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Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

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Local Speeding Tickets (Barely) Outnumber Sidewalk Biking Summonses

We’ve got a new installment in Streetsblog’s hotly-anticipated Sidewalk Biking Ticket Index, which compares the number of sidewalk biking summonses issued by NYPD to the number of speeding tickets issued by local precincts. In a reversal from 2012, NYPD last year issued more tickets for speeding on local streets than criminal charges for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk — but just barely. The ratio is still far out of proportion to the damage caused by each offense.

Still one of NYPD's top criminal priorities. Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr

Last year, NYPD issued 18,700 summonses for biking on the sidewalk and about 24,200 tickets for speeding on local streets, but only speeding was a cause of death. Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr

NYPD issued 18,700 sidewalk riding summonses in 2013, according to the Criminal Court of the City of New York Annual Report [PDF 1, 2]. Sidewalk riding is the city’s fourth most frequently charged criminal summons — a category of infraction below a misdemeanor. (Violating the city’s open container law is far and away the most common summons.)

Meanwhile, precinct officers gave out 24,259 speeding tickets last year. (The NYPD highway patrol issued another 56,000 tickets, but it mainly covers highways, not local streets.) That’s an increase of more than 25 percent from 2012.

While speeding enforcement moved in the right direction in 2013, leadfooted motorists should be getting many more tickets. Speeding is consistently among the top causes of traffic deaths in the city, while no one has been killed by a cyclist in New York since 2009. 

Sidewalk riding summonses appear to be especially common in denser neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, where it’s a nuisance to pedestrians. Since on most avenues cyclists have to choose between risking a fine and risking their life on wide, dangerous streets, enforcement seems to be a less effective fix than engineering safe bikeways. In farther out neighborhoods like Brownsville, sidewalk riding tickets are reportedly used to harass young men of color.

Within the criminal courts, there are still far more charges for sidewalk riding than for dangerous car-related infractions like operating a motor vehicle in violation of safety rules (10,503), reckless driving (9,564), and unlicensed operation of a vehicle (3,904). Traffic violations like speeding and failure to yield are a separate type of infraction and get handled by traffic courts.

Although law enforcement still needs to step up its game against dangerous driving, the increase in speeding enforcement shows the numbers last year began to move in the right direction. The introduction this year of speed cameras and the Vision Zero agenda should accelerate the trend.

This post has been updated with additional statistics from the Criminal Court of the City of New York.

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TA Vision Zero Report: NYPD Traffic Enforcement Up, But Wildly Uneven

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Image: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD precincts that had the largest year-to-year increase in speeding enforcement are shaded green, with those that had the biggest decreases in red. Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

NYPD increased enforcement of dangerous traffic violations during the first six months of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, but enforcement varied drastically from precinct to precinct, with some issuing fewer summonses than last year.

In “Report Card: Six Months of Vision Zero Traffic Enforcement” [PDF], Transportation Alternatives analyzed NYPD summons data from January through June. TA found that, department-wide, speeding summonses increased 32 percent compared to the first six months of 2013, and tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians increased 153 percent.

Yet there is little consistency across precinct lines. For example, speeding enforcement almost doubled in Harlem’s 26th Precinct, but officers in the adjacent 30th Precinct, in Washington Heights, issued half as many speeding tickets as in 2013.

Along deadly Queens Boulevard, the 110th Precinct cited 860 drivers for failure to yield, while the neighboring 108th Precinct issued just 237 failure to yield summonses. TA writes:

The inconsistency is stark enough to undermine positive enforcement efforts…

In order to more effectively deter drivers from dangerous behavior, the NYPD must coordinate enforcement citywide so the likelihood of punishment for reckless driving is consistent no matter where a driver is in the city.

To achieve this, TA recommends NYPD create an executive officer for each borough command, who would “have sole responsibility for coordinating traffic operations”; educate officers on the life-saving impact of enforcement by hearing from traffic violence victims; and emphasize to officers the most dangerous traffic violations, while tracking those summonses at TrafficStat meetings.

One of the report’s great contributions is the presentation of precinct-by-precinct summons data, making it easy for people to see how traffic enforcement is changing in their neighborhood, and allowing them to compare enforcement where they live to other areas. This is the kind of thing NYPD should be posting online. Instead, the department only puts up the most recent month of summons data in PDF files, and no summons or crash data is posted on its precinct pages

More reports will follow: TA plans to release an analysis of the first 12 months of Vision Zero enforcement early next year.

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20 Speed Cams Issued Almost as Many Tickets in June as NYPD Has All Year

Traffic enforcement cameras are far outpacing NYPD in ticketing drivers who speed, run red lights, and encroach on bus lanes — pointing to the need for more automated enforcement to make streets safer.

A report from the city’s Independent Budget Office finds that FY 14 revenue from camera-generated tickets in those three categories was $41 million, compared to $14 million from summonses issued by NYPD, based on preliminary data. “The proportion of revenue generated by cameras rose from 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014,” the report says.

While tabloid coverage focused on the revenue angle, the takeaway should be that we can now see how much NYC needs automated enforcement to reduce dangerous driving.

According to the Post, speed cameras issued 48,517 tickets in June, the first month when 20 cameras were operational. In one month those 20 cameras nearly eclipsed the 54,854 speeding tickets issued by NYPD through the first six months of the year.

From mid-January to mid-May, when just five speed cams were working, they issued more than 41,000 tickets, according to the city’s open data portal. Through the end of June, NYPD issued a combined 83,066 summonses for speeding, red light-running (26,749), and driving in a bus lane (1,463).

Though NYPD has stepped up enforcement somewhat this year, these numbers really give a sense of how rampant law-breaking is on city streets — particularly when you consider Albany restrictions that limit speed camera operation to school zones during school hours, and only allow tickets when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more. That means in one month 20 cameras covering just a fraction of the city for part of the day caught nearly 50,000 motorists traveling well in excess of the posted speed.

As speed cameras become more prevalent, it might make sense for cops to focus on other dangerous violations, like failure to yield, which don’t involve stopping drivers traveling at high speeds.

NYC is a long way from complete speed cam coverage, of course, and even Albany’s recent authorization of 140 cameras won’t cover most of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets. But it’s clear that a handful of cameras are already doing a lot more enforcement than NYPD. Those 140 speed cameras are going to make a difference, even if we need a lot more to get to zero traffic deaths.

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Here They Are: Meet Some of NYC’s Worst Sidewalk Hogs

Manetta’s Restaurant in Long Island City. Care for a nice pinot noir and some tailpipe exhaust with your entrée? Photo: ##https://twitter.com/alter_spaces/status/487685561558519808/photo/1##@alter_spaces##

Manetta’s Restaurant in Long Island City. Care for a nice pinot noir and some tailpipe exhaust with your entrée? Photo: @alter_spaces

We asked for photos of NYC’s worst sidewalk-hogging businesses, and readers responded.

We relaxed our guidelines a little to make room for government agencies. In the arena of public institutions that show no respect for people on foot, the United States Postal Service and employees of Metro-North in Harlem deserve special recognition.

More from LIC, where pedestrian safety is clearly not a priority for USPS, which seems to be using the sidewalk on 28th Street in Dutch Kills as a loading dock. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/DutchLic/status/486331011131654144/photo/1##@DutchLic##

Pedestrian safety is clearly not a priority for USPS, which seems to be using the sidewalk on 28th Street in Dutch Kills as a loading dock. Photo: @DutchLic

Not surprisingly, car-related businesses were a major force. To the car rental firms on the Upper West Side and car dealers in the Bronx, we salute your complete indifference to people who expect to use sidewalks for walking.

And a special shout-out goes to Manetta’s Restaurant in Long Island City, where the linguine nere comes with a side of valet combat parking.

You’ll notice that several of our winners have violated the law for years in full view of NYPD, which itself may be the city’s most notorious usurper of public space for vehicle storage.

Thanks to all who participated in our search. Everyone whose photo appeared on the blog will get a Streetfilms DVD.

Read more…

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Who Are NYC’s Worst Sidewalk Hogs? Keep Those Tweets Coming

Car rental outlets on W. 83rd Street in Manhattan don’t own the sidewalk. They just hog it like they do. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/kencoughlin/status/485457059551260672/photo/1##@kencoughlin##

Car rental outlets on W. 83rd Street in Manhattan don’t own the sidewalk. They just hog it like they do. Photo: @kencoughlin

There’s still time to submit your photos of sidewalk-hogging businesses.

Inspired by Clarence Eckerson’s pics of a car dealership that swallowed a new sidewalk extension in Sunnyside, we’re looking for other examples across the city. Readers who tweet the most shameless #sidewalkhogs shots will be rewarded with Streetfilms DVDs. Be sure to include location info in your tweets.

Here’s some of what we’re seeing so far.

Manetta’s Restaurant in Long Island City takes over the sidewalk and the access ramp for valet parking. Classy. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/alter_spaces/status/449690329835249664/photo/1##@alter_spaces##

Manetta’s Restaurant in Long Island City takes over the sidewalk and the access ramp for valet parking. Classy. Photo: @alter_spaces

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Eyes on the Street: Tweet Us Your Pics of Sidewalk-Hogging Businesses

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence shot the above photo of a common sight in NYC: car-oriented businesses that illegally commandeer sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk around parked cars or pushing people into the street. He writes:

I just snapped these photos of a brand new curb extension in Sunnyside, on 37th Street and Queens Boulevard, and a car dealership is already using it for car storage, blocking the sidewalk and ramp for disabled access. In Sunnyside DOT has been doing quite a few curb extensions to make a better pedestrian environment, so it’s really appalling that car dealership is using this.

The business in this case is LT Motors, which loves the new sidewalk space so much the dealership is advertising it.

Is this Chevy Suburban priced to move off the sidewalk?

Is this Chevy Suburban priced to move off the sidewalk?

This is a pervasive problem, and one the city should address.

Earlier this week Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke called for tweets of sidewalk parking photos, and we’re going to piggyback on that meme. Post your pics of sidewalk-hogging businesses on Twitter with the hashtag #sidewalkhogs, and we’ll highlight the most egregious examples next week. Winners will receive a Streetfilms DVD. Be sure to include as much location info as possible in your tweets.

As for LT Motors, a spokesperson for local City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer writes: “We have reached out to the NYPD on this. They will be stepping up enforcement to address the pedestrian safety hazards.”

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Arizona Police Arrest “Jaywalking” Professor in Racially-Charged Incident

Arizona earned its reputation for police excess yet again recently when an officer demanded identification of an African-American pedestrian — for the crime of walking in a campus street to avoid construction on the sidewalk — and got violent when she refused to produce it.

Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore was walking around some construction on the Tempe college campus last month when an ASU police officer stopped her. Before she could even explain why she was walking in the street, he asked her for ID. When she bristled at the request, he threatened her with arrest. Before long, he had slammed her violently to the ground, her body exposed, and his hands in all the wrong places.

“The reason I’m talking to you right now is because you’re walking in the middle of the street,” Officer Stewart Ferrin told Ore when he stopped her. “That’s called obstruction of a public thoroughfare.”

“I’ve been here for over three years and everybody walks this street,” she replied. “Everybody’s been doing this because it’s all obstructed. That’s the reason why. But you stop me in the middle of street to pull me over and you ask me, ‘Do you know what this is? This is a street — ’”

“This is a street,” Ferrin interjects.

Then he demands that she put her hands behind her back, she demands that he take his hands off her, and trigger warnings start to fly.

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Which Precincts Are Making Progress on Vision Zero in Queens?

Click to enlarge

The advocates at Make Queens Safer have put together this handy visualization of NYPD enforcement trends in Queens using data scraped from PDFs the department posts online. You can see the big increase in failure-to-yield summonses, a smaller but significant bump up in speeding tickets last month, and a mild uptick in red light tickets. Pedestrian and cyclist injuries are back down to 2012 levels after an increase in 2013.

The precinct-level breakdown is especially interesting. The 104th, 110th, 111th, and 113th precincts are among the borough’s leaders in increasing summonses for failure-to-yield, speeding, or red light running, and all four are also seeing significant drops in pedestrian and cyclist injuries. (There are 17 precincts in Queens.) As Make Queens Safer notes, every precinct is starting from a different baseline, so a precinct that started out with a relatively high level of enforcement may not show up on the list of leaders here. But this is intriguing data and a closer look could reveal more about the link between increased enforcement and better safety outcomes.

Click to enlarge

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The Livable Streets Legislation That Albany Didn’t Act on This Session

With the passage of bills to lower NYC’s speed limit and significantly expand the city’s speed camera program, this year’s legislative session was unusually productive for street safety measures, at least by Albany standards.

Still, there were a wide range of street safety and transit issues the legislature failed to address. Some of these bills have been introduced for years in the Assembly or Senate, but legislative leaders have not made them a priority. Here’s an overview of the unfinished business:

Unaddressed loopholes in a state law adopted in 2011 allow large trucks registered out of state to operate in NYC without crossover mirrors, which give drivers a view of pedestrians directly in front of them. Photo: Brad Aaron

Loopholes in a state law adopted in 2011 allow large trucks registered out of state to operate in NYC without crossover mirrors, which give drivers a view of pedestrians directly in front of them. Photo: Brad Aaron

  • Increasing penalties for hit-and-run drivers: Because driving while intoxicated is a felony but hit-and-runs are only a misdemeanor, New York has a perverse incentive for drunk drivers to leave the scene of a crash. A bill from State Senator Marty Golden and Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz would have upgraded leaving the scene to a class E felony. For years, legislation has passed the Senate but remained stuck in committee in the Assembly, a pattern that continued this session.
  • Adding a cyclist and pedestrian component to driver’s ed: This bill, sponsored by Golden and Assembly Member Walter Moseley, adds new sections to the DMV’s required driver’s education courses about safely passing cyclists, rules for bike lanes, navigating intersections with pedestrians and cyclists, and exiting a vehicle without endangering a cyclist. The bill passed the Senate, 58-1, but got stuck in committee in the Assembly.
  • Classifying electric-assist bikes as bicycles: Though federal law defines low-power electric bikes as bicycles, New York law does not. Without a federally-required vehicle identification number, the state DMV won’t register e-bikes, leaving them in a legal limbo. A bill from State Senator Martin Malave Dilan and Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt would bring New York in line with other states that have adjusted to federal recognition of e-bikes, plus it would restrict their use to people age 16 or over and require helmets. While it made some progress this session, as in previous years, the legislation didn’t get a vote in either chamber.

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Thanks to Albany and NYPD, Careless Driving Law Will Keep Gathering Dust

For the second year in a row, a bill to bring an end to NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has passed the State Senate, but apparently won’t clear the Assembly.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009. As in 2013, a bill to amend the law’s language passed the State Senate, but stalled in the Assembly transportation committee.

Sponsored by Senator Dan Squadron, the bill would amend the state “vulnerable user” law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as there is reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed. The vulnerable user law is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, preschoolers who were killed in 2009 when a driver’s unattended and idling van rolled onto a Chinatown sidewalk. The driver was not charged by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

Enacted in 2010, Hayley and Diego’s Law was intended as a default infraction for crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists. But current NYPD protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law. According to the department, the summonses don’t stand up in court unless an officer witnesses a violation, or the summons is issued by trained investigators from the Collision Investigation Squad. Under former commissioner Ray Kelly, NYPD normally applied VTL 1146 only in cases of very serious injury or death — the only types of crashes worked by CIS. Fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

The Senate passed Squadron’s amendment to the law Tuesday. “This bill advances an important goal of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative,” said Squadron in a written statement. “It protects pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers by updating ‘Hayley and Diego’s Law’ to make clear that careless drivers can be charged, even if the crash a driver caused did not take place in the presence of a police officer. This important change is highlighted in Vision Zero as a way to protect vulnerable road users and crack down on careless driving.”

The Assembly companion bill, however, has sat in the transportation committee, chaired by Rochester representative David Gantt, since January. Sponsored by Brian Kavanagh, the bill has just three co-sponsors. With one day left in the session, it looks like the Assembly will fail to move the bill, as it did in 2013.

As part of his Vision Zero plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants Albany to elevate careless driving to a misdemeanor, which would allow officers to act based on probable cause, whether or not they witness a crash. The City Council passed a resolution in support of the change last month, but it appears no bill materialized in Albany. A query to de Blasio staff concerning Hayley and Diego’s Law was not returned.