By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — The Department of Transportation will be forced to explain how it decides where to put bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and other so-called "traffic calming devices" under new legislation passed by the City Council Tuesday.
The legislation comes amid increasing frustrations over the city's 200 miles of new bike lanes, which many complain pop up without sufficient warning, confuse drivers and pedestrians, eat up parking spots and block store-front access.
The law will require the Transportation Department to establish clear guidelines and make them available online.
"You often hear from people in a community who have had bike lanes or speed bumps put in their neighborhood and they don't know why," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said before the near-unanimous vote.
Others, she said, desperately want dangerous traffic and pedestrian issues addressed but are left frustrated when their requests are denied without explanation.
"This way the public will know why they are or they aren't getting the traffic calming devices they do or they do not want," she said.
Transportation Committee chair James Vacca said the new rule isn't intended as a weapon against bike lanes, but argued that the guidelines can be used as "a measure to assess whether or not bike lanes are appropriate in the location that they're going," he said.
Vacca added that residents and community boards can use the guidelines to propose alternative ways to deal with traffic issues and will be in a better position to challenge decisions they disagree with.
The law does not apply to bike lanes that are installed for other purposes, such as linking two existing paths.
The DOT will have 90 days to develop and post its guidelines once the bill is signed into law by the mayor.