New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced the distribution of the 100,000th free bike helmet in just seven years at this weekend’s Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn, a milestone in the years-long safety campaign which has made city streets safer for all users. The agency partnered with Council Member Stephen Levin to fit and distribute free helmets at Sunday’s annual street festival, the latest in more than 300 fittings DOT has hosted since 2006 in collaboration with dozens of partners—from local schools and elected officials to nonprofits and businesses—with the goal of expanding access to helmets and safe-cycling gear citywide. A DOT safety educator fitted the 100,000th helmet on Bettie Kollock-Wallace, a Brownsville resident who has pushed for the expansion of safer bike lanes in her neighborhood. While the law requires only children 13 and younger and commercial cyclists to wear helmets, the agency strongly encourages New Yorkers of every age to wear them when riding. To date, DOT has outfitted more than 62,000 adults and 38,000 children with free helmets and will continue its efforts to promote safe cycling on the more than 600 miles of bike lanes on city streets. DOT’s focus on engineering and education combined with NYPD enforcement have helped make the last six years the safest ever, recording the fewest traffic fatalities. There also has been no increase in serious bike crashes despite the quadrupling of commuter cycling over the past decade, representing a 75% decrease in risk.
“While there’s no putting a lid on engineering ever-safer streets, we’re also working harder than ever to get bike helmets into the hands and onto the heads of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “These signature helmets are as ubiquitous today as the pedestrian islands, bike lanes, pedestrian countdown signals and other changes that have made our streets safer no matter how you get around.”
DOT routinely works with Recycle-a-Bicycle and Bike New York on annual Bike Bonanza events, which fit hundreds of New Yorkers with helmets, including this year at Co-Op City in the Bronx; at the Thomas Greene, Tompkins Square and Rainey Parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, respectively; and at the College of Staten Island. The agency also partners with local organizations and community groups in all five boroughs to expand the reach of its helmet distributions. Most recently it worked with the South Queens Boys & Girls Club, the Union Settlement Houses in East Harlem and the Brooklyn Public Library, to name a few. This builds on ongoing efforts to coordinate fittings at New York City public schools such as MS 51/JJ Byrne Park and PS 127 East Elmhurst Park as well as Queens College, the New School and the Pratt Institute. For the past six Summer Streets, DOT’s free helmet distribution continues to be a major draw, with more than 4,000 helmets fitted at this year’s events.
The DOT’s helmet distribution program is further complemented by NYC Bike Share—operator of Citi Bike—which offers $10 bike-helmet coupons with the purchase of an annual membership. Since Citi Bike’s launch, local bike stores have reported increased sales of helmets. DOT also coordinated free helmet fittings at a dozen New York City Housing Authority properties in the Citi Bike service area, which currently includes Manhattan south of 59th street and adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods.
DOT’s focus on engineering and education is helping make city streets safer for all users. The last five years recorded the fewest traffic fatalities since the City began collecting data in 1910. DOT has launched a series of campaigns to highlight the importance of looking out for one another on the street with its anti-DWI, Look! and Bike Smart campaigns, and with its Commercial Cyclist initiative to improve compliance with traffic rules.