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While Drivers Kill People in Crosswalks, 19th Precinct Cracks Down on Bikes

Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.

Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.

The first New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015 occurred in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, when Uber driver Aliou Diallo ran over Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli at E. 62nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

Mensing died at the scene. NYPD said the victims were “outside the crosswalk,” though photos appeared to indicate they were at most a few feet from the corner. Police did not say how fast Diallo was traveling or how he failed to see two people in front of him.

Since that crash, drivers have killed four more people walking in the 19th Precinct. All of those victims were seniors. At least three of them were hit in or near a crosswalk by a motorist making a turn.

Motorists killed at least five pedestrians in the precinct in 2014, and drivers were charged with violating the Right of Way Law in at least two of those crashes, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Drivers injured 136 pedestrians in the 19th Precinct through July, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View data map, and there were 52 cyclist injuries in that time frame. As of July 166 motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes, an indicator of high speeds.

But when the 19th Precinct set out to reduce collisions, they didn’t concentrate on drivers who speed or fail to yield. DNAinfo reports:

The 19th Precinct has increased its enforcement of bicyclists by 52 percent since this time last year and it’s paid off with an 18 percent decrease in bicycle-related accidents, police said.

On June 10, the precinct sent out patrols for a bike enforcement operation on First Avenue at 78th and 79th streets and at 90th and 91st streets, and handed out 94 summonses to cyclists for running red lights and riding in the wrong direction in the first three hours, according to the NYPD.

As of July, 19th Precinct officers had summonsed 819 motorists for failing to yield, and cited 76 for speeding, in 2015. That means they issued more tickets to cyclists in three hours than they wrote to speeding drivers in seven months. The 94 cyclist summonses issued on June 10 equals about 40 percent of the total number of failure to yield citations issued by the precinct in the entire month.

Vision Zero View tracks the density of traffic injuries by precinct, on a five-level scale, indicated on the map in shades of red. As of July the 19th Precinct ranked one notch below the highest (worst) level. If the precinct wants to improve those numbers it will have to prioritize enforcement against driver behaviors that cause the vast majority of injuries and deaths.

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James Oddo Calls for Wider Roads Hours After SI Traffic Violence Claims Life

A UPS worker who lost a leg when a Staten Island driver slammed into him in April has died. NYPD and Staten Island prosecutors issued no summonses and filed no criminal charges in the case.

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan, 52, was unloading packages from his truck at 2044 Hylan Boulevard on the morning of April 6 when a driver hit him with a Toyota sedan, according to the Staten Island Advance. NYPD told the Advance the driver was in the left, northbound lane and “tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian who crossed in front of his vehicle.”

The driver lost control of his vehicle and it swerved into the right lane, striking and pinning Ryan against the back of the UPS truck, police said.

Ryan, of Bayonne, died this week, the Advance reported.

The impact from the crash severed one of his legs, causing him to bleed profusely and go into cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma due to the loss of oxygen to his brain, and never regained consciousness, his wife [Elise Ryan] said.

“He had an anoxic brain injury — that was more of his injury than even the leg,” the grieving wife explained.

The driver who killed Ryan was not identified. Despite indications that driver speed contributed to the crash — and was likely the difference between whether Ryan lived or died — no charges were filed by police, former district attorney Dan Donovan, or acting DA Daniel Master Jr., who took office in May, after Donovan was elected to Congress.

The crash that killed Tom Ryan occurred in the 122nd Precinct — where as of July local officers had ticketed 1,180 drivers for speeding in 2015 — and in the City Council district represented by Steve Matteo.

According to DOT, while overall NYC pedestrian deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years, the number of people killed by drivers while walking in Staten Island has not declined. But making streets safer is not a priority for Staten Island electeds.

Matteo has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation. He was one of four council members, along with former Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio, to vote against lowering the city speed limit. Matteo has said he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam.

When he was on the council, Matteo’s predecessor James Oddo, who is now borough president, called for requiring an environmental review for new bike lanes. Hours after news broke of Tom Ryan’s death, Oddo took to Twitter to brag about upcoming road widenings and call for more such projects on Staten Island.

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City Hall and TWU Reach Settlement in Suit Over Right-of-Way Law

The de Blasio administration has reached a settlement with TWU Local 100 over the union’s lawsuit against the Right-of-Way Law, ostensibly bringing an end to a rancorous political fight that sapped energy from the city’s street safety efforts for the better part of a year.

On its face, the settlement maintains the integrity of the law, which was intended to ensure a basic measure of accountability when drivers harm people who are following all the rules. In practice, NYPD has rarely applied the law, and with this settlement the key question remains whether rank-and-file officers will be trained to enforce it properly.

The city enacted the Right-of-Way Law last summer, making it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right-of-way. The law was supposed to address the vexing lack of police investigations into the thousands of crashes each year in which pedestrians and cyclists suffer non-life-threatening injuries. (As opposed to fatal crashes, which are investigated by a specialized unit, the Collision Investigation Squad.)

But after some MTA bus drivers were charged under the law for injuring or killing pedestrians, TWU 100 made gutting it a top priority. In the press, the union accused the law’s backers of “criminalizing” bus drivers. In Albany and the City Council, TWU threw its muscle behind multiple bills to render the law unenforceable. And in the courts, it tried to get the law nullified on constitutional grounds.

The terms of the settlement do not capitulate to the TWU’s legislative agenda, which entailed either carving out exemptions for bus drivers or neutering the law by spelling out a litany of circumstances (wet pavement, for example) in which it would not apply. “Protecting New Yorkers is our top priority and the Right of Way Law is a powerful tool to keep pedestrians safe,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This settlement makes explicit what the City, the NYPD and District Attorneys mean by ‘due care,’ and the standard we are using as we implement this law.”

The key passage in the settlement states that the law does not “give rise to strict liability,” meaning that to secure a conviction, police and prosecutors need to demonstrate that a driver both failed to yield and failed to exercise due care.

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One Year Later, Bratton’s NYPD Rarely Enforcing Key Vision Zero Law

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. The Right of Way Law is a key component of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD barely enforces it.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. The Right of Way Law is a key component of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD barely enforces it a year after it took effect.

Last weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Right of Way Law, also known as code Section 19-190, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists in New York City to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way.

The law is a legislative centerpiece of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. It was supposed to put an end to the days when motorists who failed to yield could injure people without facing any consequences. But one year in, that goal is still a long way off, with NYPD rarely enforcing the new law.

According to a New York Times story published in June, NYPD charged “at least 31″ drivers in the 10 months after the law took effect. During that same period, New York City motorists injured 11,606 pedestrians and cyclists, and killed 118. Since failure to yield is the primary factor in 27 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and deaths in New York City, according to NYC DOT’s 2010 Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan [PDF], it’s all but certain that most drivers who violate the law are not cited by NYPD. (We asked the mayor’s office for current data on Right of Way Law charges. We’ll post it if we get it.)

Last October, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said all 35,000 uniformed officers would be trained to enforce the Right of Way Law. This would allow the department to apply the law in collisions not deemed serious enough to warrant attention from the Collision Investigation Squad, a small, specialized unit that works a few hundred crashes per year, almost all of them fatalities. But with only a few dozen cases brought by NYPD since the law took effect, most motorists who injure and kill rule-abiding New Yorkers continue to do so with impunity.

Given the high profile of some Right of Way cases brought by police and prosecutors, it’s possible the law may be having a deterrent effect anyway. NYPD charged several MTA bus drivers for injuring or killing people in crosswalks — cases that got a lot of publicity when the Transport Workers Union called for bus drivers to be exempt from the law. While MTA bus drivers killed eight people in crosswalks last year, to this point no such crashes have occurred in 2015.

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NYPD’s Fifth Precinct Goes for a Ride With Street Safety Advocates

Traffic safety advocates pose with members of the Fifth Precinct before yesterday's bike ride. Photo: Stephen Miller

Advocates hope open lines of communication with NYPD’s Fifth Precinct will lead to better traffic enforcement priorities. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYPD’s Fifth Precinct doesn’t have a great reputation for safety-focused traffic enforcement. Known for ticketing cyclists at T-intersections and at the base of the Manhattan Bridge, the precinct has relied on questionable math to back up its disproportionate focus on bike enforcement. Seeking to bridge the divide, a group of about 10 people went for a bike ride with precinct officers yesterday.

“It began with a Twitter spat,” said Doug Gordon, who tweets as @BrooklynSpoke and regularly rides through the Fifth Precinct on his way to and from the Manhattan Bridge.

After a motorist killed a pedestrian nearby, Gordon got the attention of Sergeant Kakit Yip, who monitors the precinct’s Twitter account in addition to being its traffic safety officer.

Gordon and a group including representatives from Transportation Alternatives met with Yip at the precinct late last month for more than an hour. “It was pretty impressive. It was really nice that he gave that much time to us,” Gordon said. “Sergeant Yip was very open, very willing to listen.”

“He gave us a lot of clarifications on things,” said Hilda Cohen, who frequently rides in the precinct. For example, Yip said that red light stings are usually done by the Citywide Traffic Task Force, not the precinct.

“It was really quite positive,” Cohen said. “I came out of the whole meeting feeling like this is what we want to have happen. We really want to have this communication.”

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NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Woman on Midtown Sidewalk

Southwest corner of Second Avenue and E. 49th Street, where a driver came to a stop after hitting three people on the sidewalk, pinning Mallory Weisbrod to a pole. Weisbrod died. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Southwest corner of Second Avenue and E. 49th Street, where a driver came to a stop after hitting three people on the sidewalk, pinning Mallory Weisbrod to a pole. Weisbrod died. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Update: Newsday identified the driver as Dimas Debrito.

A driver who hit three people on a Midtown sidewalk, killing a 24-year-old woman, was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

On Monday August 10, at around 4:24 p.m., Mallory Weisbrod was walking along Second Avenue at E. 49th Street when a motorist drove a Mercedes onto the curb, according to published accounts. Weisbrod was pinned against a pole and suffered severe injuries to her legs. The driver hit two other women — ages 21 and 23, according to WABC — one of whom was also hospitalized.

Weisbrod died last Sunday at Bellevue Hospital.

The Daily News reported that according to police, “the 64-year-old driver lost control after being cut off by another car,” and photos of the scene show the car with extensive front-end damage — indications that speed was a likely factor in the crash.

The crash happened in the 17th Precinct, where as of July local officers had ticketed 82 drivers for speeding in 2015.

The driver’s name was not released, and NYPD made no arrests. NYPD told Gothamist the investigation was “ongoing,” which usually means the Collision Investigation Squad hasn’t completed a report. Right of Way Law violations excepted, NYPD and New York City district attorneys rarely file charges for a serious crash after the driver is released from the scene.

Of the Daily News, the Post, and DNAinfo, the Daily News was the only outlet to mention the driver in its coverage of the crash.

The crash that killed Mallory Weisbrod and injured a second victim occurred in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick, and in Community Board District 6.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed 72-Year-Old Cyclist in Sunset Park

A driver killed Rigoberto Diaz as he biked through the intersection of 48th Street and Third Avenue in Sunset Park. Image: Google Maps

A driver killed Rigoberto Diaz as he biked through the intersection of 48th Street and Third Avenue in Sunset Park. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a senior on a bike under the Gowanus Expressway on a Sunset Park street where drivers are routinely involved in high-speed crashes.

The crash happened Wednesday at around 5:30 p.m. Rigoberto Diaz, 72, was traveling westbound against traffic on 48th Street and attempting to turn left onto Third Avenue when a driver traveling northbound on Third hit him with a Chevrolet SUV, according to NYPD and Patch.

Diaz died at Lutheran Hospital. NYPD and District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges against the driver, whose name was not released. A police spokesperson told us the investigation was still open as of this afternoon.

NYPD had no information on how fast the driver who hit Diaz was going. Police said Diaz was making a “wide left turn,” which could mean he was attempting to get to southbound Third Avenue when the driver hit him.

There are traffic signals at the intersection of Third Avenue and 48th Street. If the crash occurred as described by police, and Diaz and the driver approached the crossing at a perpendicular angle, one of two scenarios seems likely: Either the driver or Diaz ran the light, or Diaz made his turn near the end of the light cycle as the driver entered the intersection at speed.

Injury crashes along Third Avenue this year, with the site of Wednesday’s fatal collision indicated by the blue dot. Image: Vision Zero View

Injury crashes along Third Avenue this year, as of June, with the site of Wednesday’s collision indicated by the blue dot. Image: Vision Zero View

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NYPD: Drivers Injured 1,228 Pedestrians and Cyclists in June, and Killed 10

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty people died in New York City traffic in June, and 4,795 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of June, 62 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 6,277 injured, compared to 62 deaths and 7,080 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers: two pedestrians in Manhattan; one pedestrian in the Bronx; three pedestrians and one cyclist in Brooklyn; one pedestrian in Queens; and two in Staten Island. Among the victims were Dorothy Gerstenfeld, Moshe Grun, Ethan Villavicencio, Martin Celmer, Diana Ealkamenetz, Jeri Pearson, Millwood Hughes, David Craig, Betty Jean DiBlasio, Yekutiel Rapp, an unnamed male pedestrian in Manhattan, and an unnamed male cyclist in Brooklyn. Motorists killed at least one child and four seniors in June: Ethan Villavicencio, 7; Dorothy Gerstenfeld, 88; Diana Ealkamenetz, 67; Millwood Hughes, 93; and Yekutiel Rapp, 66.

Drivers killed at least two pedestrians whose deaths were not reported by NYPD.

Across the city, 769 pedestrians and 459 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 12 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death. Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least seven victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, including one victim who was on the sidewalk and one who was hit while inside a building. Police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law only once in June. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In one case, immediately after a pedestrian was killed, police exonerated the driver by telling the press the victim was “outside the crosswalk.”

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Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

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Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Kills Senior Near Bowery and Canal

A dangerous intersection awaiting a safety fix. A precinct that lags on street safety. And a driver who could have faced stronger charges if Albany had taken action. Image: WNBC

The driver of this truck was operating with a suspended license when he struck and killed Ka Chor Yau last week. Image: WNBC

On Friday afternoon, a dump truck driver with a suspended license struck and killed 83-year-old Ka Chor Yau, who was crossing a deadly intersection at the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The same intersection is due to receive pedestrian safety improvements this summer.

The driver, 24-year-old Maykel Felix-Tejada of Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation, the standard charge for driving without a valid license. He was not charged for any crimes related to Yau’s death. Police said Yau was outside the crosswalk and did not have the right of way.

A bill to toughen penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill passed the State Senate earlier this year but did not clear the Assembly. Under the bill, these drivers would face felony charges for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

The intersection where Yau was killed is slated to receive upgrades that would make it safer for pedestrians to cross near the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. The plan to add a crosswalk, traffic signal, and curb extensions has received the support of Manhattan Community Board 3, and DOT says implementation is slated to begin in early August, with completion in October.

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, has regularly spoken out about pedestrian deaths on Canal Street. Her bill requiring DOT to study bicycle and pedestrian safety along truck routes, including Canal Street, was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.

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