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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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NYPD Is Still Shielding NYPD Crash Data From the Public

It’s been almost six months since Streetsblog filed a freedom of information request for data on traffic crashes involving NYPD personnel. NYPD has not released the data, or given us a reason for not doing so.

Photo: ddartley/Flickr

The 2016 Mayor’s Management Report says crashes involving NYPD personnel are up, but the department is hiding data that would reveal a more complete picture. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

The 2016 Mayor’s Management Report, released this week, says crashes involving city-owned vehicles increased 10 percent from FY 15 to FY 16 — with 5,726 crashes and 6,344 crashes, respectively. While other agencies provided the actual number of crashes involving their respective fleets, NYPD reported 3.9 collisions per 100,000 miles in FY 16, compared to 3.2 collisions per 100,000 miles in FY 15.

The per-mile figures are useful and reveal that NYPD crashes increased 22 percent — more than other agencies — but they don’t convey the scale of what’s happening. NYPD could easily provide a more complete picture by disclosing total crashes if it chose to.

Instead, NYPD has declined to tell the public and other city agencies how many traffic collisions police officers and other department staff are involved in, or the resulting costs in injuries, deaths, and property damage. Annual reports from the city comptroller’s office show NYPD consistently leads city agencies in legal settlement claims, some of which stem from vehicle crashes — a trend that continued in FY 15.

Our FOIL request, filed in March, asked NYPD for the most recent five years of department data on collisions involving NYPD vehicles, on-duty personnel, and vehicles and drivers contracted by the department. In May, about a month after we sent the FOIL, Lieutenant Richard Mantellino responded.

“Before a determination can be rendered,” Mantellino wrote, “further review is necessary to assess the potential applicability of exemptions set forth in FOIL, and whether the records can be located.”

Mantellino said the department would make a determination as to whether to honor the request within 90 days. We’ve heard nothing about it since then.

Streetsblog has asked NYPD for an update on the status of the records request.

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People on Bikes Take Over Fifth Ave to Demand Safe Streets From de Blasio

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Photo: Michael Nigro. (You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @nigrotime.)

New Yorkers on bikes took over Fifth Avenue yesterday evening to demand stronger action from Mayor de Blasio to implement life-saving street redesigns essential to achieving his goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Organizers estimate that more than a thousand people participated.

As they rode from Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street to Washington Square Park, demonstrators from across the five boroughs chanted “Safe streets now!” and “We are traffic!” The full procession stretched for blocks, clocking in at over four minutes from the vanguard to the tail.

Before the ride, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White called on the mayor to “fund and fast-track” safety improvements for walking and biking at the hundreds of dangerous streets and intersections identified by DOT in its Vision Zero action plans.

The reduction of traffic deaths in NYC has stalled this year, and more people on bikes were killed in traffic in the first eight months of 2016 than all of 2015. “We are here to say that Vision Zero, to be real, must be funded,” White said. “[People] are dying because of bad design that the mayor’s not fixing.”

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Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio to Step Up for Vision Zero

With New York City losing ground in the effort to eliminate traffic deaths, officials will join street safety advocates and victims of traffic violence tonight for Transportation Alternatives’ mass bike ride on Fifth Avenue.

The event is intended to prod Mayor de Blasio to “fund and fast-track” priority pedestrian improvements and protected bike lanes, and to urge to the mayor to direct NYPD to improve traffic enforcement and stop blaming victims of traffic crashes.

Elected officials expected to attend include Broooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Helen Rosenthal.

Participants will gather at 6 p.m. at Fifth and E. 59th Street, and will ride to Washington Square Park. If you don’t ride, you can still represent at the beginning or end of the route. Wear something yellow if you can.

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City Council Unanimously Passes Bill to Expand Pedestrians’ Right of Way

Today's legislation ensures that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

Today’s legislation ensures that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

The City Council voted to expand pedestrians’ right of way today, unanimously supporting Intro 997-A, Public Advocate Letitia James’ proposal to bolster legal protections for people in crosswalks. The legislation is expected to be enacted by the mayor, with DOT and NYPD having both endorsed it.

Public Advocate Tish James

Public Advocate Tish James

Currently, pedestrians who cross the street when signals are flashing a red hand are denied legal protections by NYC law enforcement agencies. James’s bill changes that, closing a loophole in city rules.

While the 2014 Right of Way Law made it a misdemeanor for motorists to injure a pedestrian or cyclist crossing with the right of way, district attorneys and NYPD have declined to bring cases against drivers in many cases, citing Section 4-03 of the Rules of the City of New York, which says that “no pedestrian shall enter or cross the roadway” during the flashing “Don’t Walk” phase.

Intro 997-A expands the definition of pedestrians’ right of way so anyone who steps off the curb during the “Don’t Walk” phase has the protection of the law.

The change is especially important given the rapid expansion of countdown clocks that tell pedestrians how much time is left to cross. The clocks tend to shorten the steady “Walk” phase and lengthen the flashing phase. As interpreted by city law enforcement, this effectively curtailed the legal right of way.

At a City Council hearing in April, DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo and Inspector Dennis Fulton of the NYPD Transportation Bureau endorsed the legislation. The bill would “align the law with the acknowledged reality on our streets,” Russo said.

The “out-of-date” rule on the books “defies common sense,” James said at a press conference outside City Hall just before the vote today.

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De Blasio Doesn’t Need to Defend His Bike Policies, He Needs to Take Action

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there's a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

DOT will add 18 more miles of protected lanes to this map in 2016, but there’s a lot of work left to do to create a cohesive citywide network of safe bike routes. Map: Jon Orcutt

Two days before a mass demonstration and bike ride to demand more action from the de Blasio administration to prevent cyclist deaths, the mayor and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg made a media play that seems designed to deflect pressure, announcing that the city is on track to build a record 18 miles of protected bike lanes this year.

With bicyclist deaths on the rise, the mayor should be redoubling his efforts to redesign streets for safer cycling in order to achieve his goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024. Instead he’s getting defensive.

It’s true that DOT’s progress in 2016 stacks up well compared to previous years, and the current batch of projects includes important new protected bike lane segments on streets like Queens BoulevardAmsterdam Avenue, and Chrystie Street.

The fact remains, however, that recent additions to the bike network have not been sufficient to prevent a troubling increase in cyclist deaths this year. For two years running, de Blasio has refused to increase the budget for street redesigns and accelerate the implementation of projects that are proven to save lives. If the mayor chose to make street redesigns a higher priority, DOT could improve safety on many more streets each year.

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De Blasio Promises “More Visible Impact” on Reducing Traffic Deaths

Appearing with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city’s Vision Zero effort is “still in its infancy” and that “there’s a lot more to do.” The remarks come at a time when the city’s two-year run of reducing traffic deaths seems increasingly unlikely to continue in 2016.

Bill_de_Blasio_11-2-2013

Mayor Bill de Blasio

While the mayor said “traffic designs” are an important component of Vision Zero, he did not say that he intends to accelerate investment in safer street configurations.

A caller had asked de Blasio why the city’s Vision Zero policies do not target pedestrian behavior. “People have to take personal responsibilities,” the caller argued, suggesting that the city pursue pedestrian education or jaywalking enforcement.

While de Blasio said he himself had encountered “folks with the headphones on who walk into the crosswalk,” he attributed the source of danger to motorist behavior:

The core of the problem is not the pedestrian or the bicyclist, it’s the person who’s driving a vehicle and is speeding, or going through an intersection without yielding to pedestrians. That’s what Vision Zero is first addressing, but we have given tickets to bicyclists who endanger others, we have given tickets to pedestrians who put themselves in harm’s way and could create an accident that could affect many others. We’ll do that in some measure, but from a resource perspective and just in general, that’s not where our first energies are going to go.

The mayor went on to pledge that Vision Zero “is something we’re going to continue to deepen.”

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De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

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Don’t Underestimate the Street Safety Benefits of Congestion Pricing

The primary benefits of the Move NY toll reform plan are reducing congestion and funding transit — but don’t overlook the huge potential to improve street safety.

Road pricing in Stockholm and London, above, has yielded a street safety dividend -- even in times and places when the charge is not in effect. Photo: Andrew Lassiter

Road pricing in London has yielded a street safety dividend — even when and where the charge is not in effect. Photo: Andrew Lassiter

Recent research at Lancaster University in the UK suggests that since the introduction of the London congestion charge in 2003, lethal crashes have fallen faster than traffic congestion. The safety gains have even “spilled over,” as planners put it, to uncharged times of day, areas of the city, and modes of travel. While traffic deaths have declined in New York since 2003, the fatality rate has fallen much more sharply in London.

For my recently completed master’s thesis, I recently set out to find out just how road pricing in London and Stockholm, which adopted a congestion charge in 2006, has catalyzed safer streets. Here are the top four factors:

1. Fewer Vehicles Means Fewer Crashes

Most of the two dozen planners, academics, and advocates I interviewed in Stockholm, London, and New York agreed that the lower traffic volumes caused by congestion pricing result in safer streets for everyone. This runs counter to the notion that crawling Midtown gridlock means safer streets because cars are moving so slowly. Ultimately, fewer cars on the streets means a lower likelihood that people will be struck.

Although increased average traffic speeds from congestion pricing may sound like a risk, vehicles aren’t likely to end up driving at more dangerous speeds. That’s because pricing causes traffic flows to be “smoothed.” Stop-and-go driving is reduced, and while average speeds increase, maximum speeds do not.

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The Missing Piece in DOT’s Left-Turn Safety Plan: Real Split-Phase Signals

dyckmanwalk

DOT is ramping up the use of leading pedestrian intervals to reduce left-turn collisions, without committing to add signals that completely separate pedestrians and turning drivers. Photo: Brad Aaron

Split-phase traffic signals protect pedestrians and cyclists by separating them from turning drivers — people walking and biking across the street get their own signal phase, and drivers turning into the crosswalk get another. Research indicates that split-phase signals are highly effective at preventing traffic injuries and deaths. But when DOT revealed its strategy to reduce crashes caused by left-turning drivers, there was no commitment to increase the use of split-phase signals.

DOT is scaling up a similar intervention — leading pedestrian intervals, which allow pedestrians to enter intersections a few seconds before turning drivers get a green light. LPIs reduce injuries too, but not as much as split-phase signals, according to a 2014 DOT-funded study published in the journal “Accident Analysis and Prevention” [PDF].

The study analyzed crash data from 68 New York City intersections with either LPIs or split phases between 2000 and 2007, though the vast majority — 59 — had LPIs. Both types of signal adjustments performed better than a control group of intersections where turning drivers were permitted to proceed at the same time as pedestrians and cyclists. The improvement was more pronounced, however, at split-phase signals.

At intersections equipped with split-phase signals, pedestrian and cyclist injuries declined a precipitous 67 percent. At intersections with LPIs, pedestrian injuries declined 38 percent and bicyclist injuries 52 percent. (For the control group, the reduction was 25 percent for pedestrians and 44 percent for cyclists.) The data on split-phase signals was limited, however — it came from only nine intersections, with no locations in Manhattan.

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