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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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Vox Pulls Back the Curtain on “Scam” to Save Lives With Red Light Cameras

You can usually count on Vox for accurate, research-based explainers of public policy issues. That’s why the new Vox video on red light cameras is so monumentally disappointing.

Researchers have established that red light cameras make streets safer by reducing potentially fatal T-bone collisions, though they do lead to more rear-end crashes, which tend not to be very serious. But motorists upset about receiving fines for dangerous driving mobilize tenaciously against automated enforcement. The use of red light cameras in Colorado, for instance, is consistently under siege in the state legislature. They are currently outlawed in more than a dozen states.

Campaigns against automated enforcement could hardly ask for better propaganda than this Vox video. Here’s a look at what’s so wrong with it.

1. Red light cameras save lives — but who cares?

Once you get past the click-bait title, “Why Red Light Cameras Are a Scam,” the piece starts out well. There are more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the USA, we’re told, and “23 percent are intersection related.” Vox also notes that the cameras reduce T-bone collisions and that they “really can and do save lives” — but for some reason this is immediately overshadowed in the video by the increase in less deadly rear-end fender-benders.

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Victim-Blaming Commences After Bruckner Boulevard Claims Another Life

Was this driver adhering to the 25 miles per hour speed limit before fatally striking a pedestrian on Bruckner Boulevard?Does it matter to NYPD? Image: News 12

Was this driver adhering to the 25 miles per hour speed limit before fatally striking a pedestrian on Bruckner Boulevard? Does it matter to NYPD? Image: News 12

A motorist struck and killed a man last night on Bruckner Boulevard, a Bronx street designed to facilitate speeding and one of the borough’s most dangerous places to walk.

The victim was attempting to cross Bruckner near East 149th Street at around 12:30 a.m. Monday when he was hit by the driver of a BMW SUV. The impact was severe enough to cause major damage to the vehicle and, according to police, injure the driver and a passenger. Images show the SUV with a concave grille and hood and a hole in the windshield.

News 12 aired video of what happened immediately after impact:

Surveillance video of the accident appears to show the person hit being dragged several feet by the SUV. The vehicle smokes up, and a police car and other vehicles soon make their way over to the crash.

The victim was a 23-year-old man whose name had not been released by NYPD as of late this morning, pending family notification.

The speed limit on Bruckner Boulevard is 25 miles per hour. But the street, which runs below the Bruckner Expressway, is designed like a highway, with up to 10 lanes in some locations, counting service roads and turn lanes (see Google Maps embed below). With five deaths from 2012 to 2014, drivers killed more pedestrians on Bruckner Boulevard than on any other Bronx street except the Grand Concourse, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

DOT identified Bruckner Boulevard as a priority for safety fixes in the Vision Zero Bronx pedestrian safety action plan. “Bruckner Boulevard is a very wide, multi-lane boulevard,” DOT project manager Kimberly Rancourt told Bronx Community Board 2 last year. “It has lots of traffic but it also has excess space that isn’t needed for capacity.”

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The 20th Ave Protected Bike Lane — Almost Totally Functional, But Not Quite

In the spring, NYC DOT striped a two-way, parking-protected bike lane on 20th Avenue connecting to the Astoria waterfront, but for weeks drivers kept parking in it. Queens residents tweeted their frustration with car owners failing to observe the new parking regulations:

The 20th Avenue protected lane is part of DOT’s effort to improve biking and walking access around Astoria Park [PDF]. Last month, the agency provided this statement to Streetsblog about the cars obstructing the lane:

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Driver Who Killed Senior in Queens Crosswalk Not Charged With a Crime

A driver turning left fatally struck Mary Alice D’Amico as she crossed Myrtle Avenue at Fresh Pond Road. The white line represents D’Amico’s path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

A driver turning left fatally struck Mary Alice D’Amico as she crossed Myrtle Avenue at Fresh Pond Road. The white line represents D’Amico’s path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who killed a senior in a Ridgewood crosswalk was summonsed for failing to yield, but NYPD did not charge her with a misdemeanor under the Right of Way Law.

Mary Alice D’Amico was crossing Myrtle Avenue at Fresh Pond Road at around 9:50 a.m. on May 14 when a driver making a left turn from Fresh Pond onto Myrtle struck her with a Nissan compact, according to NYPD, the Daily News, and the Ridgewood Times.

D’Amico, 76, was hospitalized. She died from her injuries this week.

Though the victim was severely injured, and police determined the driver failed to yield, the driver was summonsed under a Right of Way Law provision that applies to failure-to-yield cases that don’t involve injury.

Last year Mayor de Blasio’s office said that, in addition to misdemeanor cases handled by the Collision Investigation Squad, precinct officers are issuing Section 19-190 summonses for failure-to-yield violations that don’t result in physical harm. The violations are classified as traffic infractions, not crimes, and are subject to a $250 fine. For some perspective, the fine for running a red light on a bike in New York City is $190.

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NYPD Still Withholds Crucial Traffic Enforcement Data From the Public

How effective is NYPD traffic enforcement? Are police enforcement actions making city streets safer and reducing injuries and fatalities? The public doesn’t know, because the enforcement data released by NYPD is extremely shallow.

Witness the numbers NYPD handed over to the Times about a recent five-day “Bicycle Safe Passage” enforcement action (above), which took place from June 20 to June 24. The figures show citywide summonses during that period for red light-running, failure to yield to cyclists and pedestrians, blocking bike lanes, no-standing zone violations, and double-parking compared to the same five-day period in 2014.

But simply counting tickets is not sufficient. It doesn’t tell you where the summonses were issued, how that correlates to dangerous locations, or whether the enforcement had any impact on motorist behavior and traffic injury rates.

For years, advocates and elected officials have called on NYPD to release more detailed summons data. Right now, the department doesn’t put out anything more detailed than precinct-by-precinct summaries of summonses. The data doesn’t show the streets and intersections where police issue tickets.

If NYPD mapped its summons activity, then the public could see, for instance, whether enforcement patterns are linked to frequent crash locations.

But NYPD has repeatedly resisted the notion that it should provide more detailed information on its traffic enforcement practices. Even in the Vision Zero era, the department is still pointing to ticket counts as proof that police are protecting the public from dangerous driving, rather than giving the public a full accounting of how it is applying traffic laws.

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With Matthew von Ohlen’s Killer Still at Large, NYPD Is in Bike Blitz Mode

You read that right: While the driver who brazenly struck and killed Matthew von Ohlen last weekend has yet to be apprehended, police officers are handing out frivolous tickets to cyclists on the Manhattan Bridge.

Police are stopping cyclists on the bridge for riding without a bell, according to several accounts on Twitter.

So far this year, motorists have killed 12 cyclists on New York City streets, an increase from five at the same point last year, according to the New York Times.

Other than a one-week initiative in May to keep bike lanes clear of motor vehicles, the NYPD hasn’t updated its usual approach to “bike safety” — ticketing cyclists who break the letter of the law but don’t endanger anyone.

Even after a driver was shown on video deliberately running over von Ohlen, inflicting fatal injuries, the local precinct responded by ticketing cyclists and handing out flyers.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Murders Cyclist, So 90th Precinct Tickets People on Bikes

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Williamsburg this weekend. Though police believe the motorist ran over the victim on purpose, the 90th Precinct responded by ticketing cyclists and handing out bike safety fliers.

Matthew Von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen, 35, was riding his bike east on Grand Street between Manhattan Avenue and Graham Avenue at around 2:20 a.m. Saturday when the driver of a late model Camaro approached from behind. Police told WPIX the driver then slowed and edged into the bike lane.

The driver then hit Van Ohen’s [sic] rear tire and as the victim fell off his bike, the driver slammed into him again, running over him and dragging him about 20 to 30 feet.

The driver then sped off, heading east on Grand Street.

Video posted by Gothamist shows the motorist enter the painted bike lane and drive away, leaving the victim’s body in the street.

Von Ohlen was a co-founder of Bikestock, which operates bike repair vending machines in NYC and Massachusetts. The Daily News reported that he was on his way home from a bartending shift in Manhattan when he was killed.

WPIX posted footage of 90th Precinct officers ticketing cyclists at the scene of the crash. Gothamist said cops, shown blocking the bike lane in the WPIX story, were also handing out NYPD “Operation Safe Cycle” leaflets.

“When [cyclists] got to the intersection of Grand and Graham on their way, police officers were there to stop them and hand out pamphlets on cyclist safety,” Williamsburg resident Greg Fertel told Gothamist. “I found this to be pretty enraging — I don’t think that this was an issue of cyclist safety.”

Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX

Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX

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Advocates Don’t Expect Judge’s Ruling Against Right of Way Law to Hold Up

In rejecting the case against a school bus driver who struck and killed an elderly woman in a Queens crosswalk, a criminal court judge deemed the city’s Right of Way Law unconstitutional. The constitutionality of the law had previously been upheld in a different court, however, and street safety advocates don’t expect the new ruling to hold up. Applying the same logic would render criminal statutes against drunk driving unconstitutional as well, they say.

Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris

The Right-of-Way Law, enacted in 2014, made it an unclassified misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. The law was intended to overcome NYPD’s reluctance to investigate injury crashes that officers did not witness firsthand.

The decision released Friday by Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris regarded the case of Isaac Sanson, who struck and killed 85-year-old Jeanine Deutsch in the crosswalk as he turned onto 70th Road from 108th Street in Forest Hills on December 19, according to the Daily News. Deutsch succumbed to her injuries two months later, and the city charged Sanson with misdemeanor failure to yield.

In her decision, Morris sided with Sanson’s claim that the law violates his right to due process because it imposes criminal penalties without needing to prove the perpetrator’s intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.

“The very fabric of our criminal justice system is that an accused person stands before a court innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to significant constitutional protections separate and distinct from a civil case,” Morris wrote.

The decision conflicts with — but does not overrule — New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer’s ruling from December in the case of MD Hossain, a yellow cab driver who killed 58-year-old Silvia Gallo in August 2014 while turning into a crosswalk.

Scherzer argued that the Right of Way law does not presume driver guilt, since prosecutors must “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.”

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Albany Leaders Fail to Act on Speed Cameras as Session Comes to a Close

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

As Albany wraps up its legislative session today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are taking no action to protect New Yorkers from a leading cause of death on city streets — speeding drivers. A bill to expand the number of speed cameras in the city from 140 to 200 and loosen restrictions on how they can be used is not in the final package that Cuomo is negotiating with the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate.

With Cuomo and Senate Republicans permanently at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the deck is stacked against any measure in Albany that is perceived to advance the mayor’s agenda. While de Blasio stayed quiet about the speed camera bill, it’s no secret that achieving his Vision Zero street safety goals will be tougher without an expanded automated enforcement program. The fact that more New Yorkers will get maimed and killed because speeding is not consistently enforced on city streets doesn’t appear to factor into the Albany calculus.

Advocates had hoped State Senator co-leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, would provide a path forward by sponsoring a Senate version of Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s speed cam bill. Klein had moved speed camera bills in previous years and has called them “a very smart approach” to traffic enforcement.

In an effort to attract more votes, Glick had significantly scaled back her original bill, which would have enabled camera enforcement by all 2,600 NYC schools, but there was no movement.

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Drivers Are Killing People, and the 19th Precinct Is Sending Cyclists to Court

The 19th Precinct likes to boast about local officers aggressively ticketing people for riding bikes on sidewalks. A data analysis by Transportation Alternatives shows the precinct also issues far more criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding than other Manhattan commands.

According to TA, in 2015 the Upper East Side 19th Precinct issued 116 criminal summonses for sidewalk riding, and 15 moving violations — a ratio of eight to one. TA says the typical ratio for precincts citywide is close to one criminal summons to one moving violation.

A moving violation can be resolved online or through the mail, while a criminal summons requires a court appearance. Failure to appear in court can result in a warrant that leads to jail time and barriers to employment.

NYPD greatly reduced the issuance of criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding in 2014, but the 19th Precinct is one of several that still sends hundreds of cyclists to court per year. Next month TA will release an in-depth report on bike enforcement, which will include criminal court summons data.

“In addition to disproportionately high bike enforcement in general — they issue 51 percent of all bike on sidewalk c-summonses in the Manhattan North patrol area — [the 19th Precinct is] choosing to take the extremely harsh option,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro.

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