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Posts from the "Trucks" Category

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Eyes on the Street: The Everyday Perils of Being an NYC Pedestrian

Pedestrians walk around a moving semi truck on a Broadway sidewalk in Inwood. Photos: Brad Aaron

Yesterday I observed the driver of this tanker truck do a U-turn at Broadway and 204th Street in order to pull up to a gas station.

I walk this intersection regularly, and you always have to be especially mindful of what drivers are doing on this corner, since it’s basically one big curb cut. Once the truck driver did his 180, he drove onto the sidewalk, then went back and forth until he was where he needed to be.

Granted, this guy seemed to know what he was doing, but he made a U-turn through at least three crosswalks — which as far as I can tell is illegal — and anyone who approached during this maneuver had to either stay back until he cleared the sidewalk or try to walk around the moving truck while watching for other vehicles. As the truck driver was taking up the sidewalk, at least one driver backed across the gas station lot, in my general direction, to get out of his way.

Over 200 New York City pedestrians were killed and nearly 4,700 were injured in collisions involving large trucks from 1994 to 2003. At least seven pedestrians have been killed by semi truck drivers in the past year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Broadway is a local truck route, and this particular truck — as it happens — was equipped with the required crossover mirror. This gas station is also half a block from an elementary school, and a block away from a junior high school.

A smaller truck could do this job. All I could think while watching this everyday event unfold is that trucks of this size, regardless of regulations, really have no place on NYC streets.

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Will the Feds Step Up for Ped Safety and Close the Crossover Mirror Loophole?

Albany's law requiring crossover mirrors for large trucks on NYC surface streets doesn't apply to out-of-state trucks. Will the federal government make this safety feature a nationwide requirement? Image: DOT

In February, 7-year-old Amar Diarrassouba was killed while crossing the street in East Harlem. Truck driver Robert Carroll ran him over while turning from East 117th Street to First Avenue. Because Carroll was driving a truck registered out-of-state, the vehicle wasn’t covered by the state law requiring crossover mirrors for large trucks on New York City streets. Community Board 11 recently asked Representative Charles Rangel to introduce a bill that would mandate crossover mirrors nationwide, but federal action seems unlikely in the near future and the loophole allowing out-of-state trucks to skip the safety mirrors remains in place.

From 1994 to 2003, 204 New York City pedestrians were killed and 4,698 were injured in collisions involving large trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF], 71 percent of pedestrians killed by the drivers of large trucks nationwide were first struck at the front of the vehicle.

The mirrors, which cost about $100, are located on the front of a truck’s cab and significantly improve a driver’s visibility directly in front of the vehicle and on the passenger side. The mirrors especially help drivers see children, who are more likely to be within a driver’s blind spot when walking near a large truck.

In 2011, Albany passed a law requiring crossover mirrors for trucks weighing 26,000 pounds or more operating on NYC surface streets, but the rule only applies to vehicles registered in-state, exempting trucks like the one Carroll was driving when he killed Diarrassouba.

After sending its letter to Rangel in July, CB 11 got a response [PDF]. “Your suggestion is timely and significant and deserves great consideration,” Rangel wrote. “Having every driver of a truck, tractor, tractor-trailer and/or semi-trailer use a ‘crossover’ mirror is imperative.” But Rangel’s letter didn’t say whether he would introduce or support legislation making such a requirement law, leaving CB 11 leadership wanting more.

“It’s kind of lukewarm,” CB 11 transportation committee chair Peggy Morales said last night about Rangel’s letter. Streetsblog followed up with Rangel’s office, which said it would get back to us after his legislative director returns to the office next week.

Congress isn’t the only route. U.S. DOT could use its rulemaking authority to set a national standard on crossover mirrors. Streetsblog asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if it had studied crossover mirrors or considered requiring them. FMCSA referred our questions to NHTSA, which said that it had not conducted research on crossover safety mirrors, though it was keeping an eye on the New York law and might conduct research in the future before beginning the rulemaking process.

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New Citi Bike Stickers Warn of Truck Blind Spots

New stickers have been appearing on Citi Bikes warning riders on the dangers posed by large trucks. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

With more than two million rides and only a handful of reported crashes, bike-share in New York appears to be putting together an impressive safety record. In London and Paris, fatal bike-share crashes, while very rare, have mostly involved large vehicles like buses and trucks.

When Citi Bike launched, the “Bike Smart” brochure sent to all annual members included information about truck blind spots, and DOT regularly hosts demonstrations (including at Summer Streets) using its dump trucks to educate the public about blind spots, but Nicole Gelinas argued that Citi Bike should do more to warn its users of the risks posed by large trucks.

Now, as noted by commenter qrt145 and documented by Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke, stickers have been appearing on some Citi Bike handlebars with a warning: “Trucks have large blind spots. Give them extra room.”

While a better solution — for pedestrians as well as cyclists — would be to make the trucks themselves safer by designing trucks with fewer blind spots, requiring crossover mirrors, and enforcing the city’s permit requirements for large trucks, this is at least a good step in helping bike-share users be aware of the dangers large trucks pose on city streets.

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NYC Has Laws Restricting Big Trucks on City Streets. Are Companies Obeying?

The tractor trailer Henry Panama was driving when he ran over and killed Renee Thompson Wednesday evening. The truck appears to exceed the maximum length allowed on surface streets without a permit. Photo: Daily News

The death of Bronx high school student Renee Thompson, 16, on the Upper East Side Wednesday evening was the latest in a string of fatal crashes involving large trucks. Thompson was at least the seventh pedestrian killed by a semi-truck driver in New York City in the past year. While there are laws on the books intended to regulate the use of these vehicles, the state of truck enforcement in the city remains opaque, with NYPD’s public information office (DCPI) generally providing no details about whether the vehicles involved in these crashes had the proper permits and safety equipment.

Thompson was walking west across Third Avenue on the north side of 60th Street shortly after 7:00 p.m., leaving her job at Dylan’s Candy Store, when a tractor-trailer driver turning right from westbound 60th onto Third struck her with the rear wheels of the truck. The driver, Henry Panama, received summonses for violating the pedestrian’s right-of-way, careless driving, and operating an unregistered vehicle, but police and prosecutors have not filed criminal charges.

The law requires a permit for trucks longer than 55 feet to operate on surface streets, and it appears the truck Panama was driving likely exceeded that length. DCPI could provide no details about the size of the truck, who owns it, and whether it met safety regulations. It appears, however, that only Henry Panama — not the company that owns the vehicle — faces any penalty for the killing of Renee Thompson.

Last month, the driver of a tractor-trailer killed 73-year-old Ngozi Agbim on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. That truck also appeared to be longer than 55 feet. As did the trucks involved in the deaths of Amar Diarrassouba in East Harlem this February and Jessica Dworkin in Soho last summer. In each case, it remains unclear whether the trucks were being operated with or without permits. NYC DOT, which issues the permits, has not responded to a freedom of information question filed in March about the number of permits it gives to oversize trucks.

Engineering and enforcement measures to improve truck safety are not a great mystery. “We know that trucks are three times as deadly as cars, because their size and weight make the impact on blood, flesh, and bone much, much worse,” said Juan Martinez of Transportation Alternatives. “And we also know what to do to reduce the dangers posed by the trucks that rumble through our crosswalks — we design our intersections to make pedestrians the priority, and we deploy law enforcement to let truck drivers know that they need to follow the law. The only big unknown here is whether our leaders have the wherewithal to do what’s necessary.”

This fatal crash occurred in the 19th Precinct. The next precinct community council meeting is scheduled for this upcoming Monday at 7:00 p.m. at 153 East 67th Street. Call (212) 452-0613 to confirm.

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Ngozi Agbim, 73, Killed by Truck Driver at Crash-Prone Brooklyn Intersection

According to reports, Ngozi Agbim was walking toward this truck when the driver ran her over. The trucker was cited for failure to exercise due care. Photo: Daily News

A senior was struck and killed by a truck driver at a crash-prone intersection in Brooklyn Monday.

At approximately 9:40 a.m., Ngozi Agbim, 73, was attempting to cross the nine lanes of traffic where Church Avenue crosses Ocean Parkway, at the terminus of the Prospect Expressway, as the truck driver was making a right turn. Witnesses told the Daily News the victim pounded on the truck before she fell and was run over by the rear wheels.

If the Daily News account is correct, Agbim was walking east on Church Avenue and the truck driver was westbound on Church before attempting the turn onto Prospect Expressway. That would mean Agbim was walking toward the truck when the driver entered the intersection.

Agbim, who was on her way home from church, died at the scene. A retired head librarian at LaGuardia Community College, she is survived by her husband and three children, according to the Daily News.

The truck driver, Eric Turnbach of Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, was cited for failure to exercise due care, the Daily News said. Church Avenue and Prospect Expressway are on a truck route, but trucks exceeding 55 feet in length are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. Video from the scene indicates that the trailer of Turnbach’s truck is 53 feet long.

In addition to Agbim, semi truck drivers have killed at least six pedestrians on NYC surface streets in the last 10 months.

It is not known if the truck involved in this crash was equipped with crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a better view of pedestrians who are directly in front of them. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. We have a message in with Central Pennsylvania Transportation, the Lancaster-based company that owns the truck.

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Citi Bike Member Packets Include Cycling-Near-Trucks Safety Tips

Yesterday we had a feisty exchange of posts between Charles Komanoff and Nicole Gelinas about what the city should do to enhance safety for Citi Bike users (and everyone else).

One of Gelinas’s main suggestions is to educate bike-share users about how to interact safely with trucks, and it turns that there’s a big graphic about this in DOT’s Bike Smart brochure [PDF], which is distributed to all annual bike-share members in the packet that comes with their key fobs. Word is that the city is looking into getting the same message across to daily and weekly users too.

It’s good advice for anyone who bikes on NYC streets. Here’s a look:

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How Green Is Grocery Delivery in Cities?

Grocery delivery can cut carbon emissions compared to driving your car to the store and back. But delivery services also replace walking, biking, and transit trips. Image: Transportation Research Forum

In a recent study out of Seattle, researchers Erica Wygonik and Anne Goodchild found that having groceries delivered by truck can cut mileage by up to 85 or 95 percent compared to driving a car. ”It’s like a bus for groceries,” Goodchild told NPR. ”Overwhelmingly, it’s more efficient to be sharing a vehicle, even if it’s a little larger.”

The most efficiency can be squeezed out of grocery delivery when dispatchers can design short routes that serve many people. When customers can choose their delivery times, however, the routes become significantly less efficient.

But in urban areas, where houses are close enough together that delivery might be relatively efficient, not everyone drives to the store. And people without access to a car might be the most likely to use a delivery service. In these locations, perhaps delivery services are replacing walking, biking, and transit trips more than driving trips.

It looks like more research is needed to evaluate the full impact of grocery delivery services on travel choices and carbon emissions. “We don’t have great data about how people get to the store,” Goodchild said in an email exchange. “We also don’t know to what extent these shoppers (bike/ped) might choose to shop online, versus those who drive to the store.”

She said she and her co-author have talked about conducting simulations where they consider biking “but would need to estimate calorie burn.” Yes, calorie burn — but hopefully not “increased respiration.”

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Mott Haven Residents Rally for Safe Streets and Truck Enforcement

South Bronx Unite and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallied against deadly truck traffic in Mott Haven on Saturday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Early Saturday afternoon, about 25 people gathered at the corner of St. Annes Avenue and East 138th Street in the South Bronx, protesting heavy truck traffic and deadly driving in the Mott Haven neighborhood.

A series of pedestrian deaths in recent months and the lack of truck route enforcement from the 40th Precinct — as well as a city-subsidized Fresh Direct distribution center planned for the neighborhood — have many residents concerned about the safety of crossing the street.

On December 13, Ignacio Cubano, 69, was killed in crosswalk at 138th Street and St. Annes Avenue by a semi truck driver. On January 7, an elderly woman was critically injured crossing at the same location. Six days later, a taxi driver ran over a man at 138th Street and Brown Place. Most recently, on April 1, a hit-and-run SUV driver killed two pedestrians on Bruckner Boulevard at 138th Street. On Saturday afternoon, an elderly driver injured four people on the sidewalk near The Hub, a busy commercial area at the north edge of the neighborhood.

At the rally, convened by the environmental justice group South Bronx Unite, participants handed out fliers to people walking along the bustling commercial street. ”We walk these grounds with our feet — we hope that we can get safe streets!” the group chanted.

East 138th Street is designated as a local truck route, which means truck drivers should be heading to or from a destination in the neighborhood. But residents say many truck drivers use the street as a through route to Manhattan to avoid traffic on the Major Deegan and the Bruckner Expressway.

In 2012, officers from the 40th Precinct did not write a single ticket for truck route violations, while issuing 2,272 tickets for tinted windows over the same period [PDF]. Responding to a January letter from resident Monxo Lopez, the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, said that citations are often issued for tinted windows because officers need to see inside a vehicle during car stops.

At a precinct community council meeting in January, after the two crashes at 138th Street and St. Annes Avenue, McCormack told residents that “most of the victims are elderly, and they are making mistakes,” according to the Mott Haven Herald. In an interview last week with DNAinfo, McCormack noted that some of the victims were not using crosswalks.

“He has a 1950s mentality,” Lopez said on Saturday. “He’s blaming the pedestrians for their own deaths.”

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Brooklyn Victim Is Third NYC Pedestrian Killed by Truck Driver in Five Weeks

The truck involved in today's fatal Brooklyn crash has New York plates, but does not have required crossover mirrors. Photo: Ian Dutton

Update: NYPD has identified the victim as 83-year-old Irvin Gitlitz.

Another NYC pedestrian has been killed by a truck driver, this time at the intersection of Flatbush and Fourth Avenues. The crash happened this afternoon.

The victim, a male in his 40s, was struck at around 12:50 p.m., and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to NYPD and a DNAinfo story. An NYPD spokesperson said the preliminary report “looks like [the victim] was walking between two parked vehicles.”

Streetsblog was alerted to the crash by reader Ian Dutton, who took photos of the scene. It appears as if the victim is in the street on Flatbush, slightly east of Fourth, and the trucker came to a stop in the intersection, with the truck’s trailer in the crosswalk.

One picture seems to indicate that, though the cab has New York plates, the truck is not equipped with crossover mirrors, which are designed to allow drivers of trucks like this one to see what is directly in front of them. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the mirror requirement, but trucks registered in New York State and operated within the city are mandated by law to have them. Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length, as this one appears to be, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit.

NYPD had no information regarding summonses, and the spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing.

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London Cycling Group Proposes a Safer Urban Truck

Images: London Cycling Campaign

In the last few weeks, truck drivers have taken the lives of at least two NYC pedestrians: a 6-year-old child and a 60-year-old woman. Though the physics of the crashes were different — one driver was turning, the other accelerating into a crosswalk — in both cases the driver was said to have hit a person he did not know was there.

NYC is not the only world city that suffers truck-involved pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. In London, trucks account for some 5 percent of vehicle traffic, yet their drivers are responsible for approximately half of all cyclist deaths, according to the Guardian. Most of those crashes involve construction trucks, with many resulting from a driver failing to see a cyclist while making a left turn.

At present, half the cycling fatalities in Greater London involve lorries, and about three-quarters of those vehicles are from the construction industry. A large proportion of pedestrian fatalities also involve lorries. Tellingly, the most frequent response from lorry drivers after a fatal collision is to say they didn’t see the victim in the moments leading up to the crash.

The London Cycling Campaign has proposed a new design for the urban truck — one that is lower in height, puts the driver closer to the street, and replaces “blind spots” with windows. The design is based on existing trash trucks, which are built with the safety of refuse collectors in mind.

“Already a common sight in town and city streets, these vehicles have the same low driving position and high-visibility cab seen on our Safer Urban Lorry,” write LCC staffers Charlie Lloyd and Mike Cavenett. “All we’ve done is to marry this type of cab with a lower chassis from a construction lorry.”

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