to locate space within their offices for the bikes.
But bicyclists must be allowed to use the freight elevator during the same hours as everyone else.
The owners could ask the city Department of Transportation to be exempted if there are safety risks involved with using a freight elevator or they can prove there is sufficient bike parking nearby.
DOT spokesman Montgomery Dean said that department inspectors ensure compliance when a complaint is received, and landlords who fail to act are slapped with an $800 fine.
Eight landlords have been fined so far, Dean said, while the city has received more than 500 tenant requests for bike access, almost all in Manhattan.
“We’re pretty happy with the results (of the law) so far and will continue to work with tenants and management to address any issues that come up,” Dean said.
But the law has another rub: Plans require complete cooperation between the building, the employer and its staff. Even if an employee wants a plan, his or her boss can only trigger the application.
“The law definitely only works well if you have the support of the people who are running your office,” said Molly Smithsimon, who works for Conover Law Offices at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, and had a receptive building owner.
Noah Budnick, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocate, said the law has been positive for bicycle commuters and kinks can be expected since it’s still relatively new.
“More promotion is needed,” Budnick said.
The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law allows office workers to store their wheels indoors as long as their building has freight elevator access.
500 Applications received from New York City office building tenants requesting bike access plans
8 Fines imposed citywide on building owners for failing to provide access
800 Cost in dollars per fine