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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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De Blasio Promises “More Visible Impact” on Reducing Traffic Deaths

Appearing with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city’s Vision Zero effort is “still in its infancy” and that “there’s a lot more to do.” The remarks come at a time when the city’s two-year run of reducing traffic deaths seems increasingly unlikely to continue in 2016.

Bill_de_Blasio_11-2-2013

Mayor Bill de Blasio

While the mayor said “traffic designs” are an important component of Vision Zero, he did not say that he intends to accelerate investment in safer street configurations.

A caller had asked de Blasio why the city’s Vision Zero policies do not target pedestrian behavior. “People have to take personal responsibilities,” the caller argued, suggesting that the city pursue pedestrian education or jaywalking enforcement.

While de Blasio said he himself had encountered “folks with the headphones on who walk into the crosswalk,” he attributed the source of danger to motorist behavior:

The core of the problem is not the pedestrian or the bicyclist, it’s the person who’s driving a vehicle and is speeding, or going through an intersection without yielding to pedestrians. That’s what Vision Zero is first addressing, but we have given tickets to bicyclists who endanger others, we have given tickets to pedestrians who put themselves in harm’s way and could create an accident that could affect many others. We’ll do that in some measure, but from a resource perspective and just in general, that’s not where our first energies are going to go.

The mayor went on to pledge that Vision Zero “is something we’re going to continue to deepen.”

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TA: Unfocused, Ineffective NYPD Enforcement Isn’t Helping With Vision Zero

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

Since the launch of Vision Zero more than two years ago, NYPD has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy to target dangerous driver behaviors that are known to cause most injuries and deaths. To the contrary, a new Transportation Alternatives report finds that NYPD enforcement often targets the people most vulnerable to traffic violence, while motorist violations like speeding, failure to yield, and even leaving the scene of a crash go unchecked.

“Death, Danger and Ignoring the Data: How the NYPD is Getting Vision Zero Wrong” [PDF] notes that injuries to pedestrians and cyclists increased by 11 percent the first five months of this year relative to the same time frame in 2015. While there was a slight decline in the number of people killed by drivers while walking, cyclist deaths more than doubled.

TA says scattershot traffic enforcement is a big part of the problem.

“The NYPD is falling short on its commitment to consistent, appropriate policing to deter the most deadly driving violations,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a statement accompanying the report. “Commissioner Bratton and other top police officials don’t even seem to have a clear plan for participation in Vision Zero, and their allocation of traffic enforcement resources does not appear to be based on actual conditions on New York City streets.”

Though the majority of cyclists who lost their lives this year were killed by drivers breaking traffic laws, NYPD tends to respond to cyclist fatalities by cracking down on cyclists and publicly blaming victims for their own deaths. This approach epitomizes the department’s failure to direct resources toward enforcement that would actually save lives, says TA.

In addition, enforcement priorities vary widely from precinct to precinct. While some precincts have stepped up enforcement against speeding and failure to yield, others are issuing fewer such tickets this year than in 2015, the report says.

TA found there are eight precincts where cyclists are more likely to receive a criminal court summons — which can lead to jail time and barriers to employment — than a moving violation for riding on the sidewalk. In the apparent absence of guidance from department brass, precinct COs are free to aggressively target relatively low-risk cycling offenses as motorists kill people in crosswalks.

Other findings from the report:

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Cyclists Need Protection From Reckless Driving, Not From Themselves

The 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, tickets more cyclists than almost any other precinct in the city. So it was fitting that the above tweet this morning came from the 19th. It encapsulates NYPD’s failure to recognize how dangerous driving behaviors, not cyclists’ own actions, are the big threat to people on bikes.

The riding tips are all well and good, but will they “help prevent most collisions,” as the precinct suggests? The evidence says otherwise.

Of the 14 cyclist fatalities in New York City this year, 12 involved drivers breaking the law, according to data compiled by Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives.

Five of the fatal crashes were hit-and-runs. Of those, one was the result of a driver failing to yield to Olga Cook; in another a driver ran a red light and killed an unidentified 41-year-old man; and a third was caused by a driver who appeared to deliberately strike Matthew von Ohlen.

In three other cases, evidence suggests cyclists had the right of way and were killed by drivers who failed to yield. Three more fatalities involved drivers impaired by marijuana or alcohol. And 33-year-old James Gregg was killed by the driver of an oversized truck on Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn, a neighborhood street where trucks are prohibited.

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NYPD “Bicycle Safe Passage” Stings Aren’t Creating Safe Passage for Cyclists

Earlier this year, when City Hall announced NYPD’s “Bicycle Safe Passage” enforcement initiative to ticket drivers for blocking bike lanes and failing to yield to cyclists, it sounded like a step up from predecessors like “Operation Safe Cycle” — which were notorious for fining cyclists, not protecting them. But the new NYPD bike safety approach still looks a lot like the old.

This week marks the third “Bicycle Safe Passage” operation of 2016. So far, people have reported NYPD ticketing cyclists on Ninth Avenue, Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side, Second Avenue near Stuy Town, and Jay Street by the Manhattan Bridge.

On Jay Street, the 84th Precinct is ticketing cyclists around Nassau Street and Concord Street. Just south of that location, between Fulton Street and Tillary Street, the bike lane remains blocked by double-parkers, as per usual.

During the previous “Bicycle Safe Passage” week, in June, the NYPD gave out 1,757 tickets to drivers obstructing bike lanes and 810 for motorists who failed to yield to cyclists or pedestrians, according to AM New York. It’s not known how many tickets were given to cyclists.

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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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