The City Council today passed a slate of bills and resolutions aimed at improving street safety.
The 11 bills — outlined in detail here  — include Intro 238, which would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to “make contact” with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail; and Intro 171, known as “Cooper’s Law,” which would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death.
Council Member Mark Weprin, of Queens, cast the lone vote against Intro 171. Weprin said the bill comes too close to creating a strict liability standard — which, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro, is exactly what New York State needs to reduce deaths and injuries . Weprin said he fears the law would punish some unfairly — that a driver’s career shouldn’t end because of one incident, and that a cabbie who rolls through a stop sign and causes a crash should not necessarily be subject to the same penalties as one who crashes while speeding. (The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock failed to yield and had an otherwise clean record.) “This is the livelihood of these drivers,” said Weprin. Council Members Vincent Gentile and Jumaane Williams abstained from voting on the bill.
Other bills would combine points issued by the state DMV and the TLC against hack licenses and set new TLC license suspension and revocation standards; require the TLC to review and report on cab driver crashes and subsequent disciplinary actions; codify the number of Slow Zones DOT implements each year; codify DOT work zone safety standards; require DOT to study the safety of arterial streets, study safety issues pertaining to left turns by motorists, and inspect and/or repair broken traffic signals within 24 hours; and prohibit “stunt behavior” by motorcyclists.
The bill to require the TLC to institute a one-year pilot program for “black box” technology to record and report taxi driver behavior was not on today’s agenda. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the transportation committee  in April that the agency has issued RFIs for the program, but she made no mention of the pilot  in budget testimony before the council earlier this month.
One bill in the transportation committee hopper not taken up today would mandate side guards for trucks to help prevent people from being swept beneath them. DOT asked that the council hold off on legislating truck guards in lieu of a pending study already underway within the department.
The council approved resolutions asking Albany to grant the city control over speed and red light cameras, increase the penalty for driving on a sidewalk to $250 and three license points, make it a misdemeanor  to violate the state’s vulnerable user law, increase the penalty for reckless driving that results in death or serious injury, and pass extant bills to increase penalties for leaving the scene of a crash.
- While voting in favor of all traffic safety bills, Council Member Andy King of the Bronx said that, as a motorist, he looked forward to seeing the city “hold pedestrians accountable for texting and walking.” Texting while walking is completely legal in NYC, and most pedestrian-involved crashes are caused by drivers breaking the law.
- Council Member Robert Cornegy lamented the “contentious effort” to bring a Slow Zone to Bedford-Stuyvesant, which he seemed to blame on DOT. Cornegy, who recently said he believes Select Bus Service and wider sidewalks impede commercial foot traffic , expressed skepticism of the community-driven Slow Zone process and DOT data.
- Council Member Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn voted against the “stunt riding” bill, as she believed it would impose on “motorcycle culture,” and would lead to young people being arrested. The bill was intended to address behavior of dirt bike riders who take over streets, and even sidewalks, in NYC neighborhoods, particularly in Upper Manhattan, every year during warm weather months, and was proposed after a confrontation between motorcyclists and a family in an SUV  resulted in serious injuries.
Streetsblog will have more on these new laws, and their impact on street safety in NYC, in the coming weeks.