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Posts from the Trucks Category

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Margaret Chin: Toll Reform Will Protect New Yorkers From Truck Traffic

Photo: Brad Aaron

Photo: Brad Aaron

City Council Member Margaret Chin today introduced legislation to require the city to examine the effects of New York City’s dysfunctional bridge toll system on traffic safety. The bill would also mandate regular DOT safety audits for all city truck routes.

Trucks account for 3.6 percent of vehicles on city streets but are involved in 32 percent and 12 percent of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, respectively, according to city data cited by Chin. At a press conference outside City Hall this morning, Chin said her bill “should be welcomed by the [de Blasio] administration as a component of Vision Zero.”

Chin cited the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge as a major cause of traffic chaos on Canal Street, which cuts through her district. Drivers have killed at least four pedestrians on Canal Street since 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Chin’s bill would have DOT conduct studies at five-year intervals to “examine the impact of tolling policies on the city’s network of truck routes,” according to a press release. Crashes and traffic violations would be measured, with information collected on whatever street safety measures are implemented on each route. DOT’s last comprehensive truck route study dates to 2007, the press release said.

It's free

Trucker’s special: It’s free to drive over the East River, barrel across local Manhattan streets, and take a tunnel under the Hudson, but sticking to the highway and going over the Verrazano will cost a five-axle truck $80. Map: MoveNY

DOT would also be required to “develop new strategies” to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along the city’s 1,000-plus miles of truck routes. Council Member Brad Lander pointed out that current truck route design — speed-inducing expanses of asphalt — leads to reckless driving regardless of vehicle type. Chin emphasized that the reports should lead to physical street safety improvements. 

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez joined Chin to announce the legislation, along with Lander and Jimmy Van Bramer. Representatives from Transportation Alternatives, Families For Safe Streets, Move NY, the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation, and Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2, and 3 also appeared in support of the bill.

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Rodriguez Revives Push for Truck Guards After First Cyclist Death of 2015

Hoyt Jacobs was killed by a truck driver making a right turn from Vernon Boulevard onto 41st Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Hoyt Jacobs was killed by a truck driver making a right turn from Vernon Boulevard onto 41st Ave. Image: Google Maps

A private garbage truck operator killed a cyclist, and a driver killed a pedestrian in separate incidents in Queens over the holiday weekend. NYPD and District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges in either case.

On Saturday evening the driver of a private trash hauler struck cyclist Hoyt Jacobs at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue in Long Island City, according to reports. It’s difficult to parse how the crash occurred, but the Daily News reported that Jacobs was riding on 41st Avenue, and AMNY said the driver was turning right onto 41st Avenue from Vernon Boulevard. From AMNY:

Jacobs was struck by the truck’s driver-side rear wheels, an NYPD spokesman said. The driver stayed on scene and was not arrested or issued a summons, according to the NYPD.

Witnesses told the Daily News the “light from the man’s bicycle helmet could be seen shining from beneath the sheet that covered him,” which seems to indicate that Jacobs should have been visible to the driver. Photos from the scene show Jacobs’ body in the eastbound lane of 41st Avenue, with the truck sitting in the same lane several yards away, facing east. But again, the lack of basic information, especially regarding Jacobs’ direction of travel, makes it impossible to know what happened at this time.

The two-way bike lane on the west side of Vernon Boulevard is interrupted alongside Queensbridge Park, a stretch that includes the intersection where Jacobs was killed. That segment has sharrows and parking lanes on each side of the street. It’s not clear if the lack of a continuous bike lane on Vernon contributed to the crash, but if NYPD determines what happened to Jacobs, the city could gain a better understanding of how to make the intersection safer.

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Life-Saving Truck Design Fix Sidelined By Federal Inaction

This is the second post in a series about safety features for large vehicles. Part one examined the case for truck side guards and New York City’s attempt to require them for its fleet.

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Large trucks operating in NYC are not required to have side guards to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: dos82/Flickr

American cities are beginning to take the lead on requiring side guards on large trucks in municipal fleets. That’s a good first step toward saving lives, but without addressing privately-owned vehicles, city streets will not be safe from trucks that tend to crush people beneath the rear wheels after impact. The federal government continues to drag its feet, however, and without a national mandate, the prospects for meaningful action from Albany look slim.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended installing side guards on all large trucks, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck design, has yet to pass a rule requiring them. NHTSA says it might begin soliciting input on new trailer guard rules by the middle of next year. Traditionally, the agency has focused on guards for the back end of trucks, which protect car occupants in rear-end collisions. There’s no guarantee that any progress toward new rules next year will include side guards.

In the absence of federal rules requiring side guards for trucks, state and local legislators have taken tentative steps toward addressing the problem. Albany’s previous attempts at similar legislation don’t inspire confidence, however. A recently enacted state law mandates “crossover” mirrors to reduce the size of blind spots in front of trucks weighing at least 26,000 pounds that operate on New York City streets. Enforcement of the mirror law is dismal, in part because of a loophole that exempts trucks registered out-of-state. The ultimate fix would be a national crossover mirror mandate, but the federal government has not shown any inclination to take that up.

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The Simple Change to Truck Design That Can Save Lives

Truck side guards can help reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Boston requires them on city-contracted vehicles. New York might follow Boston's lead. Image: Boston Cyclists Union [PDF]

Truck side guards can help reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Boston requires them on city-contracted vehicles. New York might follow Boston’s lead. Image: Boston Cyclists Union [PDF]

When someone is struck by a turning truck driver in New York City, the worst injuries are typically caused when the vehicle’s back wheels run over the victim. Amar Diarrassouba, Ngozi Agbim, Noshat Nahian, Jessica Dworkin, and Renee Thompson were among the New Yorkers run over by the rear wheels of large trucks in recent years. 

Large trucks designed for highways, with their huge wheels, sweeping turns, and enormous blind spots, are inherently dangerous on crowded city streets, and in the long run the freight system should be designed to eliminate them in populated areas. But in the meantime, improvements to vehicle design can reduce the risks to pedestrians and cyclists. Lives can be saved by installing a side rail or panel between a truck’s wheels that keeps pedestrians and cyclists, if they are struck, from being crushed as the vehicle keeps moving forward.

The de Blasio administration is expected to release a report soon about how this safety feature can be rolled out in New York, but inaction from Albany and Washington threatens to dwarf any city action by keeping large numbers of dangerous trucks legally operating on city streets.

Research from nations that do require side guards shows clear safety benefits. After the United Kingdom began requiring side guards on most new trucks in 1986, there was a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and a 20 percent drop in pedestrian deaths in the types of crashes side guards are designed to mitigate. Researchers at Transport for London say strengthening the UK’s side guard requirements could save the lives of at least two additional pedestrians and cyclists each year in that city alone [PDF]. Side guards have been required on trucks across the European Union since 1989, and are also standard equipment in Japan. They have not yet been mandated in Australia or Canada, which abruptly halted its own study of side guards last year.

Here in the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board last year recommended installing side guards on large trucks, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck design, hasn’t yet passed a rule requiring them. NHTSA says it could propose new trailer guard rules, though not necessarily for side guards, by the middle of next year.

In the absence of a federal rule, cities can take immediate steps by installing side guards on municipally-owned trucks. Boston has taken the lead among American cities and New York might soon follow.

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Two Pedestrians Killed in 24 Hours, Including Seventh MTA Victim of 2014

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

MTA bus drivers have killed two pedestrians since 2013 while making turns at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Palmetto Street, but bus route modifications were not included in a DOT safety proposal. Image: DOT

Update: The victim in the MTA crash was identified as Edgar Torres. WNYC reports that, according to a witness, Torres was in a crosswalk and crossing with the signal when he was hit.

Drivers have killed two New York City pedestrians since Wednesday. One of the victims was the fourth pedestrian to be fatally struck by an MTA bus driver in the last two months, and the crash occurred at the same intersection on the Brooklyn-Queens border where a city bus driver killed pedestrian Ella Bandes in 2013.

At around 5:10 a.m. today, a man believed to be in his 40s was crossing Palmetto Street when he was struck by the rear wheel of a Q58 as the bus driver turned right onto Palmetto from Wyckoff Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports. An NYPD spokesperson said the victim was pronounced dead on arrival at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. As of this afternoon his identity was being withheld pending family notification.

On January 31, 2013, a B52 driver making a right turn from Myrtle Avenue onto Palmetto Street struck and killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes. Last April DOT announced plans to improve visibility and shorten crossing distances at the perilous six-legged intersection where Wyckoff, Myrtle, and Palmetto meet. Rush hour turn bans, for two hours a day, were included in the revamp, but MTA bus routes were not affected. Bandes’s mother Judy Kottick noted that the turn restrictions would not have prevented the crash that killed her daughter.

Anonymous police sources told the Daily News that the victim in today’s crash “appeared to be walking in the street, outside the crosswalk” at the time of the collision. The NYPD spokesperson we talked with had no such details, and said it was unclear who had the right of way. Police are still investigating the crash, the spokesperson said. The Post reported that “no criminality is suspected.”

MTA bus drivers have killed at least six pedestrians and one cyclist this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, with four fatal crashes since the beginning of September. Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, released a statement earlier today:

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Martin Srodin, 46, Killed by Semi Truck Driver in Glendale Crosswalk

Martin Srodin, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a trucker making a left turn in Glendale this morning. Semi truck drivers have killed at least eight NYC pedestrians since January 2012. Image: Google Maps

Martin Srodin, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a trucker making a left turn in Glendale this morning. Semi truck drivers have killed at least eight NYC pedestrians since January 2012. Image: Google Maps

A truck driver killed a pedestrian in Glendale this morning. Police had filed no charges as of this afternoon. It is unclear if the truck was legally allowed to operate on city streets.

At approximately 6:07 a.m., 46-year-old Martin Srodin was crossing 80th Street at Cooper Avenue when the driver of a semi truck ran him over with a rear trailer tire, according to NYPD. Police said Srodin was walking west to east on Cooper as the truck driver, also eastbound on Cooper, was turning left onto 80th Street.

Srodin, who lived a few blocks away from the crash site, suffered trauma to the body, an NYPD spokesperson said. He was declared dead at Elmhurst Hospital.

NYPD did not have information on who had the right of way, and said the Collision Investigation Squad was working the crash. The truck driver, a 64-year-old man, was not immediately charged or summonsed.

There is a left turn lane from eastbound Cooper Avenue at 80th Street, according to a recent Google Maps image, and what appears to be a dedicated left turn signal. If the pedestrian had a walk signal, the driver should by law be charged under Section 19-190, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way.

Photos published by the Post show police administering a breath test to the driver at the scene. Photos also indicate the truck has New York plates, but it appears the truck does not have cab-mounted crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a view of what’s directly in front of them. Though it’s unclear if the mirrors would have prevented this crash, they are required by law for trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds that are registered in New York State and operated in New York City.

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Woman Struck by Truck Driver on Flatbush at Atlantic “Likely to Die”

Photos: Ian Dutton

Photos: Ian Dutton

Update: The victim in this crash was identified as Winnifred Matthias, 77. She died from her injuries.

A truck driver seriously injured a pedestrian at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues this afternoon, near the location where a truck driver killed a senior last year. NYPD says the victim is not likely to survive.

The crash occurred around 12:36 p.m. and the victim was declared “likely to die,” according to NYPD and FDNY. DNAinfo reports that the victim was “an elderly woman”:

The woman was walking southbound down the double yellow lines on Flatbush Avenue when she was struck at the busy intersection of Atlantic Avenue near the Barclays Center just after 12:20 p.m., fire officials said.

The victim was rushed to Brooklyn Hospital in cardiac arrest. Authorities said her condition is dire.

Crosswalks at this intersection are extremely long and indirect. Sheer self-preservation might lead someone to walk outside the crosswalk in order to cross the street faster.

Photos of the scene taken by Streetsblog reader Ian Dutton show a dump truck sitting on Flatbush in front of Atlantic Terminal, a few feet past the crosswalk on the north side of the Atlantic intersection. The truck was cordoned by police tape and NYPD investigators were on the scene.

In April 2013, a semi truck driver fatally struck 83-year-old Irvin Gitlitz on Flatbush at Fourth Avenue, a few yards from the site of today’s crash.

This crash occurred in the 78th Precinct. We’ll post more information as it becomes available.

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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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Panel: NYC Electeds Need to Get Serious About Funding Infrastructure

From right, Jonathan Bowles of Center for an Urban Future, Chris Hamel of RBC Capital Markets, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Chris Ward of Dragados, Denise Richardson of the General Contractors Association of New York and "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz at this morning's panel. Photo: Stephen Miller

From left, Jonathan Bowles of Center for an Urban Future, Chris Hamel of RBC Capital Markets, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Chris Ward of Dragados, Denise Richardson of the General Contractors Association of New York, and “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz at this morning’s panel. Photo: Stephen Miller

This morning, the Association for a Better New York, a business group, hosted a discussion on the city’s infrastructure. The focus was squarely on transportation, and the message wasn’t pretty. Panelists warned of dire consequences if elected officials don’t act on the precarious state of transportation funding.

Calling himself “the ghost of infrastructure past,” former traffic commissioner “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz reminded the audience of the sorry state of New York’s infrastructure in the 1980s, when major bridges had to be closed because they were in such poor condition. While things are in better shape today, without attention to maintenance, history could repeat itself. “We can very well have those problems again tomorrow,” said Schwartz.

“Back when we rebuilt all those bridges, there was an enormous federal contribution,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Since the 1980s, federal transportation funds have flatlined as the gas tax has stagnated, she said, and “city and state coffers aren’t flowing either.”

“Forget about the federal government. Local areas have to fix their problems,” Schwartz said, citing Los Angeles as a region where voters have backed major transportation funding measures. “The biggest amount of transit spending in the country is happening in Los Angeles, not in New York.”

But Trottenberg cautioned against using Los Angeles as a model. “[Voters] usually tax themselves to build new things. They rarely tax themselves to keep up the old stuff,” she said. “At New York City DOT, almost our entire budget is keeping up the old.”

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Trucks and Cities Are Like Oil and Water. Here’s a Solution.

This freight truck killed 73-year-old pedestrian Ngozi Agbim in Brooklyn this June. Photo: Daily News via ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/06/25/ngozi-agbim-73-killed-by-truck-driver-at-crash-prone-brooklyn-intersection/##Streetsblog NYC##

This freight truck killed 73-year-old pedestrian Ngozi Agbim in Brooklyn this June. Photo: Daily News via Streetsblog NYC

About 350 pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are killed each year by large trucks in this country. Big freight trucks are incompatible with cities in many ways, bringing danger, pollution, noise, and traffic congestion. They park in bike lanes and have shockingly big blind spots, putting everyone around them at risk. And yet, most cities haven’t found a way to reconcile the need to move goods with all their other priorities.

Meanwhile, as more and more cities prioritize walkability and bike-friendliness, they often neglect the task of reconfiguring freight logistics.

As part of the MAP-21 transportation bill, U.S. DOT convened a Freight Advisory Committee to help inform the creation of a national strategic plan for freight transportation. One of the advisory panel’s six subcommittees focuses on the first mile/last mile problem, but even that one subcommittee is reportedly more concerned with port access than delivery issues at the destination. The interplay between urban freight transportation and smart growth is far from a core focus of the committee.

It should be a top priority for urbanists and complete streets advocates, though. If we don’t help cities plan for freight movement, what we’ll get is unplanned freight movement, and all the chaos that comes with it. About 80 percent of freight in cities is delivered by trucks, and those trucks pose a significant threat to livability.

Loading and unloading slows traffic and takes up street space. When businesses do have dedicated loading docks, they reduce available space for the business and for the pedestrian activity that enlivens urban spaces. Then there’s noise pollution, air pollution, and safety concerns.

And yet, our cities run on the goods these hulking trucks deliver — and the garbage they take away. (Yes, trash pick-up is a freight question too.)

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