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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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311 Is a Joke: NYPD Ignores Bike Lane-Blocking Big Rigs in Red Hook


In the space of a few hours this afternoon, one cyclist’s experience, chronicled in real time on Twitter, summed up NYPD’s indifference to keeping bike lanes clear of motor vehicles.

At 8:00 this morning, Anna Zivarts encountered a flatbed tractor-trailer parked in the two-way Imlay/Summit Street bike lane in Red Hook. When that truck and a second rig were still blocking the lane four hours later, Zivarts tweeted photos.

Prompted by a response from DOT on Twitter, at 2:15 p.m. Zivarts filed a complaint on the 311 web site. (There is no “vehicle blocking bike lane” option on the 311 site, so DOT advised her to select “double parked blocking traffic.”) An hour later, Zivarts received an emailed response that read: “The Police Department responded to the complaint and determined that police action was not necessary.”

When she checked the street minutes later, however, the trucks were still parked in the bike lane. ”Why bother?” tweeted Zivarts.

Though this isn’t one of NYC’s most hectic streets, in the video, taken by Zivarts, you can see the truck is forcing cyclists into an oncoming lane around a corner, where visibility is poor.

Apparently that’s not something the police care to prevent.

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For Cooper’s Law to Work, NYPD Must Change Its Approach to Traffic Crashes

For Cooper’s Law to be effective, ticketing reckless drivers will have to become the rule for NYPD, rather than the exception. Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data via Transportation Alternatives.

One of the most substantive traffic safety bills passed by the City Council Thursday was Intro 171 — “Cooper’s Law” — which allows the Taxi and Limousine Commission to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws. The effectiveness of the law, however, depends on NYPD, which often does not ticket drivers involved in serious crashes.

The driver who killed Cooper Stock, the law’s namesake, was cited for failure to yield. But the cab drivers who fatally struck Kelly Gordon and Timothy Keith, for example, were reportedly not summonsed for those crashes. Nor was the cabbie who severed the leg of Sian Green. Even with Cooper’s Law in effect, all of those cab drivers would theoretically remain in good standing with the TLC.

It is too early to know whether NYPD is ticketing more drivers who injure and kill since the advent of Vision Zero, but another item on yesterday’s agenda might be instructive. The council passed a resolution asking Albany to elevate violations of the state’s vulnerable user law to misdemeanor status, which would let cops ticket drivers based on probable cause. NYPD has said it can’t cite drivers for mere traffic violations unless an officer personally witnesses the incident.

Hayley and Diego’s Law — also named after children killed by a driver who avoided criminal charges — was meant to give police a middle ground between a traffic violation and a crime. Because the department only issues careless driving citations if the crash is investigated by the Collision Investigation Squad, NYPD has for years failed to enforce the law as intended. As a result, fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

Another potential hindrance is that NYPD investigates a fraction of serious traffic crashes. Though Ray Kelly purportedly retired the “likely to die” rule, only CIS personnel are trained to do more than check off boxes on the state-issued collision report form. In 2011 NYPD investigated just 304 of 3,192 fatal or serious collisions, according to the office of former comptroller John Liu. Even with reported additions to CIS, the unit has nowhere close to the staff it needs to properly investigate all serious crashes.

If NYPD limits enforcement of Cooper’s Law to CIS-investigated collisions, or does not change its approach to traffic crashes in a meaningful way, dangerous cab drivers will remain on the job.

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NYPD Ticketing Cyclists in Prospect Park and Central Park

Photo: ##https://twitter.com/jooltman/status/469537857422360576/photo/1##@jooltman##

Photo: @jooltman

As dangerous drivers continue to injure and kill with impunity, NYPD is targeting cyclists in parks.

Joanna Oltman Smith tweeted the above photo this afternoon. Police were ticketing cyclists on the loop of Prospect Park, Smith wrote, “mere feet” from the raging torrent of speeding traffic that is Flatbush Avenue. Motorists have killed at least six pedestrians and cyclists on Flatbush since 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Earlier this week, NYPD also set up in Central Park during the morning commute, handing out warnings and tickets to cyclists. A reader reports:

This morning around 8:30 we rolled up to the light in the park loop nearest Columbus Circle, my normal exit before locking up for work, to find at least three NYPD warning and/or ticketing cyclists to stop at red lights… One of the most obnoxious things about these stings is that the cops don’t recognize when you are already slowing for a light, so you get castigated no matter what you do.

Given that this is happening during hours when drivers are permitted in the park, seems like a lame enforcement effort, since cars routinely go over the posted 25 mph limit in the park.

As we’ve written before, ticketing cyclists for ticketing’s sake isn’t making streets safer, and it distracts from reckless driving, which is by far the leading cause of death and injury on NYC streets.

Data released last summer showed NYPD was ticketing cyclists at a higher rate than drivers in the Citi Bike service area. With a new police commissioner on the job and Vision Zero at or near the top of the new mayor’s agenda, let’s hope these pointless spring stings turn out to be an aberration.

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What If NYPD Did a Month of Consistent Enforcement Instead of a 2-Day Blitz?

NYPD launched a 48-hour crackdown on speeding drivers last night, following a “blitz” a week ago that focused on failure to yield and cell phone violations. A ticketing event always gets media attention — that’s the point — but are short bursts of high-profile traffic enforcement better than elevated rates of consistent enforcement that become an unremarkable fact of life?

Last week’s effort resulted in 5,258 summonses, including 1,066 for texting while driving and 1,254 for failure to yield, according to the Daily News. So in two days, NYPD issued 50 percent of the number of failure to yield tickets that officers issued in the entire month of March.

Overall enforcement of these violations is on the rise this year, but the ticket blitz shows how much farther NYPD can go. If police maintained this rate of failure-to-yield ticketing for a whole month, enforcement would increase by a factor of 15. How would that change driver behavior? What would be the effect on traffic deaths and injuries?

Ticket blitzes demonstrate what NYPD can accomplish. But we still don’t know what happens on NYC streets when that level of enforcement becomes the norm.