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Posts from the Vision Zero Category


NYPD Conspicuously Absent From City Council Vision Zero Hearing

How seriously does Police Commissioner Bill Bratton take Vision Zero? The City Council transportation committee held a hearing today to gauge the city’s progress in reducing traffic injuries and deaths, and NYPD didn’t send a single person to provide testimony or answer questions.

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Photo: Clarence Eckerson

Hard to imagine NYPD skipping a council hearing on shootings or terrorism, but it seems traffic violence is not a priority for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Photo: Clarence Eckerson

In NYPD’s absence, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg — as she often does — had to field council member queries pertaining to police traffic enforcement. Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez wondered if NYPD is making progress in keeping dangerous violations down, and how often police are ticketing motorists for blocking bike lanes. James Vacca wanted to know if speeding ticket counts increased after the new 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect last year. Not surprisingly, Trottenberg didn’t have responses, and deferred to NYPD.

DOT does manage the city’s traffic enforcement cameras, which are making streets safer, Trottenberg said, but they could be doing more if not for arbitrary restrictions imposed by state lawmakers.

Trottenberg said violations are down 60 percent at fixed speed camera locations. Red light camera citations have dropped 71 percent since that program started in 1994, Trottenberg said. In 2014, when less than half of the city’s speed cameras were operational, cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as NYPD.

Yet in addition to limiting the number of cameras the city is allowed to use — 140 speed cameras and 150 red light cameras — Albany limits when and where speed cameras may operate. Albany allows cameras do be turned on during school hours only. Trottenberg said location restrictions mean that in some cases, DOT is not permitted to place a speed camera on the most dangerous street that kids actually cross to get to a school. Also thanks to Albany, drivers have to be speeding by 11 miles per hour or more to get a speed camera ticket.

Council members asked Trottenberg if expanding the speed camera program was on the de Blasio administration’s Albany agenda for next year, but she didn’t give a definitive answer.

Trottenberg also said DOT has completed 26 street safety projects since the agency released its Vision Zero borough action plans, including the ongoing revamp of Queens Boulevard and 300 leading pedestrian intervals. But since DOT puts all Vision Zero projects in the same basket — from major changes to Queens Boulevard to tweaking a single intersection — a single number doesn’t convey much information.

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Side Guard Pilot Almost Complete — Next Up, the Other 95% of City Trucks

A recently-installed side guard is part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter

A recently-installed side guard, part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter

In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a pilot program to add side guards, which prevent people from being dragged beneath the rear wheels of large vehicles, to 240 trucks in the city fleet. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is managing the rollout, said today that it is two-thirds done with the project, and expects to have the job done by the end of the year. Still, there’s a long way to go before all city-owned trucks have this lifesaving add-on.

Side guards have proven effective at reducing fatality rates. In the United Kingdom, cyclist fatalities dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths fell 20 percent in side-impact crashes after side guards were required nationwide starting in 1986.

So far, 160 vehicles from 20 city agencies have had side guards installed. The Department of Education was the first agency to have its whole truck fleet outfitted, DCAS reported in June [PDF]. Other agency trucks that have received side guards include Parks, Environmental Protection, NYPD, and the Department of Finance.

The city is working with U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center, which issued a report last December recommending side guards on NYC-owned trucks, to evaluate the pilot program.

Although it will take almost a year to install side guards on 240 trucks, that’s just a drop in the bucket. The city’s 28,000-vehicle fleet includes approximately 4,500 trucks that are eligible for side guards. New York plans to equip all those trucks with side guards over the next eight years.

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Mayor de Blasio Busy Pandering to Motorists Hours After Kids Hit by Driver

Update: De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell sent the following statement: “It’s painful and heartbreaking. Preventing crashes like this is precisely why Mayor de Blasio launched Vision Zero immediately after taking office. A full investigation is underway and the driver has been suspended, pending its outcome.”

You didn’t see Mayor Bill de Blasio talking about the four kids who were hit by a speeding cab driver on a Bronx sidewalk yesterday.

De Blasio could have visited the victims in the hospital. He could have held a press conference at the site of the crash. He could have directed DOT to analyze street conditions at the site and make improvements to help ensure such a crash doesn’t happen again. He could have pledged TLC reforms to get dangerous cab drivers off the streets regardless of whether NYPD or district attorneys file charges after a crash. He could have at least raised public awareness by issuing a statement acknowledging what happened and recommitting his administration to Vision Zero.

He did none of those things. But de Blasio kept his appointment for a nighttime presser on Staten Island, where for the second time in four months he had his picture taken while shoveling asphalt.

When a gas leak caused an explosion and building collapse in Harlem in 2014, the mayor acted swiftly, visiting the scene and issuing a detailed briefing later in the day. Apparently de Blasio didn’t find it necessary to respond when four children were mowed down on a sidewalk.

We have asked the mayor’s office for comment on yesterday’s crash. We’ll have more details on the crash later today.

Streetsblog USA
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The Movement to Eliminate Traffic Deaths Gains Strength in Texas Cities

Fifty-four people stood on the steps of San Antonio's City Hall, one for each pedestrian killed on city streets in the past year. The demonstration marked the start of the city's Vision Zero effort, aimed at entirely eliminating traffic deaths. Photo: San Antonio Fire Department

Last week, 54 people stood on the steps of San Antonio’s City Hall, one for each pedestrian killed on city streets in the past year. The demonstration marked the start of the city’s Vision Zero effort, aimed at eliminating traffic deaths. Photo: San Antonio Fire Department

Texas cities are some of the most dangerous places in the U.S. to walk or bike — or drive, for that matter.

In 2013, the per capita traffic death rate in Texas was 24 percent higher than the nation as a whole. And because so many people live in the state, it regularly leads the nation in total traffic deaths.

Walking in Texas cities can be particularly perilous. Adjusted for population, the Lone Star State is the 10th most dangerous for walking. Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio are all on the list of the 20 most dangerous cities for pedestrians. The traffic fatality rate in San Antonio, for example, is more than three times as high as New York City’s.

But a movement to change that is afoot.

San Antonio

Last week 54 people stood on the steps of San Antonio’s City Hall — one for each pedestrian killed on city streets the previous year. The demonstration launched the start of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, whose leading champion is Council Member Shirley Gonzales.

San Antonio Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales is the leading champion of the city's Vision Zero movement. Image: City of San Antonio

San Antonio Council Member Shirley Gonzales is the leading champion of the city’s Vision Zero movement. Image: City of San Antonio

Gonzales doesn’t equivocate when she talks about street safety. She wants Vision Zero in San Antonio to be a real paradigm shift.

“We have high traffic fatality rates because we have a fundamentally dangerous environment,” she said at the event, flanked by Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Manager Sheryl Sculley, both big supporters, according to the Rivard Report.

“These fatalities are preventable, they are not inevitable,” Gonzales said.

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NYC Has Installed All 140 School Zone Speed Cameras Allowed by Albany

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says that, as of today, DOT has installed as many safety cameras as Albany will allow. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says that, as of today, DOT has installed speed cameras at as many locations as Albany will allow. Photo: Stephen Miller

Just in time for the start of the school year tomorrow, DOT has announced that it has finished installing speed cameras at the 140 school zone locations allowed by Albany.

“Our message is, to all drivers in New York, at all times and all places, you should be driving at a safe speed,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said this afternoon at a press conference on Fourth Avenue near Astor Place. “These cameras do protect lives. Speeding is the leading cause of fatal crashes.”

Drivers have to be exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph to trigger the cameras. Nevertheless, with just 140 permitted camera locations to monitor 6,000 miles of streets, the program is capturing an incredible number of speeders. The cameras have issued more than 940,000 violations since the beginning of last year, including more than 500,000 so far this year.

The $29 million in fines so far this year will probably lead to a few sensational local TV news segments about how the cameras are lightening driver’s wallets. But the fact is that revenue from the cameras, at $50 per ticket, decreases over time. A year ago, each camera issued an average of 192 violations per day. By last month, that number dropped to 69, DOT said, indicating that drivers are slowing down.

While early results are promising, Trottenberg said the city would have to wait a few more years before it had enough crash data to conclusively show how the cameras are reducing fatalities and injuries.

Today’s announcement marks a milestone for the speed camera program. Albany first approved 20 locations in 2013, then cleared an expansion to 140 last year. Now, more than a year later, the city has completed installing that allotment, with 100 fixed camera locations and 40 mobile units.

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While Drivers Kill People in Crosswalks, 19th Precinct Cracks Down on Bikes

Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.

Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.

The first New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015 occurred in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, when Uber driver Aliou Diallo ran over Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli at E. 62nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

Mensing died at the scene. NYPD said the victims were “outside the crosswalk,” though photos appeared to indicate they were at most a few feet from the corner. Police did not say how fast Diallo was traveling or how he failed to see two people in front of him.

Since that crash, drivers have killed four more people walking in the 19th Precinct. All of those victims were seniors. At least three of them were hit in or near a crosswalk by a motorist making a turn.

Motorists killed at least five pedestrians in the precinct in 2014, and drivers were charged with violating the Right of Way Law in at least two of those crashes, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Drivers injured 136 pedestrians in the 19th Precinct through July, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View data map, and there were 52 cyclist injuries in that time frame. As of July 166 motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes, an indicator of high speeds.

But when the 19th Precinct set out to reduce collisions, they didn’t concentrate on drivers who speed or fail to yield. DNAinfo reports:

The 19th Precinct has increased its enforcement of bicyclists by 52 percent since this time last year and it’s paid off with an 18 percent decrease in bicycle-related accidents, police said.

On June 10, the precinct sent out patrols for a bike enforcement operation on First Avenue at 78th and 79th streets and at 90th and 91st streets, and handed out 94 summonses to cyclists for running red lights and riding in the wrong direction in the first three hours, according to the NYPD.

As of July, 19th Precinct officers had summonsed 819 motorists for failing to yield, and cited 76 for speeding, in 2015. That means they issued more tickets to cyclists in three hours than they wrote to speeding drivers in seven months. The 94 cyclist summonses issued on June 10 equals about 40 percent of the total number of failure to yield citations issued by the precinct in the entire month.

Vision Zero View tracks the density of traffic injuries by precinct, on a five-level scale, indicated on the map in shades of red. As of July the 19th Precinct ranked one notch below the highest (worst) level. If the precinct wants to improve those numbers it will have to prioritize enforcement against driver behaviors that cause the vast majority of injuries and deaths.


One Year Later, Bratton’s NYPD Rarely Enforcing Key Vision Zero Law

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. The Right of Way Law is a key component of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD barely enforces it.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. The Right of Way Law is a key component of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD barely enforces it a year after it took effect.

Last weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Right of Way Law, also known as code Section 19-190, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists in New York City to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way.

The law is a legislative centerpiece of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. It was supposed to put an end to the days when motorists who failed to yield could injure people without facing any consequences. But one year in, that goal is still a long way off, with NYPD rarely enforcing the new law.

According to a New York Times story published in June, NYPD charged “at least 31” drivers in the 10 months after the law took effect. During that same period, New York City motorists injured 11,606 pedestrians and cyclists, and killed 118. Since failure to yield is the primary factor in 27 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and deaths in New York City, according to NYC DOT’s 2010 Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan [PDF], it’s all but certain that most drivers who violate the law are not cited by NYPD. (We asked the mayor’s office for current data on Right of Way Law charges. We’ll post it if we get it.)

Last October, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said all 35,000 uniformed officers would be trained to enforce the Right of Way Law. This would allow the department to apply the law in collisions not deemed serious enough to warrant attention from the Collision Investigation Squad, a small, specialized unit that works a few hundred crashes per year, almost all of them fatalities. But with only a few dozen cases brought by NYPD since the law took effect, most motorists who injure and kill rule-abiding New Yorkers continue to do so with impunity.

Given the high profile of some Right of Way cases brought by police and prosecutors, it’s possible the law may be having a deterrent effect anyway. NYPD charged several MTA bus drivers for injuring or killing people in crosswalks — cases that got a lot of publicity when the Transport Workers Union called for bus drivers to be exempt from the law. While MTA bus drivers killed eight people in crosswalks last year, to this point no such crashes have occurred in 2015.

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De Blasio Has Yet to Say Traffic Is More Dangerous Than Painted Breasts

Mayor de Blasio had a chance today to quell the uproar over his suggestion that the city may rip out the Times Square pedestrian plazas. Instead he equivocated and didn’t take the idea off the table:

This issue is now much bigger than the plazas themselves (and the plazas themselves are a big deal — the city’s most recognizable public space, used by hundreds of thousands of people each day).

De Blasio has made street safety and the elimination of traffic deaths a signature policy goal. Until this episode with the plazas, the main question about City Hall’s commitment to those goals was whether the mayor and his deputies were moving fast enough. Advocates could contest whether de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and others were doing everything politically feasible to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. But at least things were moving in the right direction.

Now the whole enterprise is feeling disingenuous.

We know that making Broadway car-free through Times Square has, among other benefits, cut pedestrian injuries by 40 percent even as the number of people using the space has soared. Reversing that progress, in whole or in part, runs completely counter to the principles of Vision Zero that the administration purportedly espouses.

A day after the idea of ripping up the plazas surfaced in what could charitably be ascribed to off-the-cuff remarks, de Blasio could have reasserted the primacy of pedestrian safety as a core value. He didn’t. If the mayor thinks people might be better off exposed to moving traffic than painted breasts, how seriously should anyone take his commitment to Vision Zero?


New Mural in Park Slope Puts Traffic Justice Front and Center

Vision Zero mural. Image courtesy Groundswell

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Groundswell

By the end of the month, people loading food into their cars at the Key Food on Fifth Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope will have a great view of a new mural about safe driving.

Photo: Stephen Miller

Julia Jong, 20, works on the mural. Photo: Stephen Miller

The project, funded in part by NYC DOT, puts Lady Justice front and center, fixing a stone-cold stare at a texting driver. The scales of justice weigh an automobile and New Yorkers walking and bicycling across the street. Opposite the texting driver stand families of traffic violence victims at a rally. In the background is an intersection featuring a protected bike lane and a dedicated bus lane.

“We wanted to show the different aspects of the Vision Zero campaign,” said Marc Evan, the artist leading the project for arts non-profit Groundswell. “They wanted us to take a creative approach to a very heavy subject matter.”

Groundswell has worked with DOT since 2009. In another project this summer, the organization is painting a mural about drunk driving on the side of a Food Bazaar supermarket in the South Bronx. Groundswell also painted the street safety mural on Atlantic Avenue beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“This is the first year that we are doing specifically a Vision Zero mural,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner of Education and Outreach Kim Wiley-Schwartz. “We’re trying to use any tool in our arsenal for culture change.”

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James and Lancman Push for Driver Alert Tech on City Vehicles

A new City Council bill would require crash avoidance technology on at least 100 city-owned vehicles that alerts drivers before a collision occurs, and potentially applies brakes to prevent a crash.

The legislation, sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Member Rory Lancman, would require a one-year pilot program on 100 vehicles in the city’s 28,000-car fleet, followed by a study on its cost and effectiveness at reducing crashes.

The technology includes cameras for improved driver visibility or warnings to drivers of pedestrians or cyclists in their blind spots. It can also alert drivers and apply emergency braking in advance of potential rear-end collisions, which comprise almost one in three crashes in the city fleet that result in injury.

There are 85,000 government employees with access to city-owned vehicles. Last year, non-NYPD drivers were involved in 5,805 collisions resulting in 584 injuries, including 49 crashes that injured pedestrians and 15 that injured bicyclists.

“Everyday New Yorkers are still at too high a risk of being killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle,” James said in a press release. “Every year, there are thousands of collisions involving City drivers that end up costing lives and millions of dollars. We must examine every possible avenue to reduce crashes, which is why we must examine and test collision avoidance technology that could help save lives and taxpayer money.”

During fiscal years 2007 through 2014, there were 1,213 pedestrian personal injury claims filed against the city, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Taxpayers shelled out $88,134,915 during that period for pedestrian injury cases.

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