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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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Cab Driver Who Challenged Constitutionality of ROW Law Pleads Guilty

The cab driver who unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the Right of Way Law after killing Manhattan pedestrian Silvia Gallo pled guilty to violating the law yesterday.

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

Adopted as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, the Right of Way Law made it an unclassified misdemeanor for New York City drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. MD Hossain was the first person charged under the law, also known as code Section 19-190.

Hossain hit Gallo as he turned left into a crosswalk at Madison Avenue and E. 79th Street on August 29, 2014. Gallo was stuck beneath the cab until witnesses overturned the vehicle to extricate her. She was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital.

DNAinfo reported that Gallo, a 58-year-old Pilates instructor, was scheduled to leave for Ireland the day after her death, to work and live with her boyfriend. Gallo’s son is former mixed martial arts star Jorge Gurgel.

Hossain was charged with violating the victim’s right of way and careless driving. He filed a lawsuit claiming that Section 19-190 violates the state and U.S. constitutions by “undermin[ing] the very concept of innocent until proven guilty” and “purport[ing] to regulate alleged reckless driving ‘by imposing criminal penalties on a strict liability’ basis.” Hossain also challenged the application of the law in his case.

In November 2015, New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer dismissed the suit, rejecting Hossain’s claim that the law presumes driver guilt.

“Before the Right of Way Law, only the officer’s observation of the crash — not videotapes of the crash — would support a charge, except in cases handled by the Collision Investigation Squad,” attorney Steve Vaccaro said of Scherzer’s ruling. “Now, a non-CIS police officer can collect and watch video, record spoken admissions by the driver at the crash scene, and lay charges based on those types of plainly reliable evidence. This is exactly what the Right of Way Law was supposed to accomplish.”

Hossain was fined $750 plus $200 in court fees, according to court records. His drivers license was suspended for six months.

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Families of Crash Victims Pledge Action to Save Lives on Day of Remembrance

Family members of victims of fatal traffic crashes hold up the photos of the lost loved ones. Photo: David Meyer

Family members of victims of fatal traffic crashes hold up the photos of the lost loved ones. Photo: David Meyer

New Yorkers who lost loved ones to traffic violence gathered at City Hall Park yesterday to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. They called on Mayor de Blasio as well as elected officials in Albany to do more to prevent the hundreds of deaths that happen on NYC streets each year.

“Collectively, our story is one that’s impossible to ignore,” said Hank Miller, whose 30-year-old sister Victoria Nicodemus was killed by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver in Fort Greene last December. “We have to work together with our elected officials to prevent these tragedies, and to make sure no other families have to come up here and talk about their loved one lost to preventable tragedies.”

Under Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, traffic fatalities in NYC reached a record low in 2015, but this year the number of lives lost is escalating. At the current rate of progress, the city won’t come close to achieving the goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024. Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and the City Council leadership have all called on de Blasio to increase funding for street safety redesigns, but the mayor has not adjusted his budget in response.

Meanwhile, this year Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders failed to advance legislation to expand the city’s automated speed camera program.

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Unlicensed Driver Kills Abrehet Hagos on Broadway in Washington Heights

Broadway and W. 180th Street, where an allegedly unlicensed driver killed Abrehet Hagos last weekend. Broadway above Columbus Circle is a Vision Zero priority corridor, but the city mainly relies on speed enforcement, which is sporadic, to keep people safe. Image: Google Maps

Broadway and 180th Street, where an allegedly unlicensed driver killed Abrehet Hagos last weekend. Broadway in Upper Manhattan is a Vision Zero priority corridor, but NYC mainly relies on speed enforcement, which is sporadic, to slow motorists. Image: Google Maps

A woman allegedly driving without a valid license stuck and killed a man in Washington Heights last weekend.

Abrehet Hagos, 50, was walking at the intersection of Broadway and W. 180th Street on Sunday when 24-year-old Kyara DeJesus hit him with a 2007 Mercedes, according to Patch and DNAinfo.

Hagos, who lived in the Bronx, sustained injuries to his head and torso and died at Harlem Hospital.

DeJesus, of Harlem, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, a low level misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days in a jail and a $500 fine — though actual penalties are rarely that severe, even in cases where an unlicensed driver kills someone. DeJesus was not charged for the act of taking Hagos’s life.

Broadway from Columbus Circle to the Broadway Bridge, which links Manhattan and the Bronx, is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Motorists killed 18 people walking along the corridor between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT, and there were 118 crashes that resulted in serious pedestrian injury or death during that period.

As in most of Washington Heights and Inwood, Broadway at W. 180th Street is often a chaotic mess, with no bike lanes and one through-lane in each direction generally occupied by double-parked vehicles. Upper Broadway was designated as an arterial slow zone in 2014, but the city relies mostly on police enforcement, which is historically not a priority for local precincts, to slow motorists down.

Officers from the 34th Precinct, where this crash occurred, had ticketed just 255 drivers for speeding this year as of October.

Abrehet Hagos was killed in the City Council district represented by transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez.

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De Blasio: Street Safety Advocates Not “Looking at the Facts”

On Monday Mayor Bill de Blasio managed to dismiss very real concerns about Vision Zero progress and the work street safety advocates are doing to stem the bloodshed and grief caused by traffic violence, all in one sentence.

When Politico reporter Laura Nahmias asked about New Yorkers who are holding him to his own administration’s Vision Zero goals, de Blasio reportedly replied: “I think sometimes they’re trying to justify their own role without looking at the facts.”

Here are some facts. The pressure exerted on de Blasio by safety advocates intensified after Queens motorists killed a teenage girl on her way to school and an infant in a stroller on a sidewalk in separate crashes that occurred within a span of five days.

With a few weeks left in the year, the number of people killed and injured by NYC motorists is higher than it was at the same point in 2015. With the city’s street safety record taking a step backward in 2016, advocates have a responsibility to call out de Blasio’s complacency.

Last week de Blasio implied he is fully funding Vision Zero street redesigns. But rather than ramp up funding, he has actually allowed it to stagnate, putting the completion of priority safety projects — those identified by DOT as the most critical to reducing injuries and deaths — well beyond Vision Zero’s 10-year timetable.

De Blasio deserves credit for initiating Vision Zero and backing it up with new laws and street designs. That early momentum is flagging, and it looks like advocates need to turn up the pressure on the mayor to get it back.

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De Blasio Says He’s Fully Funding Vision Zero Priority Projects. He Isn’t.

Despite what Mayor de Blasio says, NYC is not funding street redesigns at the rate prescribed by Vision Zero.

Despite what Mayor de Blasio says, NYC is not funding street redesigns at the rate prescribed by Vision Zero. Image: Transportation Alternatives

On his weekly Brian Lehrer show appearance this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city is fully funding Vision Zero street redesigns. The numbers tell a different story.

During the Q&A segment, Families for Safe Streets member Mary Beth Kelly told de Blasio 204 people walking and biking have been killed by drivers on Vision Zero priority corridors since January 2015, and that only a fourth of those corridors have received redesign treatments. Kelly asked the mayor to commit to speeding up funding for Vision Zero priority projects.

Here is de Blasio’s response in full:

I appreciate the question very much and I appreciate the work that you do and your colleagues do because it’s been decisive to Vision Zero, particularly in terms of the fights you’ve waged in Albany to get us things like the speed cameras around schools. And we want to do even more of that, and I’m very hopeful there is a Democratic Senate. There’ll be a willingness to go farther with us in protecting kids and seniors and implementing Vision Zero.

We are very aggressively moving those safety redesign efforts. There’s no lack of funding, and there’s no lack of will. And you know Queens Boulevard is a huge example of this, a place we used call the ‘Boulevard of Death’ and thank god we have not fatalities the last two years because we’re doing redesign, because of bike lanes, because of the reduction in speed limit, because we’re enforcing the speed limit with the NYPD. So we’re very, very adamant about moving these as quickly as possible. I’ll talk to Commissioner Trottenberg to see if there’s anything else that she needs to continue to speed things up, but she’s gotten the order from me to do everything as quickly as humanly possible.

We will also be doing more enforcement. The NYPD is continuing to ratchet up enforcement on speeding and on failure to yield, and you’re going to see more checkpoints as well to inhibit drunk driving. So there’s a lot of Vision Zero pieces that are going to be growing, and the redesigns are absolutely a priority.

Budget figures don’t back up the mayor’s claims. As Streetsblog has reported, last spring Transportation Alternatives found that at the current rate of funding it will take almost 40 years to redesign the priority corridors identified in the DOT’s pedestrian safety action plans — a timetable that stretches decades beyond the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

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Advocates Call on Mayor to Fund Safe Streets After the Loss of Two Children

Families for Safe Streets' Sufio Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer

Families for Safe Streets’ Sofia Russo speaking outside City Hall last night. Photo: David Meyer

In the wake of two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of children in Queens last week, members of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday evening to call on Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for life-saving street redesigns.

Traffic deaths in NYC are rising this year after declining the first two years of de Blasio’s term. “Vision Zero is off course,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just heartbraking to see the numbers creep back up again.”

In Ozone Park last Monday, a motorist killed 13-year-old Jazmine Marin as she crossed Cross Bay Boulevard with a friend on their way to school. Four days later, an unlicensed van driver backed into and killed 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller on an Astoria Boulevard sidewalk.

Both fatalities happened in areas identified by DOT as priorities for Vision Zero street redesigns. According to TA, two-thirds of all traffic deaths since the beginning of 2015 have occurred in Vision Zero priority areas.

“The two kids who died last week died on streets that the mayor has already identified as dangerous, but the mayor has not fixed,” White said. “To identify dangerous streets and not fund fixes on those streets — that is not Vision Zero.”

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Tonight: Parents Call on de Blasio to Increase Funding for Safer Streets

Jazmine Marin, 13, and Navraj Raju, eight months, were killed by motorists in separate crashes in Queens last week.

Jazmine Marin, 13, and Navraj Raju, eight months, were killed by motorists in separate crashes in Queens last week.

Prompted by the recent deaths of two children at the hands of reckless drivers, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will lead a protest at City Hall this evening to call on Mayor de Blasio to accelerate the pace of life-saving street redesigns.

Last Monday, October 24, a motorist in a muscle car hit two teenage girls as they walked to school on Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park, killing 13-year-old Jazmine Marin. On Friday an unlicensed van driver ran over 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller on an Astoria Boulevard sidewalk. The first driver faces no charges or traffic violations, the second was charged with unlicensed operation — a low-level misdemeanor — but not for taking a life.

Cross Bay Boulevard is a Vision Zero priority corridor. According to TA, two-thirds of all traffic fatalities since the beginning of 2015 have occurred at locations identified by DOT as in urgent need of safety fixes. But de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to increase DOT funding for street improvements in the latest budget.

“It’s devastating to hear that another parent has lost a child in another sidewalk crash that could have been prevented,” said Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter Ariel was killed by a curb-jumping driver in Manhattan in 2013, in a statement. “The sidewalk should be sacred space. This is not Vision Zero. If the City is going to reach its goal, Mayor de Blasio has to dedicate real resources to fix the most dangerous streets in every community, and tell the public when those safety improvements are expected to be complete.”

Tonight’s event will begin on the City Hall steps at 6 p.m.

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DOT Can’t Control the Seasons, But de Blasio Can Fund Safer Street Designs

Let's design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Let’s design streets to be safe even during the most dangerous times of year. Chart: DOT

Today DOT announced a “dusk and darkness” traffic enforcement and education campaign to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths during fall and winter, when fatal crashes tend to be more frequent.

“As the days get shorter and the weather colder, crashes on our streets involving pedestrians increase — and so we are enlisting data-driven strategies to address that upturn,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “Through education and enforcement with our sister agencies, every driver needs to learn about the limited visibility of this season and the dangers of fast turns, especially in the evening hours.”

Trottenberg cited the redesigned approach to the Manhattan Bridge as a project that will “make crossing our busiest streets safer for everybody,” but that project is independent of the new seasonal safety campaign.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to the fact that streets are more dangerous this time of year, but it’s no substitute for street designs that make walking safer year-round.

“’Let’s all try to be more careful’ doesn’t really work,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul White told Streetsblog. “That’s a pre-Vision Zero approach.”

Severe crashes that harm pedestrians increase by almost 40 percent on fall and winter evenings compared to other seasons, according to DOT. In the coming weeks, NYPD will step up police presence and enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors “around sunset hours when data show serious pedestrian crashes increase,” according to a DOT press release. NYPD will also conduct targeted enforcement at intersections with high rates of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

In addition, NYPD and DOT will “educate drivers and other New Yorkers at high-priority Vision Zero target areas” by distributing palm cards, the press release says, some of which will remind motorists that they’re required to yield to pedestrians while making left turns.

Senior centers have already received materials on “improving safety conditions in their neighborhoods and sharing tips for getting around safely,” according to DOT. The Times reported that the city will spend $1.5 million on the campaign.

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A Trucker Ran Over a Cyclist, So the 84th Precinct Ticketed Cyclists

Hours after a truck driver ran over a cyclist at Jay and Tillary streets yesterday, officers from the 84th Precinct were out ticketing cyclists.

Streetsblog reader Paul Vogel, a.k.a. @D00rZ0ne, tweeted photos of officers ticketing people on bikes during the evening rush at the intersection, where a driver in what appeared to be an oversized rig critically injured a 35-year-old man Tuesday morning.

As we wrote yesterday, it is illegal to operate a tractor-trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo on New York City streets if the total truck length exceeds 55 feet. NYPD did not ticket or charge the driver.

As of August, the 84th Precinct had cited just nine drivers for truck route violations in all of 2016, giving trucking companies carte blanche to put people in danger while breaking city traffic laws.

We called the 84th Precinct this morning. Both officers we spoke with said they didn’t know anything about yesterday’s collision or whether precinct officers were enforcing truck regulations after the crash.

If you’d like to speak with Deputy Inspector Sergio Centa, commanding officer of the 84th Precinct, about street safety and traffic enforcement, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Call 718-875-6850 for location information.

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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.