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Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

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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.

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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.

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NYPD Is Ticketing More Drivers for Speeding on Neighborhood Streets

nypd_speeding_summonses

Data source: NYPD

NYPD is issuing more speeding summonses this year than in 2013, and data show a substantial jump in the number of drivers ticketed for speeding on neighborhood streets. While the numbers represent an increase from the baseline, it will take a lot more summonses for enforcement to be commensurate with the scale of NYC’s reckless driving problem.

As of the end of May, NYPD had issued 46,119 speeding citations, according to the department’s monthly violations report. Of those, 29,125 were issued by the transportation bureau, which for the most part concentrates enforcement on city highways, with the patrol bureau — precinct officers — issuing 16,993 speeding summonses (one ticket was unaccounted for). Through May 2013, police had issued 35,713 speeding tickets: 25,434 by the transportation bureau and 10,279 by precincts. That’s a 29 percent year-to-year increase across the board, and a 65 percent rise in precinct speed enforcement.

In addition, NYPD continued to issue more summonses for failure to yield to pedestrians relative to last year: 14,779 total as of May, compared to 5,836 through May 2013 — a 153 percent jump.

It’s possible that the ticketing surge can be attributed more to recent ticket “blitzes,” like the one NYPD launched Monday, than to sustained day to day enforcement. And as we’ve reported before, counting summonses doesn’t help determine how many motorists are following traffic laws. Surveys by Transportation Alternatives have recorded a large share of drivers exceeding the speed limit on streets throughout the city, so even the increased number of tickets only captures a very small portion of total speeding.

Still, it’s clear that through the first five months of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, NYPD speeding enforcement is moving in the right direction.

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Mother of Cooper Stock: NYPD Must Hold Reckless Cab Drivers Accountable

Update: According to a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, today’s scheduled bill signing was postponed.

After a Wednesday hearing where he was joined by council members and department heads, Mayor de Blasio is scheduled to sign a package of bills today aimed at improving traffic safety. Though its signing will come later due to a scheduling conflict, one bill sent to the mayor by the council was Intro 171, also known as “Cooper’s Law.”

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via ##http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/treat-reckless-driving-like-drunk-driving/##New York Times##

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via New York Times

The bill’s namesake, 9-year-old Cooper Stock, was fatally struck by a cab driver in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January. His father, Richard Stock, was injured in the collision.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission said Koffi Komlani’s probationary hack license won’t be renewed when it expires in July. Regardless, though Komlani has reportedly not driven a cab since the day of the crash, for now he remains in good standing with the TLC, despite the fact that he drove into two people who were crossing the street legally with sufficient speed to cause grave harm.

“The TLC did nothing,” said Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner. “They did nothing. They didn’t take his license. They didn’t do anything.”

According to the New York Post, the TLC can currently suspend hack 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. 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.

Reports said Komlani had no prior violations on his record. A summons for failure to yield is still pending, according to Lerner, and Komlani was not charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

When Cooper’s Law takes effect, the TLC will be allowed to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws. But as we reported in May, penalties will depend on whether NYPD issues charges or summonses after a crash. As it stands, police investigate only a fraction of serious crashes, and fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

Lerner has seen the data on NYPD enforcement of state vulnerable user laws, which the department says it can’t apply unless the Collision Investigation Squad is dispatched or an officer witnesses a violation. “That’s the key issue,” Lerner said. “If the NYPD doesn’t enforce, none of these laws have any meaning.”

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