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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.”

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The Daily News Makes the Case for Legal Vehicular Killings (Again)

daily_news_hedline

Actual Daily News editorial headline.

Should there be misdemeanor charges for careless drivers who injure or kill New Yorkers legally crossing the street? For the second time in a month, the Daily News editorial board says “No.”

A brief recap: Last year, the city enacted the Right of Way Law, making it an unclassified misdemeanor to drive into a pedestrian or bicyclist who has the right of way. The law carries a criminal fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. In practice, nearly all unclassified misdemeanors get pled down to traffic violations.

The driver who killed Allie Liao as she crossed the street with the signal did not .

No charges were filed against the driver who killed Allie Liao as she crossed the street with the signal. To prevent that from happening again, City Hall passed the Right of Way Law. The Daily News thinks that was the wrong call.

Before the law took effect, NYPD would not file charges in such cases unless the victim was dead or likely to die, or an officer personally witnessed a crash. For all intents and purposes, there were no consequences for drivers who struck someone in a crosswalk but only maimed, dismembered, or otherwise injured the victim instead of ending a life. Even in fatal failure-to-yield crashes, charges were not always applied.

What has the Daily News so worked up is that, as a result of the Right of Way Law, police can now respond to failure-to-yield collisions like so:

The NYPD last week arrested Alexander Smotritsky of Brooklyn after he fatally bowled over 61-year-old Xiali Yue on a right turn, as she attempted to cross with the light.

The injustice, according to the Daily News, is that Smotritsky was charged with a misdemeanor after his negligence caused the death of another person. The rest of the piece argues, in so many words, that police should have just let Smotritsky go about his business even though he killed Yue.

Read more…

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Another Day, Another Daily News Potshot at Vision Zero

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Today’s Daily News swipe at Vision Zero is the tabloid’s lamest yet.

An editorial published this morning clocked in at all of four sentences. Citing a study that counted the number of pedestrians listening to headphones and using cell phones while crossing at four Manhattan intersections, the Daily News editorial board concluded:

If Mayor de Blasio wants to slap cuffs on bus drivers, fine — so long as cops also charge phone-walkers who survive with attempted suicide.

There’s a lot of willful ignorance packed into that sentence. First, it’s not against the law to use an electronic device while walking. And the report, from the Journal of Community Health, presents no new evidence that pedestrians who use electronic devices cause vehicle crashes.

This editorial is supposed to be a sarcastic jab at the Right of Way Law, which the Daily News thinks should not apply to MTA bus drivers. The new law is in good company: Whenever the city implements a new street safety policy — protected bike lanes, the 25 miles per hour speed limit — you can count on the Daily News to undermine it.

According to NYPD, this morning a driver hit a 61-year-old woman while turning right from 21st Avenue onto Cropsey Avenue in Bath Beach. The victim was declared “likely to die,” but police said she was alive as of this afternoon. The NYPD public information office had no details on who had the right of way, but in most NYC crashes where a turning driver harms a pedestrian, the victim was following the law.

Equating injury and death caused by careless driving with the invented problem of “distracted walking” overlooks crashes that killed people, including Seth Kahn and Marisol Martinez, who did nothing wrong. While drivers keep hurting people, Daily News editorial writers are tossing out dumb one-liners.

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MTA Tests Bike Racks on Bus Across Verrazano

An anonymously-sourced New York Post story yesterday might leave readers with the impression that new bike racks on the front of Staten Island buses will lead to late trips and a liability nightmare for the MTA. The MTA, however, says it’s still studying the racks — a tried-and-true amenity in every other big American city — on a route crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which currently has no bike path.

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Here’s the Post story, in full:

City buses on Staten Island will soon sport bike racks as part of a New York City Transit program that bus drivers are already slamming as a surefire way to slow down commuters.

Drivers on the S53 bus line, which runs between Port Richmond and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, will be required under the pilot plan to wait for passengers to load their wheels.

“The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

Bike racks on buses are common in less congested cities.

New York is the only major city in the country without bike racks on its buses, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, with cities as large and congested as Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco outfitting their entire bus fleets with bike racks — all without major liability or on-time performance problems.

So will Staten Island residents get to make multi-modal trips to Brooklyn? Not in the immediate future, according to the MTA. “It was a test, not a pilot program,” said MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan. The test occurred on March 3, she said, and consisted of “one run, on the S53 route with a non-revenue bus. The rack equipment itself was also being tested.”

The MTA would not reveal further information about the test. “It is simply too early to have or release any more details,” Kwan said.

Read more…

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The Post Imagines a Nightmare City Where All Speeders Get Caught

Actual New York Post headline

Actual New York Post headline

You have to feel sorry for the three — three! — New York Post reporters stuck with attacking Mayor de Blasio for NYPD enforcement of the speed limit. It’s a story package so fatuous it could only have come from the Post editorial braintrust.

What else could explain the manufactured fury over last November’s uptick in summonses, when each precinct ticketed an average of six speeding drivers a day, up from three. Or the sob story of an ambulette fleet owner who freely acknowledges that his employees ignore the speed limit to such an extent that the fines are hurting his bottom line.

The most ill-conceived react quotes come from bridge painter Dino Ioannou, who the Post says was cited for driving 29 miles per hour on a Grand Central Parkway service road. Ioannou has two children, the Post says, and for good measure includes a quote confirming same.

“They’ve been pulling everybody over since the day [the law] went into effect,” he said. “It’s more than an inconvenience. I have two kids. That money could have went toward diapers.”

Post editors and reporters should know that those who led the fight to get the NYC speed limit lowered to 25 mph were people who lost their own children to reckless drivers. Speeding is the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths. Using kids to excuse someone from being penalized for speeding is more than insensitive, it also disregards the reason speed enforcement is important in the first place.

Of course, Mayor de Blasio should not have pledged to “go easy” on speeding drivers. But hammering the mayor for making streets safer only makes the Post look silly.

Imagine how horrible New York City would be if police handed out tickets to everyone driving 29 miles per hour. A city where road rage has no place and children and seniors walk the streets without constant risk of death. This is the nightmare scenario keeping the editors of the New York Post awake at night.

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Parents of Seth Kahn: Ineffective MTA Protocols Contributed to Son’s Death

After Wednesday’s MTA board meeting transit chief Tom Prendergast said the agency may revise bus routes to reduce the number of turns bus drivers have to make, in order to minimize conflicts between buses and pedestrians, according to the Daily News. Prendergast said another possibility would be to move crosswalks away from intersections where buses make turns, which would necessitate streetscape changes by DOT.

Seth Kahn

Seth Kahn

Whether or not these ideas pan out, it’s good that the MTA is seriously engaging in the Vision Zero discussion. Bus drivers killed eight people in crosswalks last year, and there’s no evidence that admonishing people to stay out of the way of buses will reduce crashes.

The MTA didn’t really come to the table until several bus drivers were charged under the Right of Way Law for maiming and killing pedestrians. But some City Council members want to rescind the protection to pedestrians and cyclists the law provides. Council Member Daneek Miller’s bill to exempt MTA bus drivers from the Right of Way Law has picked up 14 co-sponsors.

Miller and TWU Local 100 say the MTA’s internal protocols adequately ensure bus driver safety. That doesn’t jibe with the story of Seth Kahn, killed in 2009 by a speeding bus driver who was just back on the job after a suspension for texting behind the wheel.

Driving a bus in New York City is a tough and stressful job, and most drivers do it well. That doesn’t mean crashes are an inevitable cost of doing business, or that bus drivers can’t be reckless or negligent. The Daily News and the union have taken to using the phrase “criminalizing bus drivers,” but in fact the law does not single out bus drivers and only criminalizes negligence that leads to serious injury and death. Even Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, whose column has become a platform for TWU opposition to the law, slammed the MTA for failing to keep Seth Kahn’s killer out of the driver’s seat.

Debbie and Harold Kahn shared with Streetsblog their account of what happened to their son and the driver who took his life.

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How the Daily News Gets the Right of Way Law Completely Wrong

Bianca Petillo McCloud, 18, was walking across 132nd Avenue in Rochdale, Queens, when she was struck by a turning truck driver and killed. Police did not issue so much as a citation, even though the circumstances of the crash suggested that McCloud had the right of way.

Shirley Shea died 10 months after she was struck by a school bus driver who violated her right of way in a crosswalk. Police barely investigated the crash and did not cite the driver, a situation the Right of Way Law seeks to remedy.

Nor did police issue any charges to the truck driver who turned across the path of 24-year-old Emma Blumstein as she biked straight ahead on Bedford Avenue with the green light. Blumstein was pronounced dead at the scene.

And there were no charges for the school bus driver who struck Shirley Shea, 78, as she crossed 67th Street at Columbus Avenue with the walk signal. Shea died 10 months later as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

I bring up this awful loss of life because the Daily News opinion page ran two pieces condemning the city’s new Right of Way Law over the weekend — one by the editorial board and the other by City Council Member I. Daneek Miller — with only one mention of someone hurt or killed by a driver who failed to obey the law.

The piece from the editorial board had the laziest mistakes, so let’s start with that. According to the Daily News:

The criminalizing of failure-to-yield accidents grew out of the notion, espoused by some transportation advocates, that there is virtually no such thing as a traffic accident. In almost every case, someone did something wrong, so that’s a crime.

Those advocates may often be right in the most technical, literal sense, but not in the real world and certainly not in a criminal justice system that demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt after the handcuffs have been released.

This is completely wrong, coming and going.

The Right of Way Law was designed to fix a very specific, “real world” problem — police and prosecutors were not holding drivers accountable for hurting people even when they clearly broke the law. The Right of Way Law does not criminalize drivers “in almost every case” that they injure someone — it applies strictly to crashes in which people are walking or biking and following all the rules, only to get hit by a driver who violated their right of way.

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Steve Matteo and NY1: A Speed Camera Is Working, So Vision Zero Is a Scam

Amanda Farinacci witnessed a “notorious” speed camera lighting up outside a Staten Island elementary school, but saw no speeding drivers. Image: NY1

NY1 reporter Amanda Farinacci witnessed a “notorious” speed camera lighting up outside a Staten Island elementary school, but saw no speeding drivers. Image: NY1

Speeding is the leading cause of fatal traffic crashes in New York City, and with unreliable police enforcement, cameras are essential to protecting New Yorkers from reckless drivers. Data released last summer showed that 20 speed cameras, covering a tiny fraction city streets, issued roughly as many speeding tickets in one month as NYPD did in six months.

Data also show that as drivers become accustomed to traffic cameras, law-breaking becomes less frequent. DOT says this happened after a camera was installed on Goethals Road in Staten Island, according to a report from NY1’s Amanda Farinacci. But the crux of Farinacci’s story isn’t a camera slowing drivers near an elementary school. It’s that speed cameras, and the Vision Zero initiative itself, are a money-making “scam.”

Says Farinacci:

In just 15 minutes time, NY1 witnessed the speed camera flashing eight times. At that rate, it could go off more than 30 times an hour. And with a $50 fine that means it’s big bucks for the city.

Farinacci could have reported that NY1 witnessed eight drivers exceeding the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour outside a school, and that, thanks to restrictions mandated by Albany, the penalty for those drivers would be a mere $50 each, with no license points. She could have pointed out that motorists killed at least five pedestrians in Staten Island in the last year, and noted that lower speeds save lives.

Instead, Farinacci threw in a couple of standard gripe on the street quotes from motorists who can’t imagine adhering to the new 25 miles per hour speed limit “when they’re used to driving a bit faster.” And she spoke with City Council Member Steve Matteo about the “notorious” speed camera on Goethals Road, where the posted speed is 30 mph — meaning drivers have to be traveling at least 41 mph to get a ticket. Said Matteo:

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Mother Jones Rang in 2015 By Blaming Drunk People for Getting Hit By Cars

In a hyperbolic article, the left-wing publication Mother Jones interpreted national pedestrian fatality stats to mean people who have been drinking shouldn't walk anywhere on New Year's Eve. Image: Mother Jones

Here’s how Mother Jones presented U.S. pedestrian fatality data in a New Year’s Eve warning to avoid walking after having some drinks. Graphic: Mother Jones

This was the New Year’s revelry advice from Mother Jones, the left-wing, reader-supported magazine: Whatever you do, don’t walk anywhere after drinking. That’s because, Maddie Oatman writes, it makes you more likely to be struck by a driver.

As the basis for her reporting, Oatman used some well worn stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a recent report, NHTSA noted that about a third of pedestrians killed while walking had blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher at the time. That spurred a victim-blamey, click-baity frenzy in the national media about the dangers of “drunk walking” — as if people on two feet have the same responsibility to remain sober as people operating heavy machinery.

It’s extra disappointing to see a progressive publication like Mother Jones fall into this trap. Telling people not to walk drunk because they might get struck by a car is like telling college women not to drink because they might get raped. It takes a structurally vulnerable class of people — pedestrians — and puts the onus on them to prevent violence at the hands of another group. It is victim blaming, plain and simple.

Walking, on its own, is plainly not dangerous, and neither is walking drunk. What adds an element of risk is traffic — fast-moving traffic in particular. Entirely overlooked in the the NHTSA study and Mother Jones was how road design puts pedestrians — whether they’re healthy and alert and fit, or affected in some way by old age or disability or alcohol — in harm’s way.

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Unlicensed, Hit-and-Run Drivers Kill First NYC Pedestrian Victims of 2015

Motorists struck four pedestrians in two crashes in Manhattan and the Bronx over the weekend, killing two victims. One driver in the Bronx was charged with leaving the scene and reckless driving, while another remains at large. The Manhattan motorist, operating a vehicle with TLC plates, was ticketed for driving without a license, though NYPD blamed the victims in the press. The drivers were not charged for causing death and injury by NYPD or district attorneys Cy Vance and Robert Johnson.

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via Post

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via New York Post

At approximately 7:18 p.m. Saturday, Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue north to south when Aliou Diallo, eastbound on 62nd, drove a Mercedes SUV into them, according to NYPD, the Post, and the Daily News.

Mensing, 27, a noted golf instructor who lived in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, died at the scene. He was the first known New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized with head and leg injuries.

Diallo was summonsed — but was not charged criminally — for unlicensed driving, NYPD said. Citing unnamed police sources, the Post reported that Mensing and Sauchelli were “not in the crosswalk,” and an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog they were crossing E. 62nd between Lexington and Third Avenue. Yet photos of the scene show the SUV sitting on E. 62nd just a few feet from the intersection, which seems to indicate that Mensing and Sauchelli were struck within or very close to the crosswalk.

NYPD has a history of relying solely on driver testimony when investigating pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Since the Right of Way Law took effect last August, expressly making it a misdemeanor offense for motorists to injure or kill people with the right of way, police have repeatedly blamed deceased pedestrians by claiming they were outside a crosswalk when they were struck by motorists.

NYPD had no information on how fast Diallo was driving, or how he failed to see two people in the street in front of him. Regardless of how the crash occurred, it is a crime in New York State to drive a vehicle if you know or have reason to know you don’t have a valid license. The investigation is “ongoing,” according to NYPD.

Also at issue is how an alleged unlicensed driver was allowed to operate a TLC-licensed vehicle. Saturday’s crash marked at least the second time in the past year that an accused unlicensed driver killed a pedestrian or cyclist with a livery cab. Streetsblog has asked the TLC for information on the livery base associated with the SUV Diallo was driving and whether Diallo had a current hack license at the time of the crash.

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