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Sunday: Parents + Kids + Bikes = Brooklyn 2016 KiDS Bike Forum

Photo: Kidical Mass NYC

Photo: Kidical Mass NYC

If you have kids and you’re holding out for the right time to get them on bikes, the Brooklyn 2016 KiDS Bike Forum, happening in Bed Stuy this weekend, might be for you.

Hosted by Brooklyn Transition Center and sponsored by Kidical Mass NYC, Bike New York, and other orgs and businesses, Sunday’s event is aimed at helping families with children get comfortable riding on city streets. Meet parents and kids who are already riding, try out kid-friendly cargo bikes, or learn how to get your kid’s bike ready to roll.

The forum is free. Helmets are required, and preregistration requested, for the Bike New York kids’ bike skills class, for children age 9 and up.

The fun starts at 10 a.m. at 185 Ellery Street.

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The TLC Has Never Used Cooper’s Law to Permanently Revoke a TLC License

In the 18 months it has been on the books, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has never used Cooper’s Law to permanently revoke the TLC license of a cab driver for hurting or killing someone.

TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi

Cooper’s Law, which took effect in September 2014, allows the TLC to suspend the TLC licenses of cab drivers involved in crashes that result in death or critical injury. If a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or crime for causing such a crash, the law requires the agency to revoke that person’s TLC license.

The law was named after 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed on the Upper West Side in January 2014 by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield. Cooper’s Law was one of several traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

“On the whole our drivers are safe,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said at the mayor’s Vision Zero bill signing ceremony, “but there are a few bad apples and we need to remove them.”

That isn’t happening — at least under the aegis of Cooper’s Law.

Vision Zero transparency laws do not require the TLC to publish data on what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone. Streetsblog filed a freedom of information request in February after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain data on case outcomes from the TLC. We received the agency’s response earlier this week.

“There have been no TLC licensees that have had their license permanently revoked for injuring or killing a pedestrian or cyclist pursuant to Cooper’s Law,” the TLC legal affairs office wrote.

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TLC Won’t Say If Any Cab Drivers Have Lost Licenses Under Cooper’s Law

Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for data on how many times the Taxi and Limousine Commission has permanently revoked TLC licenses of cab drivers for injuring and killing people since the adoption of Cooper’s Law. The request follows several unsuccessful attempts to obtain the data from the TLC.

Cooper Stock

Has the Taxi and Limousine Commission ever used Cooper’s Law to take a reckless cab driver off the streets for good? The TLC won’t say.

Cooper’s Law gives the TLC discretion to suspend the TLC license of a cab driver who is involved in a crash that causes death or critical injury. In cases where a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or a crime stemming from such a crash, the law requires the TLC to revoke that person’s license to drive a cab.

The law was named after Cooper Stock, a 9-year-old Manhattan boy who in January 2014 was fatally struck by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield, and was one of a number of traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

Local Law 28, another Vision Zero regulation, requires the TLC to publish data on how many TLC-licensed drivers are involved in crashes resulting in critical injury or death, the number of cases where action against a driver’s TLC license was warranted and, of those, how many summary TLC license suspensions were imposed. The law also says TLC should publish information on subsequent “enforcement actions taken.”

But the TLC does not publicize what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone, and does not list the number of TLC license revocations or reinstatements. Without knowing how cases are resolved, the public can’t gauge how effective Cooper’s Law is in getting dangerous cab drivers off the streets.

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Years After Death of Ariel Russo, NYPD Chases Still Injuring and Killing People

Last week Franklin Reyes was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of other people.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of bystanders and police.

Police pulled Reyes over on W. 89th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, on June 4, 2013, after he drove his family’s pick-up truck across several lanes to make a turn. As officers walked toward the truck, Reyes, who was 17 and did not have a drivers license, hit the gas.

Police chased Reyes for eight blocks until he crashed onto the sidewalk at Amsterdam and W. 97th Street, where Ariel and her grandmother, Katia Gutierrez, were walking to Ariel’s school. Reyes hit them both, killing Ariel and injuring Gutierrez.

NYPD vehicle pursuits that result in death typically lead to serious charges for the people being chased. According to court records, Reyes pled guilty to manslaughter, assault, and two counts of fleeing police — all felonies. Gothamist reports that he was sentenced Friday.

“Ariel died a violent death because of your reckless behavior and you have not apologized,” said Sofia Russo, Ariel’s mother, in court. “You have shown no remorse.”

Nor has NYPD stopped engaging in car chases. NYPD policy says “a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” As in the case of Ariel Russo, and Karen Schmeer, and Violetta Kryzak, and Mary Celine Graham, many times a pursuit doesn’t end until the suspect crashes. In the wake of Ariel’s death, NYPD chases are still injuring and killing people.

NYPD hides police crash data from the public, so we don’t know exactly how much injury, loss of life, and property damage is caused every year due in part to the department’s open-ended pursuit policy. Stories about police pursuits that lead to injuries still surface regularly in the press. In March 2015 an unlicensed driver attempting to evade police killed Dave Jones on a sidewalk in Crown Heights.

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Streetsblog USA
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4 Things Schools Can Do to Reduce the Asthma Threat From Idling Cars

Lately, American schools have been pretty responsive to public health and safety threats facing children. Witness the rise of peanut butter bans or the dwindling number of vending machines in schools.

Idling near schools can trigger asthma attacks -- a leading cause of childhood mortality. So why is it considered so acceptable? Photo: IdleFreeVermont

Idling near schools can trigger asthma attacks — a leading cause of childhood mortality. So why do so many parents do it? Photo: IdleFreeVermont

But schools haven’t been very successful at tackling what is arguably a much bigger threat to children’s health: air pollution caused by driving. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. Car exhaust can trigger attacks and may cause asthma itself, and schools are where children tend to be especially exposed. In school zones, levels of air pollutants “may significantly exceed community background levels, particularly in the presence of idling school buses,” according to researchers with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Every morning and afternoon at schools around the country, pick-up and drop-off times are free-for-alls of mindless idling, with tailpipes spitting poisonous chemicals into the air children breathe. “Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children,” according to the U.S. EPA.

“One major issue with air pollution is that it is invisible,” says Anneka Whisker of the group Moms for Clean Air. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five things schools can do to help reduce pollution from idling and asthma.

1. Encourage active transportation

To reduce air pollution at school, make walking and biking as safe and practical as possible.

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Eyes on the Street: DIY School Zone Traffic-Calming in Corona

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Today Transportation Alternatives staff and members of Families for Safe Streets are in Albany, asking legislators to allow NYC to install speed enforcement cameras near every school in the city. This example of a crossing guard’s efforts to defend school kids in Queens, courtesy of Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr., is another good illustration of why the state should lift arbitrary enforcement restrictions.

Last week Clarence and son Clarence Eckerson III came upon a DIY neckdown at 104th Street and 41st Avenue, outside P.S. 16 in Corona. Says Clarence:

The crossing guard [pictured] had set up four cones to slow traffic — essentially setting up a temporary gateway treatment on this street! Two cones on either side, narrowing the crossing distance for young people and all other pedestrians.

Before they got the cones, provided by the Parks Department, crossing guards at the school used trash cans to slow turning drivers. Four cones are needed, she said, due to “the speeds some cars go around here.” The 104th Precinct, where P.S. 16 is located, ticketed 702 speeding drivers in all of 2015.

queenscones2

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Eyes on the Street: Just Another Brush With Death at a Typical NYC Crossing


The design of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in Long Island City is typical of thousands of New York City crossings: an intersection of relatively narrow streets where drivers are allowed to park to the edge of crosswalks with no design elements to force motorists to slow down.

The combination of poor visibility and lack of traffic-calming features leads to crashes like the one in the video, taken Thursday, when an Access-A-Ride driver sped into a crosswalk while turning left and struck a child with a van’s door-mounted mirror. Luckily it appears the child wasn’t seriously hurt.

Jean Cawley, who sent us the video, has written to DOT officials, including Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia, several times to ask for traffic-calming measures at this intersection and other locations in the area. Cawley also submitted a petition to DOT from residents of Dutch Kills.

Consistent NYPD enforcement wouldn’t hurt either. The 114th Precinct, where the crash in the video occurred, issues an average of just 23 tickets a month to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

Below are images from a two-vehicle collision at the same intersection that sent a cab onto the sidewalk.

“Cars barrel through our streets in a dangerous manner all day, every day,” wrote Cawley in an email to Garcia, with the video and photos attached. “I hope you will help. DOT’s actions may save a life.”

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Streetsblog USA
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Will the New “Free Range Kids Law” Protect Parents Who Let Kids Walk?

Last spring, Alexander and Danielle Meitiv became public faces of the “Free Range Kids” movement when their children were picked up by police in Silver Spring, Maryland, while walking home from a local park.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, left, were investigated for child neglect after their children were picked up by police last spring while walking home from the park. Photo: Facebook via the Daily Mail.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, left, were investigated for child neglect after their children were picked up by police last spring while walking home from the park. Photo: Facebook via the Daily Mail

The sight of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old unsupervised prompted police to open a child neglect case against the couple. The investigation was dropped in June — but not before the story made national headlines.

A provision inserted into the just-passed federal education bill seeks to put an end to incidents like this, writes Lenore Skenazy in the New York Post. Skenazy, the founder of the Free Range Kids movement and a writer at Reason.com, says cases like the Meitivs’ are more common than you’d think.

The provision from Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, says the law will not “prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot, or by car, bus, or bike when … the parents have given permission.”

We asked some attorneys if the new rule was likely to prevent local police departments from coming down on parents who allow their children to do things like walk to school and play unsupervised.

Ohio bike lawyer Steve Magas said he’s seen similar cases, but he’s not sure how often “free range parents” end up in the legal system. In 2011, a Tennessee mom faced neglect charges for letting her kid bike to school. Magas said he’s currently preparing to represent a woman who was threatened with child endangerment charges by the Ohio Highway Patrol for riding her bike with her toddler.

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Streetsblog USA
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Carseats and the Limitations of American Safety Culture

One lesson they really hammer home, when you’re a new parent, is the importance of carseats.

Alarming articles about car seat fails are part of the territory for new parents. But the scaremongering stops short. Image: Today

Alarming articles about carseat failures are part of the territory for new parents. Image: Today

Hospitals won’t let you take a newborn home from the hospital unless you can show you have a carseat. And they warn you of this fact in Lamaze class and in all the parenting books and on all the parenting websites.

I had a baby six months ago, and we had our carseat installed at a fire station when I was in my third trimester. Fire stations are recommended because a lot of carseats are so complicated to install, you need help from specially trained safety officials. My child, to be sure, has never traveled a mile in a car without a carseat, so in my case, anyway, the campaign succeeded admirably.

Since people know I’m a new mom, I sometimes get sent scary articles about mistakes you can make with your carseat that can kill your child. (For the record, don’t put your child in a carseat in a winter coat, and don’t put your child in an unstrapped car seat for napping.)

There’s a lot of emphasis on carseats because the public health community has rallied around them, and for good reason. For kids under 1, carseats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent, and for kids ages 1 to 4, risk is reduced about 54 percent, according to the CDC.

So carseats are crucial and necessary, but as a tool, they have some limitations. They aren’t tested at speeds higher than 35 miles per hour. And they’re designed to minimize the damage from front end collisions, meaning they can be of limited use in side and rear impact situations.

The reality is that driving is inherently risky, especially for child passengers, and the best a carseat can do is mitigate that risk. Carseats help when you’re in a collision — the safest thing to do is avoid collisions in the first place. But when you have a baby, nobody says, “Hey, to protect your kid, maybe try driving less, taking transit more, or just avoid highways and don’t drive at higher speeds.” Even the CDC’s advice for parents doesn’t go beyond recommending carseats and seat belts, with one reference to drunk driving.

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DA Ken Thompson: Felony Plea for Driver Who Killed Roshard Charles, 5

A driver who fatally struck a little boy in Crown Heights and left the scene has pled guilty to felony hit-and-run.

On March 16, 2014, 5-year-old Roshard Charles was walking with his mother, little brother, and a friend on Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue when a driver aiming for a parking spot backed into him with a minivan. According to reports, as Roshard’s mother screamed and pounded on the van, Elizabeth Mayard drove away. Reports said Mayard ran red lights as she fled westbound on Empire, and was convinced by a witness who followed her to return to the scene.

Roshard Charles

Roshard Charles

From the Daily News:

[Witness Thomas] Barry and two others lifted the boy and put him on the hood of a parked car to try to keep him awake until help arrived, he said.

“Three or four times it was like he was going into the fetal position, and then he wasn’t moving anymore,” said a witness who lifted the boy. “He didn’t move again. He just didn’t move.”

The Daily News reported that Roshard “darted away from his mom,” a claim that did not match accounts from other media outlets, NYPD, or Roshard’s mother.

Rochelle Charles spoke with DNAinfo :

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Mayard with leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in death, a D felony, as well as misdemeanor reckless endangerment, reckless driving, careless driving, and unsafe backing of a vehicle. According to court records, last week Mayard pled guilty to leaving the scene, the top charge against her. Thompson did not charge Mayard for taking the life of Roshard Charles.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Mayard is scheduled to be sentenced in January.