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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category


On Day of Remembrance, Mayor Pledges to Take Vision Zero “a Lot Farther”

Hundreds of people walked from City Hall to the United Nations yesterday to remember victims of traffic violence and call for action to prevent more loss of life on the streets. Addressing the crowd before the march, Mayor de Blasio said his administration’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths “has just started” and pledged to “take it a lot farther.”

At the insistence of the de Blasio administration and NYC street safety advocates, Albany enacted legislation in 2014 to lower the default speed limit to 25 mph and increase the number of speed enforcement cameras on NYC streets, and traffic deaths in the city are on pace for a historic low this year. Even with that improvement, however, it’s all but certain that more than 200 people will be killed in New York traffic before 2015 is over. The persistent message yesterday from victims’ families, advocates, and elected officials was that more must be done.

Noting that traffic violence had claimed more than a dozen lives in the last few weeks, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said the city must implement proven safety measures like pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes, and speed cameras more expeditiously. “We are not yet to the point where these common sense improvements are done routinely,” he said.

The de Blasio administration has made incremental progress on street redesign but will have to dramatically accelerate the pace of change to achieve the rapid reduction in traffic deaths that Vision Zero calls for. DOT’s high-impact street transformations, like the redesign of 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard, don’t cover enough ground each year in a city with 6,000 miles of streets. The department’s political timidity and the lack of budgetary resources for quick, effective safety improvements have been a drag on progress.

Yesterday the mayor’s message was on target. De Blasio said plainly that “redesigning streets saves lives” and speeding enforcement changes behavior. “There are a lot of things that have been accepted as the status quo that we should not accept,” he said. “We have to jolt that reality, we have to change that to the core.”

Read more…


Traffic Violence Claims Another Life as NYPD Announces Enforcement Blitz

The pedestrian death toll stands at 13 since October 31. NYPD said a man hit by a driver in Queens last weekend died from his injuries Wednesday, according to Gothamist. Meanwhile, police announced a period of “focused enforcement” of the most dangerous driving violations.

Council Member Peter Koo is encouraging NYPD to waste enforcement resources that could be used to save lives.

Council Member Peter Koo is encouraging NYPD to waste enforcement resources that could be used to save lives.

On Sunday at around 5 p.m., a 70-year-old man driving a Honda minivan hit a 59-year-old man as the victim walked on College Point Boulevard at 41st Avenue in Flushing, Gothamist reported. No charges were filed.

The crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where on Monday elected officials and the precinct’s commanding officer declared a crackdown on walking. Motorists have killed three pedestrians in the last five weeks in the 109th Precinct, which Gothamist says has issued fewer tickets for speeding and failure to yield in 2015 compared to last year.

NYC DOT’s 2010 pedestrian safety study analyzed records of 7,000 pedestrian-involved crashes and found that motorist behavior was the main factor in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities. But after Monday’s press conference, when Transportation Alternatives called on police and officials to concentrate on reckless driving and outdated street design, Council Member Peter Koo insisted that New Yorkers need to be told how to walk.

“We want to educate the public,” said Koo, who according to DNAinfo initiated the meeting with the 109th Precinct, “they have to use the crosswalks to walk and they have to follow the streetlights.”

Today NYPD announced the department has ramped up citywide enforcement of motorist violations including speeding, failure to yield, distracted driving, and double-parking. Through November 22, “the NYPD will increase officer hours and overtime dedicated to traffic enforcement,” according to a press release.

TA released a statement on the enforcement blitz:

Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD are sending an important message on Vision Zero traffic enforcement by dedicating more officers to the effort to deter the most dangerous violations: speeding, failure to yield and distracted driving. We are particularly encouraged to see that this initiative includes multiple NYPD bureaus and precincts. If traffic enforcement is to be effective and equitable, it must be data-driven and consistent across the five boroughs. We call on the NYPD to continue to target the most deadly violations after this focused enforcement period ends on November 22nd.


NYPD Precinct Where Driver Killed Ally Liao Announces Walking Crackdown

Council Member Peter Koo, Congress Member Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike “Don’t Call Me” Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim want to ticket people for walking in a precinct where traffic enforcement is lax and law-breaking drivers keep killing.

An NYPD precinct in Queens where law-breaking drivers have killed several people this year has announced a crackdown on walking.

On Monday, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct, stood with Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, Assembly Member Ron Kim, U.S. Representative Grace Meng, and City Council Member Peter Koo to tout a “plan to increase ticketing against pedestrians who jaywalk,” DNAinfo reported. The precinct’s campaign is “supported by local politicians who say pedestrians who violate the rules of the road endanger themselves and others,” wrote reporter Katie Honan.

The 109th Precinct is where a motorist hit 3-year-old Allison Liao and her grandmother as the two walked hand in hand in a Main Street crosswalk, killing Allison. The driver assumed full responsibility for the crash.

The precinct will spend a couple of weeks instructing people on how to walk, then ramp up enforcement against those who do it incorrectly.

“Elected officials are going to start getting phone calls when people start getting summonses, I know it,” said Simanowitz. “Don’t call me. I’m not going to agree with you. If you’re crossing in the middle of the street, you’re wrong, you’re endangering yourself, you’re endangering others, you’re endangering drivers.”

“Cross at the green, not in-between, and hopefully we will be able to reduce the number of traffic fatalities,” Simanowitz said. Whatever that means.

Motorists have killed five people walking in the 109th Precinct in 2015. Of those victims, three were killed by hit-and-run drivers and one was in a crosswalk crossing with the signal. According to DNAinfo, Monday’s announcement was prompted by the death of 84-year-old Agalia Gounaris. Gounaris was fatally struck on Main Street at Kissena Boulevard on November 5 by the driver of a casino bus, who police later tracked down in Connecticut. Witnesses said multiple people ran over Gounaris as the octogenarian laid in the street.

Police and elected officials blamed Gounaris for “walking mid-block.” But if Gounaris wasn’t crossing at the corner, it may have been because she felt it was unsafe.

Read more…


De Blasio Hasn’t Done It, So Tish James Intros Bill to Legalize Walking

A bill from Public Advocate Tish James would clean up outdated city traffic rules that NYPD and district attorneys say are an obstacle to applying the Right of Way Law.

Public Advocate Tish James

Public Advocate Tish James

Under the current rules, adopted before the existence of pedestrian countdown clocks, people who enter a crosswalk when the signal is flashing the “don’t walk” symbol do not have the right of way. At many crossings, DOT programs signals so the flashing hand and countdown timer appear after just a few seconds, taking up most of the walk phase.

In practice, this means those who step off the curb immediately after getting a walk signal would be the only people who could cross the street with the protection of the law. And people walking across a wide street, like Atlantic Avenue, would have to stop and wait in the median for the next light cycle to begin, even if they have time to get to the sidewalk before the countdown expires, or else lose the right of way to oncoming motorists.

“Too many innocent New Yorkers are dying crossing our city streets,” said James, according to the Daily News. “If a pedestrian enters the crosswalk after the hand starts flashing or the countdown begins, the driver can’t be held liable. It’s an outdated law.”

The Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, took effect in August 2014. It was intended to be the legislative centerpiece of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but police and prosecutors have used it only a handful of times.

“DAs and NYPD have used this little-known provision of law to justify failing to bring a Right of Way charge against a turning driver who strikes a pedestrian in the crosswalk,” said attorney Steve Vaccaro in an email to Streetsblog. “The de Blasio administration is aware of this problem, and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg could rewrite Section 4-03(c)(2) today if she wanted. It is the administration’s inaction that makes this legislation necessary.”

James will introduce the bill today.


Straight Talk From Portland PD on the Importance of Speed Enforcement

Still from Portland Police Bureau Vision Zero Video

Still from Portland Police Bureau Vision Zero Video

There’s nothing all that special about this traffic safety video from the Portland Police Bureau. It’s just a short talk from retired officer Ron Hoesly, formerly of the department’s traffic division, on the importance of enforcing speed limits.

What’s so good about it is Hoesly doesn’t patronize with happy talk about everyone doing their part to make streets safe. What he does is speak candidly on what happens when drivers behave recklessly.

“We do speed enforcement because speed kills,” says Hoesly. “It’s about just going out and enforcing the laws so that we keep our families and the families of Portland safe.”

(via BikePortland)


Good News: New York City Cyclists Have All But Achieved Vision Zero

New York City bike riders are Vision Zero pioneers. Chart: DOT

New York City bike riders are Vision Zero pioneers. Chart: DOT

Yesterday the 104th Precinct, in Queens, tweeted a photo of officers giving a ticket to a cyclist. The precinct deleted the tweet when it triggered blowback from street safety advocates, but you can see it at the end of this post. “Bicyclists are no exception to Vision Zero,” it read. “Ride safe!”

If NYPD’s goal is encouraging cyclists to help prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries, we have good news: New Yorkers who ride bikes have all but achieved Vision Zero. In fact, cyclists were Vision Zero pros long before the initiative launched in NYC.

From 2000 to 2013 (the most recent year for which official bike crash data are available), cyclists killed eight New York City pedestrians, according to DOT. During that time frame, drivers killed 2,291 people walking. There were two reported incidents in which people on bikes struck and killed pedestrians in 2014, when DMV data show drivers killed 127 pedestrians.

All told, cyclists fatally struck 10 people in NYC in 14 years, compared to 2,418 pedestrians killed by drivers, making cyclists accountable for .4 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Police can devote all the resources they want to bike enforcement, but the best they can hope for is to reduce fatalities by less than one half of one percent. It makes no sense to frame bike tickets as “Vision Zero.”

So, congratulations New York City cyclists. You are not the reason hundreds of people lose their lives on NYC streets each year, and the city has the data to prove it. Now that that’s settled, NYPD can concentrate its Vision Zero efforts on dangerous driving, which is far and away the primary cause of traffic mayhem.

Read more…


NYPD Bike Enforcement Carries High Price in Communities of Color

Brownsville Bikes

Business at Brownsville Bikes suffered when NYPD started targeting sidewalk cycling on the block. Photo via Google Maps

Editor’s note: Stephen filed one last story before wrapping up his tenure at Streetsblog earlier this month. Here it is.

The New York Police Department hands out a lot of tickets to cyclists — in fact, for years the number of sidewalk cycling tickets outpaced the number of speeding tickets local precincts gave to drivers.

Bike tickets are not distributed evenly among the city’s population. A report published last year found that the neighborhoods where the most sidewalk cycling tickets are issued tend to be neighborhoods where most residents are black or Latino.

When those tickets are criminal violations that require a court appearance, the personal cost of the citation can quickly escalate. Ignoring the ticket can lead to a warrant, and appearing in court may require a full day away from work, causing lost wages.

Uriah Wickham, 58, bikes from Brownsville to work in Midtown. A few years ago, he was pulled over with other cyclists who briefly used the sidewalk on Sands Street to get around a construction zone. “I was given a summons to go to court. I had to take a day,” Wickham said. “The judge said to go home. But I did lose my day of pay.”

This type of ticketing can also have a ripple effect. Cleveland Smillie (a.k.a. Jah Hammed), 63, has owned Brownsville Bikes, the neighborhood’s only bike shop, for 30 years. A few years ago, he said, officers began cracking down on sidewalk cycling near his storefront. It decimated business, since people were worried they would get ticketed if they did anything even slightly wrong as they approached the store.

Kenneth Graham recently stopped at Brownsville Bikes to get a fender added to his bike. “I ride everywhere. I got it because I don’t want to take the bus. I’m tired of buying MetroCards,” said Graham, 30, who lives in Canarsie and started cycling a few months ago. A side benefit: He’s quickly dropped from 300 pounds to 255 pounds.

Graham hasn’t been stopped by police on his bike yet, but he came close recently. He was biking on a quiet walkway in Howard Houses — like most public housing projects, it’s a super-block without through streets — and quickly attracted the attention of police. “It seemed like they was chilling until they see my bike come through the walkway,” he said. “I just got off the bike, so they didn’t bother me.”

R. Charles Bryan, who regularly bikes between Cypress Hills, where he lives and works, and Harlem, where his mother lives, has a strategy to avoid police stops. He hasn’t changed his behavior on a bike, but he has changed what he wears.

Read more…


DiNapoli: Most New York DWI Offenders Ditching Ignition Interlocks

Ignition interlock use in NYC, including data from August 15 through December 2010. Image via state comptroller’s office

Ignition interlock use in NYC. State courts began ordering installation of the devices in August, 2010. Image via state comptroller’s office

Ignition interlock devices, intended to prevent cars from starting if alcohol is detected in a driver’s breath, can be an effective tool to curb drunk driving. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s DMV rule reforms include an interlock requirement for drivers who are issued restricted licenses after multiple DWI convictions. In 2009 the state legislature passed Leandra’s Law, which among other things mandates six months of interlock use for drivers convicted of DWI.

But an audit released Thursday by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the majority of people who are supposed to be using ignition interlocks aren’t installing them. DiNapoli says the compliance rate is 5 percent in New York City and just 26 percent statewide.

DiNapoli’s office says 2,166 drivers in NYC were ordered to use interlocks from 2010 to 2014, and of those, only 111 devices were installed. “[T]here was little evidence that NYC Probation routinely followed-up with offenders to determine if they owned vehicles in which devices should be installed, or did not drive motor vehicles during the periods of their restrictions,” according to DiNapoli’s press release.

City probation officers are supposed to check DMV records for license sanctions and vehicle ownership information, to determine which vehicles should have interlocks, according to DiNapoli’s office. Out of a sample of 100 offenders, including 60 repeat offenders, the audit found that in 70 cases no initial DMV check was performed, and 32 offenders were not checked for compliance throughout their entire probation term. Of 22 “high risk” offenders who should have been subject to monthly compliance checks, auditors found evidence of monthly checks in just one case.

The audit also found that NYC drivers circumvent the interlock restriction by driving vehicles owned by other people. “Auditors further found NYC Probation doesn’t always notify the courts or district attorneys when DWI offenders under its supervision are trying to drive while impaired or drunk,” DiNapoli’s office said.

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NYPD Conspicuously Absent From City Council Vision Zero Hearing

How seriously does Police Commissioner Bill Bratton take Vision Zero? The City Council transportation committee held a hearing today to gauge the city’s progress in reducing traffic injuries and deaths, and NYPD didn’t send a single person to provide testimony or answer questions.

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Photo: Clarence Eckerson

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Photo: Clarence Eckerson

In NYPD’s absence, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg — as she often does — had to field council member queries pertaining to police traffic enforcement. Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez wondered if NYPD is making progress in keeping dangerous violations down, and how often police are ticketing motorists for blocking bike lanes. James Vacca wanted to know if speeding ticket counts increased after the new 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect last year. Not surprisingly, Trottenberg didn’t have responses, and deferred to NYPD.

DOT does manage the city’s traffic enforcement cameras, which are making streets safer, Trottenberg said, but they could be doing more if not for arbitrary restrictions imposed by state lawmakers.

Trottenberg said violations are down 60 percent at fixed speed camera locations. Red light camera citations have dropped 71 percent since that program started in 1994, Trottenberg said. In 2014, when less than half of the city’s speed cameras were operational, cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as NYPD.

Yet in addition to limiting the number of cameras the city is allowed to use — 140 speed cameras and 150 red light cameras — Albany limits when and where speed cameras may operate. Albany allows cameras do be turned on during school hours only. Trottenberg said location restrictions mean that in some cases, DOT is not permitted to place a speed camera on the most dangerous street that kids actually cross to get to a school. Also thanks to Albany, drivers have to be speeding by 11 miles per hour or more to get a speed camera ticket.

Council members asked Trottenberg if expanding the speed camera program was on the de Blasio administration’s Albany agenda for next year, but she didn’t give a definitive answer.

Trottenberg also said DOT has completed 26 street safety projects since the agency released its Vision Zero borough action plans, including the ongoing revamp of Queens Boulevard and 300 leading pedestrian intervals. But since DOT puts all Vision Zero projects in the same basket — from major changes to Queens Boulevard to tweaking a single intersection — a single number doesn’t convey much information.

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NYPD Should Open Data on All Traffic Summonses, Not Just on Truck Routes

The public should know if NYPD is targeting traffic enforcement where it's most needed, even on streets that aren't truck routes. Image: Vision Zero View

The public should know if NYPD is targeting traffic enforcement where it’s most needed, even on streets that aren’t truck routes. Image: Vision Zero View

Legislation introduced by City Council members this week would require NYPD to publish data on crashes and summonses along NYC truck routes. The bill is intended to improve safety on truck routes, but a better approach would be to have NYPD post all traffic summons data.

Intro 919, introduced by council members Margaret Chin, Jimmy Van Bramer, and transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, would require NYPD to compile stats on moving violations and crashes on city-designated truck routes and publish the numbers on a publicly accessible database. “With the information we will garner from this legislation we can ensure that we know and improve high risk truck routes,” Rodriguez said in a press release.

DOT already maps NYPD crash data for all streets citywide, albeit by intersection, so we know the streets where crashes occur. What the public doesn’t know is whether police are concentrating enforcement in areas where it’s most needed to prevent crashes. In 2014 Council Member Ben Kallos introduced a bill to require the city to release and map data on all moving violations — including date, time, and latitude and longitude coordinates — to be published at least once a month. Though Rodriguez is listed as a co-sponsor of the Kallos bill, it went nowhere.

According to DOT trucks are three times more likely to be involved in pedestrian deaths than other vehicles, yet the city has struggled to come up with a comprehensive plan to reduce the risks. A bill passed earlier this year requires DOT to complete an analysis of truck route safety by June 2016. In the meantime, oversize trucks are common on city streets, and street design improvements that would protect people — even on hellish truck routes like Canal Street — are not happening fast enough, to the extent that they’re in the pipeline at all. Adding tolls to East River bridges would get a lot of trucks off streets in Lower Manhattan, but toll reform requires action from Albany.

While Intro 919 is a nice idea, the City Council would do more good by passing the Kallos bill and increasing funds for physical improvements to make it safer to walk and bike.