EAST VILLAGE — With thousands of extra bikes set to compete with cars on city streets under the new Citi Bike share program, an NYPD sergeant fears more cyclists will be struck by vehicles on traffic-clogged streets.
"Yes, I am concerned about the bike share program," said Amber Cafaro, traffic safety sergeant at the East Village's 9th Precinct, speaking after the precinct's community council meeting Tuesday night.
"We are going to see a lot of people hit by cars, I think."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan have promoted the Citibank-sponsored program's 6,000 bikes as a boon to the city's economy and transit infrastructure. But Cafaro nonetheless said she fears more crashes involving cyclists as a result.
Cafaro listed recent accidents in the East Village involving distracted cyclists talking on phones and running red lights, along with one biker who slipped on a wet roadway and wound up putting his hand through a car windshield.
"Bikers don't realize you can't do that," Cafaro said, describing behaviors that could endanger cyclists. "You have to stay off the phone, you have to stay in the bike lane and you have to stop at red lights."
The East Village recently saw a spike in reported bicycle crashes, with eight in the 28-day period ending May 19, compared to just four in the same period the previous year, Cafaro said.
And a month earlier, there were six bike accidents in the 9th Precinct compared to four the previous year, Cafaro said.
"We are seeing a spike, and we don't want to see a spike," she said.
The Department of Transportation responded that the DOT's Street Safety Managers have already been deployed to busy bike and pedestrian areas including the East Village to increase street safety ahead of the bike share program's launch.
The managers can advise cyclists on traffic rules, but they will not be able to fine lawbreakers, a DOT spokesman said.
Those who purchased a yearly bike share membership before May 17 will have access to the 330 bike stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan starting May 27. Starting June 2, daily and weekly members will be able to start using the bikes, according to the DOT.