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Tri-State Maps Ped Deaths by Legislative District and Community Board

After Albany wraps up the budget process, legislators will shift their focus to bills that have been awaiting action — including a suite of legislation to address traffic safety issues.

From 2010 to 2012, there were more than 900 pedestrian fatalities in New York State. Now they're mapped by legislative district. Map: TSTC

From 2010 to 2012, there were more than 900 pedestrian fatalities in New York State. Map: TSTC

Bills lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, cracking down on unlicensed and hit-and-run drivers, requiring wheel guards on large trucks, and strengthening existing rules like Hayley and Diego’s Law are in play this year.

Yesterday, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released a new tool that could help make the case for the street safety bills: A map of the more than 900 pedestrian fatalities across New York State from 2010 to 2012, sortable by State Senate and Assembly districts, as well as City Council districts and community board boundaries.

The information behind the map comes from the same federal data source Tri-State used for its report on the region’s most dangerous streets. The group has created similar maps for New Jersey and Connecticut as well.

“With the information in these maps, elected officials can pinpoint the riskiest roadways for pedestrians in their districts,” wrote Tri-State’s Renata Silberblatt, ”and advocate more effectively for increased pedestrian safety infrastructure funding.”

Next Tuesday, representatives from Families for Safe Streets are traveling to Albany to speak with legislators. ”This is a smaller day with just family members,” said Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West last October. “We are planning a large day with more families and supporters for early May.”

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Safety Fixes to Park Ave, Triboro Bridge Ramps Clear CB 11 Committee

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

A deadly section of Park Avenue in East Harlem is on track for safety fixes, as is the dangerous confluence of ramps and streets at 125th Street and the RFK Triborough Bridge, following a unanimous vote by the Manhattan Community Board 11 transportation committee Tuesday evening.

The Park Avenue viaduct carries Metro-North trains over the center of the street north of 97th Street. South of 111th Street, it’s a stone structure with poor visibility around corners. From 2007 to 2011, there were 19 severe injuries, including six pedestrians and one cyclist, on that stretch, according to DOT. It’s only gotten worse since then: In July 2012, 18-year-old Shaquille Cochrane was killed on his bike by a cab driver at 108th Street. Last June, cyclist Marvin Ramirez, also 18, was killed at the same intersection. Last November, a taxi driver struck a box truck at 102nd Street, sending it onto the sidewalk, killing 65-year-old Olga Rivera. A vehicle occupant was also seriously injured in the crash.

In 2009, DOT installed concrete neckdowns and new pedestrian signals at 104th and 105th Streets as part of a safety project near PS 72. Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and CB 11 asked the agency to extend similar improvements to the rest of the viaduct. Now DOT is proposing narrower lanes on cross-streets, concrete curb extensions, and new pedestrian signals [PDF]. It is also planning to upgrade lighting in pedestrian tunnels beneath the viaduct and re-stripe crosswalks as high-visibility “zebra” markings.

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Fixes Set for Dangerous Jamaica Hills Intersection

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue Image: DOT

A rendering shows expanded pedestrian space on Homelawn and 169th Streets at Hillside Avenue. Image: DOT

The intersections surrounding Hillside Avenue, Homelawn Street, and 169th Street in Jamaica Hills are on track for pedestrian safety upgrades this spring after NYC DOT’s plan [PDF] received the support of Queens Community Board 8 last week.

With entrances to the F train on all four corners and bus stops served by 17 routes, the busy commercial area is a magnet for people on foot. But Hillside and Homelawn is also one of the most dangerous intersections in Queens, ranking among the worst one percent in terms of crash frequency. From 2007 to 2011, there were 47 motor vehicle driver and passenger injuries, 34 pedestrian injuries, and two bicyclist injuries at this intersection and the four adjacent ones, according to DOT. A 19-year-old pedestrian was killed in May 2010 at Cedarcroft Road and Homelawn Street, according to data compiled by the Tri-State Transportation campaign.

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Current conditions at the intersection of Hillside, 169th Street, and Homelawn. Image: Google Maps

DOT’s plan adds a concrete pedestrian island and striped crosswalk at Cedarcroft and Homelawn, and will also add concrete pedestrian islands to the existing painted median on Hillside at 169th Place and 170th Street. Crosswalks on Hillside Avenue will be upgraded to high-visibility “zebra” markings. Excess pavement where Homelawn and 169th Street meet Hillside will be converted to curb extensions and an expanded pedestrian triangle, which will now extend to form a median refuge on the north side of Hillside.

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Heat Maps Show Where Traffic Takes the Most Lives in NYC

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

As city government started work on the Vision Zero Action Plan, statistics professor Ben Wellington saw an opportunity to use data on crashes and fatalities to show the magnitude of the challenge.

Wellington teaches a statistics course to Pratt Institute city planning students using open data from New York City government. He also uses city data to create maps on his blog, I Quant NY. This week, he mapped last year’s traffic fatalities and cyclist injuries, using NYPD data compiled by volunteers developers into the Crash Data Band-Aid.

Wellington’s results show some familiar patterns: Streets like Broadway in Williamsburg, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse pop up in the fatality data, in addition to spikes of traffic fatalities in neighborhoods from Canarsie to Jackson Heights to Midtown. Using city-defined neighborhood boundaries, Wellington calculated that 23 percent of all traffic deaths last year occurred in just five percent of the city’s neighborhoods, though fatalities were spread across the city.

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

There were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries last year, with the highest concentrations in Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Jackson Heights, and Manhattan below 59th Street. Wellington notes that this geographic concentration could be reflective of where the greatest number of people are riding bikes, not necessarily the most dangerous places for cyclists. Though the total number of crashes may be high in a particular zone, Wellington says, the crash rate is likely to be lower due to the high ridership density in the area.

“The hope is that with Vision Zero in place,” he wrote, “future maps like this will be much sparser.”

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NYPD Tickets for Failure to Yield Up 66 Percent in January

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It could be a fluke, and there’s a lot of room to improve (NYPD issued 9,000 tickets for tinted windows this January), but failure to yield enforcement moved in the right direction last month. Streetsblog will continue to monitor these summonses each month.

NYPD got a lot of press last month for ticketing pedestrians, but officers were also summonsing more motorists for deadly driving behaviors.

NYPD issued 1,993 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian in January. That’s a 66 percent increase from the 1,198 failure to yield tickets issued in January 2013, and a 60 percent jump from last year’s monthly average of 1,240.

January’s speeding summons total was also up 20 percent from last year, but since most speeding tickets are issued on highways it’s impossible to know for sure how much of that increase happened on neighborhood streets. Failure to yield stops, by definition, occur where pedestrians are present.

Tallying the number of tickets is a blunt way to assess NYPD’s traffic enforcement performance. The department should be releasing the summons data in a mappable format, so the public can tell where enforcement is happening. And there should be a metric of motorist compliance, in addition to the summons data, so people can tell if overall driver behavior is getting better or worse.

It’s possible last month could be a fluke — police wrote 1,916 failure to yield tickets last November, by far the highest total of any single month in 2013. Or with the launch of Vision Zero, the January uptick could be the first substantial sign that NYPD is making pedestrian safety a higher enforcement priority.

We’ll get a clearer picture over the next few months.

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Rosenthal Wants TLC Licenses Revoked for Serious Failure to Yield Crashes

Legislation from City Council Member Helen Rosenthal would revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians and cyclists while failing to yield.

Through a change to city administrative code that governs the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the legislation would require the suspension of the driver’s TLC license, pending an investigation, after a crash that results in death or injury to a pedestrian or cyclist. According to a press release from Rosenthal’s office, ”If the outcome of the investigation determines that the driver is guilty of ‘failure to yield,’ the driver’s TLC license would be automatically and permanently revoked.”

The proposed rule change follows the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was hit by a cab driver in January while crossing West End Avenue with his father. Cabbie Koffi Komlani was cited for careless driving and failure to yield, but he still holds a valid TLC license. Stock was one of three pedestrians killed by drivers in Rosenthal’s district last month.

Though points can accumulate through NYPD summonses or consumer complaints, under current rules even a habitually reckless cab driver can expect to retain his TLC license. As it stands, the TLC can suspend licenses for 30 days only when a cab driver has six or more points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points. According to a recent Post story, summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points.

If approved, Rosenthal’s proposal could be a significant step toward getting reckless cab drivers off city streets. It is unclear, however, whether investigations would be performed by TLC, NYPD, or both. If action against a hack license hinges on an NYPD summons, the rule change may not be as effective as intended.

The bill would apparently need to be modified to apply to curb-jumping crashes like the one in Midtown that took the leg of Sian Green. Sidewalk driving does not usually trigger a failure to yield summons. Also unknown is what constitutes “serious injury.”

Streetsblog has asked Rosenthal’s office for more details on the proposed legislation. We will update this post when we hear back.

While they kill and injure a large number of pedestrians and cyclists, a 2004 study found that cab drivers are less crash-prone on a per-miles driven basis than other NYC motorists. Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner said Albany needs to pass reforms that apply to all New York drivers.

“We need to change New York State law to make it a criminal offense to drive in a manner that seriously injures or kills a pedestrian or bicyclist who is following the law,” Lerner told DNAinfo. “It’s wrong for the state of New York not to address this immediately.”

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DOT Eyes Improvements for Deadly Grand Avenue in Maspeth

After meeting with Assembly Member Marge Markey, DOT is planning an engineering fix for the Maspeth intersection where a senior was killed by a driver making an illegal turn, and is considering improvements at other dangerous locations along deadly Grand Avenue.

DOT will install bollards to prevent left turns from 69th Place onto Grand Avenue, where Angela Hurtado was killed in January. Photo:  ##http://theforumnewsgroup.com/2014/01/23/after-pedestrians-death-in-maspeth-residents-cry-out-for-change/##The Forum##

DOT will install bollards to prevent left turns from 69th Place onto Grand Avenue, where Angela Hurtado was killed in January. Photo: The Forum

Angela Hurtado, 68, was struck as she crossed Grand Avenue at 69th Place in the late morning hours of January 18. Driver Abel Tinoco hit Hurtado with an SUV as he turned left into the crosswalk, disregarding signage that prohibits left turns from 69th onto Grand.

The crash that killed Hurtado happened two blocks from where Francis Aung Lu drove onto a sidewalk and ran over five kids near a school, at Grand Avenue at 71st Street, last September.

Markey met with DOT and NYPD after Hurtado’s death. “Clearly there needs to be more enforcement of driving rules and safety improvements to protect our citizens,” said Markey in a press release. “At our meeting, DOT Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall has made a commitment to quickly implement safety improvements at the dangerous intersection where Angela Hurtado was killed in January.”

There were 23 crashes at Grand Avenue and 69th Place, resulting in four injuries, from August 2011 through December 2013, according to NYPD data mined by NYC Crashmapper.

According to DOT, a “qwick kurb” treatment — bollards installed in the roadbed — will be added at Grand and 69th Place to “further deter” left turns there. “We will also continue to review this location and others nearby for additional potential improvements,” a DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Markey’s press release said other locations targeted by DOT include Grand Avenue at 69th Street, 53rd Avenue, and 65th Place. Changes to Grand and 69th Place are expected to be implemented this month, according to Markey.

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Safer, Saner Brooklyn Bridge Entrance on Track for Next Year

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

After years of planning and advocacy, an effort to improve the dangerous, ugly asphalt expanse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge is set to take a big step forward tonight. Community Board 2 is meeting to vote on a resolution in support of a plan to expand space for walking and biking, realign car lanes, and add trees [PDF] that cleared its transportation committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote last month. Construction on the first phase is on track to begin as soon as the end of this year.

The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path consists of a long, narrow concrete chute, sandwiched between the exhaust-choked car lanes of the Adams Street bridge approach. At the intersection of Adams and Tillary Street — both very wide streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic heading to and from free bridges — pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate a chaotic mess of traffic lanes, poorly coordinated signals, and narrow curb cuts to get to or from the bridge path.

The current design isn’t just unappealing, it’s dangerous for bike riders, walkers, and drivers alike: From 2008 to 2010, according to DOT, 339 people — including 24 cyclists and 32 pedestrians — were injured at nine intersections along the stretches of Tillary and Adams near the bridge.

The heart of the redesign is the intersection of these two streets, where the widened, tree-lined Brooklyn Bridge path entrance will have much more generous proportions for pedestrians and cyclists. South of Tillary Street, a center-running two-way bike lane would continue along Adams briefly before directing cyclists to striped bike lanes next to the parking lane on the next block, as Adams approaches Fulton Street. To make room for this wider median between Tillary and Johnson Streets, the service lanes on either side of this block of Adams will be eliminated.

Image: DDC

The plan for the western blocks of Tillary Street. Click to enlarge. Image: DDC

To make the whole area feel less like a highway, the city proposes reducing the amount of overhead signage and the presence of concrete barriers. Instead of the cattle chute, for example, pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge approach north of Tillary will be separated from car traffic by vegetation and a low chain barrier.

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Before We Build, We Should Review How a Project Will Affect Safety

Jim Aloisi is a Boston-based lawyer, historian and transportation policymaker. He is a former Massachusetts state secretary of transportation. His most recent book is The Vidal Lecture.

Tanzeel Merchant is a Toronto-based urban designer, architect, planner and writer. He writes for Forbes India.

As cities across North American densify, innovate and refocus their priorities, there is a shared acknowledgement that the era of the automobile is over, and other modes of mobility, such as walking, cycling and transit, are in ascendance. However, these changes are constrained by powerful legacies of our past — the existing, auto-centric infrastructure of highways, inequitable transportation funding across modes, and outdated ways of thinking.

Before designing a road like this, traffic engineers should have to answer the question: Is it safe for people outside of cars, too? Photo: ##http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/dangerous-by-design/9619/##PBS##

When proposing a road like this, traffic engineers should have to answer the question: Will the project make people safer or less safe? Photo: PBS

Times have changed, and our planning and review processes need to change along with them. We now live in an era where young people are choosing not to get drivers’ licenses and buy cars, or are delaying those decisions, and older people are drawn to the virtues of a healthier lifestyle. Despite these trends, many transportation officials continue to shortchange funding for the mobility offered by walking and bicycling. Many streets, especially in new suburban neighborhoods, are not pedestrian friendly. Bicycle routes (if they exist at all) are often poorly designed and unsafe. Equitable funding for these modes of transportation is not, and has never been, a reality.

Safe walking and biking ought to be a right, not a privilege. A spate of recent tragedies involving pedestrians and bicyclists points to the urgent need to make mobility safety a critical element of new focus. If you hit a pedestrian at 20 mph, 5 percent will die; at 30 mph, 45 percent will die; at 40 mph, 85 percent will die.

Walking and bicycling are also cost-savers for cities. Integrating these modes into street designs comes at a small cost, with huge returns in terms of reduced vehicular congestion, lower emissions, less wear and tear of roads, stronger local economies and more vibrant neighborhoods.

Planners and decision-makers need a better approach to ensure active transportation is safe and convenient. We propose requiring public infrastructure and transportation projects to undertake a Safety Impact Review (SIR) as part of the process of permitting projects meeting certain thresholds. An SIR would ensure that desired outcomes are baked into development and infrastructure projects right from the start.

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In Queens, Parents Push for Safer Streets Near Schools

After 25-year-old Martha Tibillin-Guamug was killed crossing the street in Jackson Heights last week, the 110th Precinct went on the offensive, writing 200 summonses in 72 hours, including dozens for failure to yield to pedestrians. At a traffic safety town hall on Sunday, residents applauded the effort, then asked the police and DOT to do more.

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

The 110th already has a leg up on most other precincts when it comes to traffic safety — it issued 442 failure-to-yield and nearly 3,000 speeding tickets last year — but at the town hall hosted by Make Queens Safer, Congressman Joseph Crowley, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya, residents said it would take more than a ticket blitz to clamp down on dangerous driving.

Dozens of Queens schools have been designated as priority locations in DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, for example, but most have not received street redesigns as a result. From 2004 to 2009, DOT implemented street redesigns in areas surrounding 30 schools citywide. Researchers say these types of traffic calming measures could prevent 210 child injuries annually if the city applies them to all 1,471 elementary and middle schools.

I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights has already been identified as a Safe Routes to Schools priority location. Victoria Medelius, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said traffic safety efforts shouldn’t happen only after someone dies. ”We have to do more than just issue a summons,” she told Streetsblog.

Medelius said one of her son’s classmates was walking to school with his mother last year when a driver hit and injured him. “It shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t like that for me growing up,” said Medelius, who grew up in Jackson Heights. “Drivers should be more responsible.”

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