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Hey Brian Lehrer — Traffic Congestion Is Not a Vision Zero Tactic

This morning on WNYC Brian Lehrer said he didn’t understand why Mayor de Blasio would want to penalize Uber for making traffic congestion worse, since the mayor is “causing congestion purposely” to make streets safer for walking and biking.

The speed limit is not why this is happening. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

The speed limit is not why this is happening. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Here’s an excerpt:

They want to make driving in the city as unpalatable as possible so people switch to mass transit, which is more in the public interest for a host of reasons. And I tend to support that, that’s a good idea. Also the de Blasio administration has made Vision Zero a central policy — something else I support. But again the goal is to make traffic go slower, not to make it easier on cars. They’ve reduced the official speed limit too. And congestion accomplishes the same goal — that is, fewer pedestrian fatalities — by other means. Traffic means less speed, which means more pedestrian safety.

Like a lot of people who weighed in during the Uber debate, Lehrer confuses speed limits and average speeds.

Lowering the maximum speed people are allowed to drive has nothing to do with a grinding crush of cars inching along at a few miles per hour. An easy way to grasp the difference: The citywide speed limit is 25 miles per hour, while last year the average speed in the Manhattan core was 8.51 mph. Congestion is a symptom of too many motorists trying to use scarce street space at the same time, not a tactic to make drivers travel at a safe speed.

Put another way, in the early 1980s motor vehicle traffic was moving at an average speed of 9.8 mph on midtown avenues and 6.4 mph on crosstown streets. Though congestion was about the same as it is now, more than twice as many people were dying in traffic.

Lehrer also said taking cars out of Central Park was de Blasio’s way of creating congestion on the avenues. Instead of propagating tabloid-worthy conspiracy theories, we liked it better when Lehrer was calling for “bike lanes everywhere, separated from traffic.”

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Hey Daily News: NYC Pedestrians Are Safer With Right of Way Law

In its latest attack on efforts to make New York City streets safer for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives, the Daily News editorial board says the Right of Way Law isn’t working. But the available evidence suggests NYC streets are safer since the law took effect.

The Daily News should be going after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to consistently apply the Right of Way Law instead of giving up on a measure that appears to have made streets safer.

The Daily News should be going after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to consistently apply the Right of Way Law instead of giving up on a measure that appears to have made streets safer.

Basically, the Daily News believes that, since the law has been applied only a few dozen times since it took effect last August, the city should abandon it. The piece also claims the Right of Way Law has had little discernible effect on pedestrian safety, “with the death toll among pedestrians barely budging in the nearly one year since the Vision Zero law took effect,” though crash data says otherwise.

In the nine months after the Right of Way Law took effect, from September 2014 to May 2015 (the last month for which official data is available), New York City drivers killed 95 pedestrians, according to NYPD. From September 2013 to May 2014, motorists killed 121 pedestrians. That’s a 21 percent decline.

To this point MTA bus drivers haven’t killed anyone in a crosswalk in 2015. There were eight such deaths last year.

Injuries are a more reliable metric than fatalities, since they’re less prone to random variation. NYPD data indicate that drivers injured 7,869 pedestrians in the nine months after the Right of Way Law took effect, compared to 8,925 pedestrian victims during the same period a year prior — a drop of almost 12 percent.

The Daily News correctly points out that MTA bus drivers make up a large percentage of motorists charged under the Right of Way Law, while “most drivers who maim pedestrians go though [sic] no investigation to even determine who was at fault.” But this points to a lack of enforcement, not a problem with the law itself. Is the Daily News solution to go back to having fewer drivers investigated for maiming pedestrians?

“And so the cases crumble,” the editorial says. “Of the four drivers whose prosecutions by the Manhattan DA have concluded so far, all pleaded to violations of state traffic laws. Two additionally pleaded to the lowest city charge, with a $50 fine.”

The success of the Right of Way Law doesn’t hinge on putting drivers in jail. The goal is to compel police and prosecutors to investigate crashes that traditionally got no attention, and to hold motorists to a measure of accountability for injuring and killing people who were following traffic rules. Daily News editorial writers used to complain that the Right of Way Law was overly punitive. Now they think it’s too weak to mean anything.

Read more…

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Driver Kills Cyclist in Ditmas Park, NYPD and Media Blame Deceased Victim

A driver killed a cyclist in Ditmas Park this morning.

The cyclist, a 57-year-old man, was riding eastbound on Church Avenue near Ocean Avenue when he was run over by the driver of a commercial box truck, who was also eastbound on Church, according to NYPD. The crash happened at around 10:25 a.m.

Per usual, initial NYPD accounts focused on what the victim — who can’t speak for himself — purportedly did to get himself killed, with no word on the driver’s actions before the crash. Sergeant Lee Jones told Gothamist the victim “lost control and struck the side of the box truck and fell under the wheels.”

DNAinfo cited unnamed NYPD sources who said the victim “swerved” and “turned into” the truck. “Witnesses said they didn’t see any helmet with the cyclist, just a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap,” DNA reported.

The cyclist was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital, NYPD said.

The NYPD public information office had no additional details when we called, but said the crash was still under investigation. Police had not released the victim’s identity as of earlier this afternoon. NYPD does not usually divulge the names of drivers who kill people unless charges are filed.

While it’s not clear what happened this morning, Church Avenue has no dedicated space for biking, with little room between the parking lane and moving traffic.

Injury crashes in the vicinity of Church Avenue and Ocean Avenue, indicated by the blue dot, in 2015. Image: Vision Zero View

Injury crashes this year in the vicinity of Church Avenue and Ocean Avenue, indicated by the blue dot, as of May. Image: Vision Zero View

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Richard Brown: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Boy on Neighborhood Street

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

An 8-year-old boy hit by a driver on a neighborhood street in Queens on Memorial Day died from his injuries. NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges.

Sincere Atkins was playing with his cousin outside his grandmother’s apartment, on Sutphin Boulevard near 125th Avenue, when a 21-year-old man hit him with a Toyota Corolla, according to reports.

A witness told the Post the driver, whose name was withheld by NYPD, hit Sincere “so hard it knocked his shoes across the street,” an indication the driver was probably speeding. Officers from the 113th Precinct, where Sincere was killed, issue an average of about one speeding ticket a day.

The crash happened on a street flanked by apartment buildings and a park, on a sunny spring day when kids were out of school — an environment where motorists should know to drive with care. “This is a very busy street,’’ a witness told the Post. “There are so many kids here. There should be a speed bump or something.’’

Reporters from the Post and the Daily News blamed the child, saying he “ran into traffic” and “darted” into the street.

Sincere died from head trauma on May 29, the News reported. “The driver of the car was not charged with a crime,” the News said.

The crash that killed Sincere occurred in the City Council district represented by Ruben Wills, and in Queens Community Board District 12.

Sincere Atkins was at least the third child age 14 and under killed by a New York City driver in 2015, and the 11th child victim since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

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The Post’s Highly Selective Outrage About Traffic Violence

The bicycle of the man killed by a reckless East Harlem driver fleeing police. Photo via WPIX

The bicycle of the man killed by a reckless driver fleeing police in East Harlem. Still via WPIX

Yesterday, a driver fleeing police killed a cyclist on East 129th Street near Madison Avenue. DNAinfo, the Daily News, CBS 2, and WPIX all covered the crash. So did the Post, but the paper reserved its front page for a different bike story, assigning a reporter and photographer to tail Jason Marshall, the cyclist who struck and killed pedestrian Jill Tarlov in Central Park last year.

Their “exclusive” video, shot from the front seat of a car behind Marshall, blew an important story wide open: He took a “risky ride” on a bicycle with his son yesterday and didn’t follow the letter of the law. So now we can look forward to a wave of follow-up stories from the Post about the transgressions of drivers who killed pedestrians, splashing their photos across the front page when they double-park or turn right on red. Right?

A few hours after the Post’s big scoop, there was an actual case of traffic violence on E. 129th Street near Madison Avenue. A cyclist was rear-ended and killed by a driver who kept going, hitting another car and fleeing the scene on foot with two other people.

NYPD has not released the victim’s name, pending family notification, but DNAinfo reports he was a 42-year-old professor and physician who worked at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and received his doctorate from St. Petersburg State University in Russia.

“I looked and saw the guy laying flat out in the street. He had on a white polo. He was on his right side and was completely out. He didn’t move one inch. The bike was mangled,” Lisa Luis, 35, told DNAinfo. “It was horrible.”

The driver kept going, turning south onto Madison Avenue into oncoming traffic, then turning right onto E. 128th Street, also against traffic, and striking a Volkswagen before fleeing on foot.

Read more…

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Ydanis Rodriguez Bill Would Let NYC’s Press Corps Park for Free

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez thinks the city’s press corps needs a special break: He’s proposing legislation that would exempt drivers with press plates from paying at meters or obeying time limits.

“The news business should have the same privileges as every other business,” Rodriguez said in a release before today’s City Hall press conference, wrongly implying that every other business in New York gets a free parking pass.

Rodriguez, who said today that he hoped the bill would gain the support of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and expressed confidence that it would garner a veto-proof majority, was joined this morning by fellow council members Laurie Cumbo, Daniel Dromm, and Corey Johnson.

I asked Rodriguez if he would give up his parking placard, like State Senator Tony Avella does each year. “I believe that having placard parking is important,” Rodriguez said, saying it came in handy when he drove to the scene of the East Harlem building explosion last year. “I believe that having a parking placard, as other people have — teachers have it, police officers have it, council members have it — people from the media should also have it.”

The legislation would not actually give parking placards to the media, but would exempt them from meters and time limits. (Currently, press plates give special parking privileges in areas marked for NYP plates, typically near courthouses and other government buildings.) As part of its crackdown on parking abuse, the Bloomberg administration eliminated this perk for the city’s press in 2009. Governor Cuomo also cut down on placards around the same time.

The New York Press Photographers Association has been leading the charge to restore this privilege. Association board member Robert Roth said the de Blasio administration has not set up a meeting to discuss a change in policy, despite multiple requests — which is why the association turned to the City Council.

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Rangel: Let’s Allow Bus Drivers to Kill People With the Right of Way

Congressman Charlie Rangel condemned the Right of Way Law earlier this week, joining the Transport Workers Union to argue that the law should allow MTA bus drivers to kill people who have the right of way.

Photo: Politic365

Speaking to bus drivers and TWU officials Monday at the Mother Clara Hale Depot in Harlem, Rangel said it was “stupid” to charge bus drivers with a misdemeanor for injuring and killing people with the right of way, according to Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, a Right of Way Law critic who has devoted a lot of ink to the TWU campaign to exempt drivers from the law.

Echoing the TWU, Rangel said that hitting people who are walking or biking with the right of way is just part of the job of driving a bus.

“Common sense would indicate that when (lawmakers) were thinking about this, the last thing in the world they were thinking about is a bus driver doing their duty would be arrested,” Rangel said. “Right now, we should be calling the mayor and telling him, ‘Don’t embarrass yourself.’ Anybody can make a mistake and this is just one big damn mistake, that’s all, because isn’t a joke [sic].”

After years of drivers hitting people with virtually no accountability, the Right of Way Law gave NYPD and prosecutors a tool to impose at least some consequences against motorists for harming people who were following traffic laws. To Rangel, applying this law consistently “doesn’t make any damn sense at all.”

Speaking of making no damn sense at all, the TWU unveiled more propaganda blaming victims for getting hit by bus drivers:

Read more…

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The Times Fails to Comprehend the Nature of the MTA Funding Gap

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Kentucky and rural Ohio are not going to save the New York City transit system.

New York politicos couldn’t have asked for a better deflection of their own responsibility to keep our transit system running than this piece served up yesterday by Times opinion writer Eleanor Randolph:

New Yorkers struggle daily on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subways, trains and buses. They now collect horror stories about long delays and missed engagements. The M.T.A., the nation’s largest transportation network, is also struggling, in the agency’s case with a five year capital plan that is more than $15 billion short. The state needs to contribute more. The city needs to contribute more. And both Mr. de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo need to come up with a better way to fund the system that serves the most populous 5,000 square mile area in the region.

Still, the big money will have to come from Congress.

Hear that, John Boehner? The New York City subways need you!

You can only reach the conclusion that an act of Congress will provide “the big money” to close the $15 billion shortfall in the MTA’s upcoming five-year capital program if you fundamentally fail to understand the nature of the problem.

The version of the MTA capital budget with $32 billion in spending and a $15 billion hole already assumes that the feds will contribute $6 billion in grants and loans. Merely holding on to that $6 billion is a shaky proposition right now.

For transit systems in cities like New York, the scope of the fight in the GOP-controlled Congress is not over securing more funds — it’s to preserve the funds that transit already receives. That’s the best realistic outcome of yesterday’s “stand up for transportation” rallies.

The John Boehner/Mitch McConnell Congress is not going to swoop in and save the New York City transit system. Raising revenue and controlling costs really just come down to the people who actually run the MTA: Governor Cuomo and the state legislature.

Cuomo is the one person who can make the Move New York toll reform plan politically viable and the one politician who can take meaningful action to root out construction waste like this. Asking Congress to do it instead won’t get New York anywhere.

Cuomo at a subway photo-op with MTA Chair Tom Prendergast. Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via Flickr CC license 2.0

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Eyes on the Street: WABC News SUV *PWNS* This Sidewalk Extension

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

New York City’s placard class — the elite few who park wherever they want, without consequence — obviously includes police and other public servants. But don’t forget the press.

This afternoon, two press SUVs, including one from WABC-TV, were parked on the sidewalk at the corner of Centre and Leonard in Lower Manhattan. The area, filled with courthouses and government offices, is rife with placard abuse from public employees and the press. The WABC SUV had press plates and, of course, there was no parking ticket on its windshield.

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The corner where WABC parked its SUV used to be a marked crosswalk, with a slice left unpainted to squeeze in another (dubiously legal) parking spot. The corner was next to a surface parking lot.

In 2012, adjacent Collect Pond Park was completely reconstructed and expanded to replace the parking lot with green space. The project included new sidewalks and curb extensions, but even concrete appears to be no match for the “professional courtesy” that extends to all members of the placard class.

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Daily News Inadvertently Reveals the Extent of NYC’s Speeding Epidemic

Don't be distracted by the clever rhyme: NYC speed cameras are working. Image: Daily News

In other words, speeding in NYC is rampant, but there’s finally some enforcement thanks to cameras. Image: Daily News

If you’re a Daily News reader, today is your lucky day. The paper that is not afraid to oppose safer streets for walking, biking, and driving has a major exclusive, and it is this: New York City has a small number of speed cameras, and they are catching more speeding drivers than NYPD.

It’s actually a good story, if you read through the tabloid-speak. In 2014, 57 cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as the entire police department during the same time period, despite Albany-imposed restrictions that limit camera use to school zones during school hours.

This all points to the fact that cameras are doing an efficient job penalizing thousands of drivers who would otherwise get away with speeding, the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths.

“If the drivers of New York slow down and obey the speed limit and the city collected no revenue, I would consider the speed-camera program a victory,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the paper, again.

The Daily News could have cited data showing that crashes and incidents of speeding declined in areas where speed cameras are located. It could have called for DOT to immediately deploy its remaining 83 speed cameras, or shamed Albany lawmakers for arbitrary restrictions that keep the cameras turned off at night, when severe crashes tend to occur.

Instead, reporter Reuven Blau ran with an outrage quote from City Council Member Mark Treyger, whose big Vision Zero idea is ticketing cyclists for texting. And the paper played up revenue figures as “wallet-walloping.”

“Your pain is the city’s gain,” goes the scare-graphic. Which, in fairness to the Daily News, rhymes better than “cameras are preventing speeding drivers from inflicting actual pain.”