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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category


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.


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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NYC Motorists Killed Four People Walking and Biking This Weekend

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Po Chu Ng was killed on Sixth Avenue by a driver in an SUV with TLC plates as she crossed the street with the right of way. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

New York City motorists killed four people walking and biking this weekend. One of the victims was struck in a Midtown crosswalk while crossing with the right of way, but NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance haven’t filed charges against the driver.

Po Chu Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue at W. 30th Street at approximately 5:15 Saturday afternoon when a driver struck her with a GMC SUV while turning left onto the avenue, the Daily News and Gothamist reported.

Ng, 52, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. The driver was a 27-year-old man. WABC reporter CeFaan Kim tweeted a photo showing that the SUV had Taxi and Limousine Commission plates. A Daily News photo shows the SUV sitting in the crosswalk with a pool of blood on the street in front of it.

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog Ng was crossing Sixth Avenue on the north side of the intersection, west to east, in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal “in her favor.” But as of this afternoon, the driver, whose name was not released, did not face charges under the Right of Way Law. The spokesperson said the crash is still being investigated.

As part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, in 2014 NYC adopted the Right of Way Law, which penalizes motorists for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, and Cooper’s Law, which gives the TLC a mechanism to revoke the TLC licenses of cab drivers who kill people who are walking and biking with the right of way. NYPD enforcement of the Right of Way Law remains inconsistent, and the TLC does not use Cooper’s Law, in part because police and district attorneys rarely file charges after a serious crash.

Three of this weekend’s fatal crashes were hit-and-runs, prompting Transportation Alternatives to call on state lawmakers to act this week to toughen penalties against drivers who flee crash scenes.

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To Gain Votes in Albany, Speed Cam Compromise Won’t Protect Every School

Image: Transportation Alternatives

Instead of allowing New York City to place speed enforcement cameras by every school, a revised bill would increase the number of cameras to 200 — covering about 10 percent of schools. Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Assembly Member Deborah Glick has put forward a revised speed camera bill in an effort to pick up more votes in Albany. The new version — Assembly Bill 10652 — authorizes 200 speed cameras in New York City, an increase from the current limit of 140, but nowhere near enough to implement automated speed enforcement by every school, as the initial legislation (A9861) would have enabled.

With the legislative session wrapping up at the end of the week, time was running out to pass a bill. Glick’s initial bill had the support of 28 of her Assembly colleagues, but Jose Peralta’s counterpart bill in the State Senate seemed unlikely to pass without the support of Independent Democratic Conference chief and Senate co-leader Jeff Klein. In the past, Klein has called speed cameras “a very smart approach,” but he did not step forward to support the recent bill.

State Senator Jeff Klein has called speed cameras “a very smart approach to eliminate speeding,” but has yet to support legislation this session to expand New York City’s automated speed enforcement program.

Glick staffer Charles LaDuke said the legislation was amended because the initial bill “wasn’t getting enough traction.” Streetsblog has asked Klein’s office for his position on the new bill and has yet to receive a reply.

The city’s automated speed enforcement program has proven effective. Speeding was reduced 60 percent in locations with cameras, according to NYC DOT, and overall traffic deaths in the city have fallen to record lows since the cameras began operating. Still, with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of schools remain unprotected, and more than 200 people are killed in traffic every year.

While the compromise bill won’t protect streets near every school in the city with speed cameras, it would be a significant improvement in two ways.

In addition to increasing the number of locations from 140 to 200, or 43 percent, the bill would fix a major flaw in the current program by allowing cameras to be placed within a quarter mile radius of schools, instead of within a quarter mile of a school entrance on the street abutting the school. Without this fix, cameras often can’t be placed on the streets where speeding poses the greatest risk near schools, since those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

But instead of allowing speed cameras to operate at all times, as Glick’s original bill would have, the compromise defines the hours of enforcement as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In practice, this would be an increase of an hour or two compared to the current law, which limits camera enforcement to hours during school activities.

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What Every Elected Should Say About Speed Cameras

When City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer talks about street safety and automated enforcement, the message is clear: speeding is always wrong, it’s dangerous, and anyone who gets a ticket needs to change their behavior.

In NYC, you have to be driving 11 mph or more above the speed limit to trigger a camera ticket. With a $50 fine and no license points, the penalty is small — but the reward is great, as speeding drops by 60 percent where cameras are deployed.

Listen to Van Bramer and ask yourself, wherever you live, ‘How would my leaders react?’ To change the mindset of drivers and achieve Vision Zero, politicians can’t crumble anytime a constituent complains about being penalized for dangerous driving.

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NYC Students Rally for Speed Cameras at Every School. Where Is Jeff Klein?

With time running out on the legislative session in Albany, NYC students and parents gathered at City Hall this morning to call on the state legislature to expand the city’s life-saving speed camera program. Pending legislation in Albany would allow New York City to effectively enforce the speed limit at all of its schools, but it currently lacks support from State Senator Jeff Klein, who holds the key to getting the bill through the state legislature.

“We know [cameras] are effective when it comes to changing the reckless behavior of drivers,” said Families for Safe Streets member Sofia Russo, a school teacher whose daughter Ariel was killed by a reckless driver in 2013.

State Senator Jeff Klein has been critical to establishing NYC’s automated speed enforcement program, but he hasn’t signed on to a bill that would expand it to every school.

In a 14-month span, reckless drivers killed three students from M.S. 51 in Brooklyn. Many of the children at the rally were their classmates. “The school children that are here today are joining us because at such a young age they have already known loss,” Russo said. “This should never happen. No child should die while walking to school.”

Automated enforcement has proven effective at reducing the incidence of speeding, which is a leading cause of traffic deaths in the city. Speeding declined 60 percent where the city’s current 140 cameras have been installed, according to NYC DOT. But with nearly 2,600 schools in the city, 93 percent of them have no automated speed enforcement nearby.

Current state law limits New York City to 140 speed cameras that can only be operated within a half-mile of a school, and only during school activities. Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Lower Manhattan rep Deborah Glick, would address those shortcomings by allowing NYC to install speed cameras at every schools at all times.

Public Advocate Letitia James and council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Brad Lander spoke in support of Glick’s bill this morning.

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