Skip to content

Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

42 Comments

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.

4 Comments

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.

87 Comments

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.

10 Comments

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.

54 Comments

NYPD Transpo Chief Breaks Down Street Safety Basics for Local Press

At a press conference this morning unveiling a street safety redesign at 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side, the first three questions from reporters were all about what the police are doing to deter jaywalking. So it was no surprise when, after a discussion of NYPD’s crackdown this week on drivers who text and fail to yield to pedestrians, Juliet Papa of 1010 WINS cut right to the chase for her drive-time audience.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

“Will texting pedestrians also be part of the crackdown?” she asked over the roar of trucks on Broadway. “I just find this is very motorist-driven. Pedestrians and bicyclists must abide by the law.”

Setting aside that Papa implied texting while walking is a punishable offense (it is not), this was clearly an opportunity to explain street safety basics to the local press corps, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan hit his marks.

“Motorists are operating a 4,000 pound vehicle. And we cannot be distracted while we’re operating that vehicle,” he said. “When a collision occurs between a motorist and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses 100 percent of the time. So again, it’s very important that our motorists, who are obligated to be licensed, that they operate in a way that’s not distracted.”

Later, I asked Chan for more details about the department’s enforcement efforts. Currently, monthly updates on moving violations are aggregated at the precinct level and released to the public in PDF and Excel documents. NYPD says it will step up enforcement along arterial slow zones, but there’s no way for the public to track the department’s progress on that promise.

Precincts often cite the number of tickets issued on a particular stretch of road at public meetings, and this type of information is part of Chan’s weekly TrafficStat meetings. But Chan claimed that releasing geographically-tagged data on moving violations is beyond the department’s current technical capabilities.

Whenever the department cites summonses issued on a specific street, officers are spending time tracking hand-written summonses, he said, rather than pulling information from a database. “Right now, we don’t capture that type of information. It’s not inputted into the computer by location in terms of where summonses are issued. That’s something that we can possibly look at to develop,” he said. “They would have to develop a whole system for that.”

Last week, the department improved the way it releases crash data, showing individual entries updated daily in an easy-to-use format. Chan called it a “great start,” so I asked if there are other traffic data improvements in the works.

“Not right now,” he said.

23 Comments

Forget Alec Baldwin. How About Some Celebrity Failure-to-Yield Tickets?

Well that was fast. About an hour after Alec Baldwin was arrested after reportedly biking in the wrong direction on Fifth Avenue this morning, the story was all over the place.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested in Manhattan for riding his bike the wrong way down a street and for disorderly conduct, a law-enforcement official said.

Mr. Baldwin was allegedly riding his bicycle north on Fifth Avenue in the center of the street between 15th and 16th streets, the official said.

Police officers stopped him and asked him for identification, but he didn’t have any on him, the official said.

Mr. Baldwin then allegedly grew visibly upset with the officers, the official said. He was placed in handcuffs. Mr. Baldwin was taken to a local police precinct and was later released, the official said.

Sure, Baldwin is primo click bait right now, but consider this: Celebrity summonses are kind of a brilliant way to get the most bang for your enforcement buck. The public education value is sky high. Imagine if NYPD ticketed, say, Kim Kardashian for speeding, followed by a statement from the department along the lines of “Speeding kills, no matter who’s behind the wheel.”

Of course, there would have to be more enforcement against reckless driving for that message to stick. As of March, officers from the 13th Precinct, where Baldwin was arrested, had ticketed seven drivers for speeding this year. Meanwhile, NYPD locks up normal people after dumb bike stops on the regular.

13 Comments

Broadway Speed Limit to Drop to 25 MPH From Columbus Circle to Inwood

adsf Photo: Brad Aaron

NYPD transportation chief Thomas Chan, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers and Audrey Anderson of Families for Safe Streets, and City Council Transporation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez Photo: Brad Aaron

The speed limit will be lowered to 25 miles per hour on eight miles of upper Broadway this summer, DOT announced today.

Motorists have killed 22 pedestrians on Broadway from Columbus Circle to W. 220 Street in Inwood since 2008, according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who was flanked by NYPD officials, city and state electeds, traffic violence victims, and street safety advocates in Inwood this morning. Two vehicle occupants also died in crashes on Broadway during that period.

Arterials account for 15 percent of roadways in NYC but 60 percent of pedestrian deaths. The Broadway announcement is the fourth DOT arterial slow zone reveal, after McGuinness Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. “The number one thing I hear from New Yorkers is that they want us to do something about these arterial streets,” Trottenberg said.

The press conference was held at the intersection of Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive, where DOT is expected to get started this month on a project that will make it safer for pedestrians to cross there. The Broadway slow zone is scheduled to take effect in July.

Trottenberg was joined by Upper Manhattan City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, new 34th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

“Our officers will be out there doing additional enforcement, to make sure that [drivers] are not disobeying our signal lights, our speeds, and that they are yielding to pedestrians who are in marked crosswalks,” Chan said.

Read more…

4 Comments

NYC Set to Get Safer Streets After Senate Passes Speed Cam Bill, 49-11

Two days after the Assembly passed legislation to expand the number of speed cameras in New York City from 20 to 140, the Senate followed suit this afternoon in a 49-11 vote. Since Governor Cuomo has signaled support for the bill, it is almost certainly bound to become law. The main question is whether a superfluous amendment from Senator Marty Golden will make it into the final version.

The bill keeps tight restrictions on where and when the cameras can be used: They are limited to streets with a school entrance or exit within a quarter-mile, and can only be used during school hours. To placate Golden, the Senate added an amendment that would restrict revenue raised by the cameras to police, fire, and school zone safety initiatives. With the amendment attached, Golden voted for the bill.

According to Newsday, the sudden move to advance the legislation came because Nassau County’s financial plan relied in part on the cameras.

At a press conference outside City Hall this afternoon, I asked City Council members how they respond to speed camera opponents who call them mere revenue-raisers, despite their proven safety benefits. Former transportation committee chair James Vacca took the microphone to put things in perspective.

“If there’s any State Senator that thinks we want cameras at red lights, or speeding cameras, because we are going to use it as a revenue producer, I think they should think again,” he said, noting that revenue falls as drivers get tickets and learn to stop driving recklessly. “This has nothing to do with revenue. We want people to slow down their cars.”

The de Blasio administration would like to secure home rule over automated enforcement, and the City Council Transportation Committee is considering a resolution this afternoon in support of that request. We’ll have more coverage of today’s hearing at City Hall later today.

This post has been updated to reflect the latest vote tally, initially reported in the Senate as 51-9.

24 Comments

Looks Like Marty Golden Is Holding Up Speed Cameras, Again

Dana Rubinstein at Capital New York reports that State Senator Marty Golden has again emerged as an obstacle to NYC speed cameras.

Marty Golden is the reason NYC should have local control of traffic cameras. Photo: NY Senate

On Monday the Assembly passed a bill that would allow the city to deploy 120 additional cameras, bringing the total to 140. We reported yesterday that the allocation of speed camera revenue was a possible point of contention in the Senate, which has moved the bill to the rules committee — the last stop before the Senate floor, where it would come to a vote.

From a CapNY story published this morning:

A knowledgeable source told Capital that Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden, a close ally of the police union, which fervently opposes speed cameras on the grounds that officers police streets better, is demanding the city agree to dedicate the revenue generated from the speed cameras to school safety initiatives, cops, and firemen, rather than to the city’s general fund.

Marty Golden is the leader of the NYC Senate delegation, and his support is critical to getting the bill passed. Golden objected to introducing speed cameras to NYC streets last year, but eventually voted in favor. Golden’s office did not respond when Streetsblog asked if he supports the current bill, and he didn’t comment for Capital New York.

It may sound like a good idea to dedicate this revenue to street safety initiatives, but city money is fungible. If speed cam revenue is set aside for specific items, other city funds can be shifted around to offset that. Plus, as NYC’s experience with red light cameras shows, these revenues decline over time as drivers adjust their behavior — you can’t budget based on them. Golden’s proposal is just another pointless reason to oppose a proven safety measure.

Golden’s reported tactic is exactly the reason NYC needs local control of its automated enforcement program. Street safety in New York City should not be held hostage to the vagaries of Albany politicking.

To wit: Any new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now. Though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends, state lawmakers have limited their effectiveness by mandating that they can only be used near schools during the school day.

The City Council transportation committee will take up a resolution later today asking Albany for local control of traffic cameras.

10 Comments

Safety of NYC Streets Again Depends on State Senator Marty Golden

The Assembly yesterday passed legislation that would expand NYC’s speed camera program by 120 cameras, bringing the total to 140. The bill, which also allows speed cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was referred to the Senate rules committee this morning, bypassing the transportation committee. Rules is the last stop before a bill moves to the floor for a vote.

State Senator Marty Golden. Photo: NY Senate

As the leader of the NYC delegation, Marty Golden will be key to pushing this legislation through the Senate. Golden objected to introducing speed cameras to NYC streets last year, but eventually voted in favor of the small pilot program. Streetsblog has asked Golden’s office if he supports the current bill.

As it stands, new cameras allowed by Albany would be subject to the same restrictions as the 20 cameras the city has now, which can only be used near schools during the school day, though most fatal crashes occur during evening and nighttime hours and on weekends.

“Passing this legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our children as they travel to and from school,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act quickly.” Governor Cuomo has signaled support for the bill.

Automated enforcement is an essential element of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan. From a statement issued by the mayor’s office Monday:

With the Assembly’s vote today, we are one step closer to the expansion of school slow zones throughout our city where we can install speed cameras, allowing us to protect our children and make our streets safer. This bill will truly save lives.

Speeding is one of the primary causes of pedestrian fatalities, and addressing this epidemic has been a priority for my administration from the beginning. We can no longer accept these fatalities as inevitable.

The Daily News reported today that the Senate “may push for several amendments.” A source tells Streetsblog that some Senate lawmakers may want to reduce the number of cameras, and are afraid that towns upstate will want cameras as well. How to spend the revenue is also reportedly a point of contention. CapNY reports that Queens Assembly rep Michael DenDekker, who voted for the bill, “suggested the revenue go toward hiring crossing guards.”

There appears to be no discussion among legislators on lifting restrictions on where and when NYC can use speed cameras in order to further reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths.

The City Council will take up a resolution Wednesday asking for local control of traffic cams.