The day after a terrorist rented a pickup truck with the intent to hurt and kill American citizens on a New York City bike path, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a bill that could protect pedestrians and cyclists — and potentially prevent another attack like this from occurring.
The Stopping Threats On Pedestrians Act (also known as the STOP Act), if passed, would establish a grant program through the U.S. Department of Transportation to install traffic barriers, such as planters and bollards, to protect pedestrians and cyclists from reckless drivers. Considering that states across the U.S. have seen a 46% increase in bicycle commuters since 2005 but nationwide infrastructure is generally still lacking, this change could potentially have a big impact throughout the country.
The bill was first introduced in the House last month by U.S. Representatives Adriana Espaillat and Dan Donovan, who are both New Yorkers like Gillibrand. The bipartisan effort by the two representatives allowed Gillibrand to introduce the bill to the U.S. Senate. They pointed out that the Times Square crash attack would have been much worse if there had been no barriers like these in place. Their bill would allow this to become a reality.
State and local governments, along with official planning organizations, would work together under the program to assess the places with unprotected bike lanes that pose a risk to cyclists. These organizations would then apply to the U.S. Transportation Secretary for a grant to put in traffic barriers that would prevent both intentional and unintentional crashes, increasing pedestrian safety overall.
The Senator framed the bill as a way to thwart ISIS’s new preferred method of attack: turning common vehicles into weapons of mass destruction. If put into place, the program would authorize $500 million — or $50 million every year over the next decade — for the cause. Because of its cross-party support, Gillibrand is optimistic that it will pass through the legislative process quickly.
In a statement, Gillibrand noted: “Providing adequate funding to install traffic barriers throughout cities across the country is a commonsense bipartisan measure that would help protect pedestrians and bicyclists from these kinds of hateful acts. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this legislation that will keep our cities safer.”