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How to Counter the Victim-Blaming Impulse After a Traffic Crash

When a driver strikes someone walking or biking, the tendency to blame the victim runs deep. Ask Raquel Nelson, who lost her young son to a hit-and-run driver, then got convicted for vehicular homicide, even though she was just trying to walk across the street with her children from a bus stop to her home. Or witness the reaction to the death of Amanda Phillips, who was struck by a truck driver while biking in Boston last week.

Why do people blame victims, and can anything be done to lead them to reconsider this response? New research published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that personal values play a large role in determining whether someone assigns culpability to victims or perpetrators — and that the way incidents are described can influence these attitudes.

Writing in the New York Times, study authors Laura Niemi and Liane Young say that people who value “loyalty, obedience and purity” are more likely to view victims of sex crimes and physical violence as “contaminated” or responsible. Psychologists refer to these as “binding values” because they’re associated with a worldview that prioritizes group cohesion. People who hold binding values tend to more more religious and more politically conservative.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who subscribe to “individualizing” values like fairness and reducing harm. This group is less likely to blame victims, Niemi and Young write, and tends to be politically progressive.

People’s values tend to be fixed, but Niemi and Young found that the way incidents are framed can influence how they perceive victims and perpetrators:

Read more…

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Truck Driver Kills Cyclist Leah Sylvain in Bushwick — Victim-Blaming Ensues

Joseph Cherry struck and killed 27-year-old Leah Sylvain while she biked up the Evergreen Avenue bike lane early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

Joseph Cherry struck and killed Leah Sylvain on Evergreen Avenue early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

A fuel truck driver struck and killed Leah Sylvain, 27, as she was biking on Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick this morning.

Sylvain was traveling north in the bike lane when Joseph Cherry, also traveling north, turned his truck to the left across her path, fatally injuring her. Sylvain was lying on the road with head trauma when police and EMS arrived at 6:46 a.m. She was pronounced dead at Woodhull Hospital.

Cherry, 52, was charged with misdemeanor careless driving, two moving violations for failure to yield, and another unspecified violation, according to NYPD.

While Sylvain clearly had the right of way and Cherry broke the law by failing to yield, CBS New York‘s Ilana Gold reported that Sylvain “slammed into” the truck, citing police investigators. Gold’s video segment said Sylvain was riding on the sidewalk, which subsequent NYPD reports corrected, and that witnesses said she was “distracted on her cell phone.” The video has since been taken down, and the references to sidewalk riding and the cell phone have been removed from the online text of the CBS story.

Sylvain is at least the fifth cyclist killed by a New York City driver in 2016 — and the fourth in Brooklyn.

If you’d like to voice your concerns about street safety in the area to Deputy Inspector Maximo Tolentino, the commanding officer of the 83rd Precinct, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the precinct house, located at 480 Knickerbocker Ave.

This morning’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso.

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Here’s a TV Story With a Two-Wheeled Perspective on Biking in NYC

This story from the New Jersey-based TV show “Chasing News” is meant to have a light touch, but it does a better job explaining how streets work than most “straight” news reportage.

Correspondent Tamara Laine talks with safe streets advocates Ollie Oliver and Janet Liff about the need for protected bikeways on Fifth and Sixth avenues. She even goes for a ride on a Citi Bike to see firsthand how dangerous it is to dodge open car doors and double-parked vehicles.

The piece goes off on a tangent toward the end, but all in all it’s pretty great. Seriously, did you ever see Marcia Kramer on a bike?

We’ll be back on our regular publishing schedule Tuesday. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, everyone.

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Driver Kills Toddler in the Bronx as NYPD and the Press Declare “Accident”

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, where a driver killed a 3-year-old this morning. Image: Google Maps

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, where a driver killed a 3-year-old this morning. Image: Google Maps

Update: WPIX identified the victim as Mariam Dansoko. WPIX and other outlets are reporting that the driver, a 21-year-old man, was turning left from Gerard Avenue onto E. 164th Street when he hit her.

A driver killed a 3-year-old girl in the Bronx this morning. NYPD filed no charges and almost immediately told the press the crash was an “accident.”

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog the victim “was walking behind her mom” at E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, not far from Yankee Stadium, when she was hit by the driver of a black Nissan.

The crash occurred at around 8 a.m. The police spokesperson had no details on who had the right of way. The driver was not charged criminally and was not issued a traffic ticket.

Media reports said the victim’s mother was pushing a stroller with a second child inside. They were not reported to be injured.

Details are still scarce, but the Post, the Daily News, and WABC all repeated information from the police concerning the actions of the child and her mother, while downplaying or ignoring the role of the driver who took the child’s life.

“The little girl tried to keep up, but was struck by a driver,” the Post said.

“The collision appeared to be an accident, police said,” read the News.

Read more…

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Check Out This Wonderfully Normal CBS 2 Queens Blvd Bike Lane Story

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this CBS 2 feature on the plan to extend the bike lanes on Queens Boulevard. And that’s what makes it noteworthy.

With shots of the street where lanes now exist, reporter Sonia Rincon begins the piece like so: “The DOT is reshaping the landscape of one of the most dangerous roads in the city.” No quick-cut shots intended to invoke mass panic, no Marcia Kramer-style indignation over the prospect of sharing street space with people who aren’t in cars. Just a simple statement of fact.

Rincon spoke with City Council Member Danny Dromm, who explains how adding space for bikes helps slow motorists down, making the street safer.

And get this: Rincon talked with people who ride bikes on Queens Boulevard as part of their day to day lives — people who are grateful that Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with phase two of the bike lane project despite Community Board 4 failing to support it.

“Right now I’m going to work, while biking,” said Melody Santos, who indicated she did not ride to work before DOT installed the existing 1.3-mile bike lane segment on Queens Boulevard in Woodside.

Rincon does devote airtime to random quotes from a couple of people who don’t care for cyclists, and to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who repeats her specious argument that the project should be brought before the Queens Borough Board. Otherwise, Katz claims, making Queens Boulevard safer for people who walk and bike will “cause great difficulties.”

But Rincon closes with Dromm, who notes that the responsibility for engineering safer streets lies with DOT. Anchor Maurice DuBois even wraps the segment by citing Queens Boulevard crash data.

About what you would expect, right? But compared to the fact-free sensationalist screeching New Yorkers were subjected to during the bikelash era, it’s practically a revelation.

Streetsblog USA
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Associated Press Cautions Journalists That Crashes Aren’t Always “Accidents”

The Associated Press has tweaked its guidance for journalists about when to call traffic collisions “accidents.”

Street safety advocates, spearheaded by New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, have been pushing police and media organizations to drop the term “accident” because it implies the absence of culpability — often before all the facts are in — and makes traffic collisions seem like random, unpreventable acts of God.

The AP style guide, a highly influential reference book for reporters, currently doesn’t take a stance on whether “accident” is appropriate. A web addendum to the guide does recommend against “accident” because it’s not a neutral term, but the guide itself refers to collisions as “accidents” multiple times.

The new style guide will be released June 1 and cautions against calling a crash an “accident” in cases “when negligence is claimed or proven.” The AP tweeted today that “crash, collision or other terms” should be used instead.

The strange thing about the revised guidance is that “accident” is still the default term, instead of a term reserved for cases in which the absence of fault has been ascertained.

Under the AP’s guidance, journalists reporting breaking news about collisions would continue to use the loaded term “accident” before an investigation has determined whether negligence or recklessness was a factor.

But hey, the AP isn’t known for rapid adaptation. It’s just getting around to blessing a lowercase “I” when spelling the word “internet.”

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Inside the Latest “Distracted Pedestrians” Con

Hospital records from 2014 showed that distracted walking accounted for 78% of pedestrian injuries throughout the United States.

— Daily News, Sunday, March 27, 2016

A report released in 2015 by the Governors Highway Safety Association found an increase in pedestrian fatalities, and cited texting while walking as partly to blame. Nearly two million pedestrian injuries were related to cellphone use, the report said.

— Philadelphia Inquirer, Friday, March 25, 2016

Attempts to repress human-powered movement invariably arise from three elements: a penchant for victim-blaming, officials’ “windshield perspective” that marginalizes and devalues people outside cars, and dubious statistics. All three, especially the last, have lately been on prominent display in New Jersey, where a member of the General Assembly has introduced legislation prescribing $50 fines and up to 15 days in jail for anyone operating a hand-held device while walking on a public thoroughfare in the Garden State.

While the quotes above appeared after the legislation was unveiled, the memes they embody have been around for awhile. The first quote, from the Daily News, originally ran in that paper in 2014. Here it is in full:

Distracted walking, like texting, emailing, Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagraming while stepping through the city streets, has accounted for 78% of pedestrian injuries across the country, a recent review of hospital records found. Daily News, Wednesday, August 6, 2014.

The second quote, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, followed a slightly more nuanced version from the Governors Highway Safety Association’s 2015 report, Everyone Walks:

Taking into account… research that suggests that the number of traffic crash-related injuries suffered by distracted drivers is actually 1,300 times higher than CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] national estimates, [Ohio State University] researchers projected “there may have been about 2 million pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use in 2010.”

As I show below, both assertions fall somewhere between bizarre and downright false. And both emanate from a single source: a 2013 article in the peer-reviewed journal Accident Analysis & Prevention. That article, “Pedestrian Injuries Due to Mobile Phone Use in Public Places,” by Ohio State University planning professor Jack Nasar and Ohio DOT engineer Derek Troyer, isn’t solely to blame for the first misstatement, but it’s squarely on the hook for the second.

Read more…

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Broadway Ticket Sales Are Through the Roof. Damned Plazas!

bway_sales

Broadway sales stats aren’t exactly slumping. Table: Broadway League via @BrooklynSpoke

In case you missed it, the Broadway theater business is booming.

According to the Broadway League, the 2014-2015 season saw the highest attendance in at least 30 years. In 2009-2010, gross ticket sales topped the billion-dollar mark for the first time in history, and have only gone up since.

Something else happened in 2009. It’s when New York City reclaimed a few blocks of Broadway in Times Square for people. But to hear the Broadway League and the Daily News tell it, the Broadway plazas are actually a drag on ticket sales — or something.

Jennifer Fermino has the scoop:

In 2010 — the year the pedestrian plazas went up and closed off [sic] huge swaths of Times Square — some 21% of all ticket sales went to people from Long Island, Westchester and Rockland Counties, and northern New Jersey, according to the Broadway League’s “Demographics of the Broadway Audience” survey.

That number has dropped since then to 15.6% in the 2014-2015 season, which just passed.

Read more…

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Newsday Endorses Move NY for 2016, While the Times Misses Its Chance

Two of the region’s papers laid out their Albany 2016 agendas in New Year’s weekend editorials. Both led with ethics reform, but the similarities ended there. One paper boldly called on the legislature to “adopt some version of the innovative Move NY tolling-and-congestion pricing plan.” The other was silent on transit and traffic, even as it spurred Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “lead on climate change.”

The Move NY endorser was — drumroll — Newsday. Its editorial, Here’s what we want from Albany in 2016, was the Long Island paper’s third effusive endorsement of the Move NY plan in two years:

Adopt some version of the innovative Move NY tolling-and-congestion pricing plan that would toll East River bridges, reduce tolls on other bridges, and charge people to drive into midtown Manhattan. It would reduce congestion, get more people to take public transit, and provide $1.5 billion per year for badly-needed transportation infrastructure.

Newsday’s number one transit priority is the LIRR’s long-sought third track between Queens Village and Hicksville to allow expanded local and reverse-peak service in Nassau and Suffolk counties once East Side Access is completed. But the paper left no doubt that it gets the importance of the Move NY plan’s promised congestion reduction and transit funding for the entire region.

The other paper, the one giving Cuomo a pass on transportation pricing and infrastructure, was the Times. Rather than spell out traffic and transit solutions, the editorial, Mr. Cuomo’s Challenges: The Short List, offered only lofty sentiments on climate change:

Read more…

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Help TA and Families for Safe Streets Convince the AP to Drop “Accident”

Even when a motorist is accused of intentionally causing a crash, the press calls it an “accident.” Advocates are hoping the Associated Press will help change that. Image: Shelbyville Times-Gazette

Even when a motorist is accused of purposely causing a crash, the press calls it an “accident.” Advocates are hoping the Associated Press will help change that. Image: Shelbyville Times-Gazette

The word “accident” is so ingrained in media practice that reporters use it to describe basically any motor vehicle crash scenario, even when a driver is impaired or accused of using a car as a weapon. This is harmful because it disregards the fact that most collisions can be traced to preventable causes, including reckless driving and unsafe street design.

To break reporters and editors of the habit, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are lobbying the Associated Press to remove “accident” from its style guide in favor of the neutral term “crash.” The AP is currently accepting public input for its 2016 Stylebook.

“When people view preventable tragedies as ‘accidents,’ that erodes public and political will to enact changes, changes that have been proven to save lives, changes like street redesigns and better enforcement,” said Paul Steely White, TA executive director, in a press release. “We’ve seen government agencies like the NYPD change their approach to crash investigations by dropping the word ‘accident.’ By changing the language we use when we talk about street safety, media outlets like the Associated Press have the power to change not only the conversation, but also the culture.”

The groups are encouraging people to submit style guide suggestions directly to the AP. Check out this 2013 story by Angie Schmitt for background on how the AP advises reporters and editors to describe traffic collisions.

There is also a Twitter account and web site dedicated to convincing media outlets, law enforcers, and others to “drop the ‘A’ word.” There will be a related rally and march in Manhattan on November 15, for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“The word ‘accident’ is demeaning to people who have survived a crash or lost a loved one in traffic” said Amy Cohen, a Families for Safe Streets member whose son Sammy was killed by motorist. “By refusing to say ‘accident,’ we are reminding everyone that we can fix dangerous streets, and we can deter careless, negligent and reckless driving.”