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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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Daily News Inadvertently Reveals the Extent of NYC’s Speeding Epidemic

Don't be distracted by the clever rhyme: NYC speed cameras are working. Image: Daily News

In other words, speeding in NYC is rampant, but there’s finally some enforcement thanks to cameras. Image: Daily News

If you’re a Daily News reader, today is your lucky day. The paper that is not afraid to oppose safer streets for walking, biking, and driving has a major exclusive, and it is this: New York City has a small number of speed cameras, and they are catching more speeding drivers than NYPD.

It’s actually a good story, if you read through the tabloid-speak. In 2014, 57 cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as the entire police department during the same time period, despite Albany-imposed restrictions that limit camera use to school zones during school hours.

This all points to the fact that cameras are doing an efficient job penalizing thousands of drivers who would otherwise get away with speeding, the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths.

“If the drivers of New York slow down and obey the speed limit and the city collected no revenue, I would consider the speed-camera program a victory,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the paper, again.

The Daily News could have cited data showing that crashes and incidents of speeding declined in areas where speed cameras are located. It could have called for DOT to immediately deploy its remaining 83 speed cameras, or shamed Albany lawmakers for arbitrary restrictions that keep the cameras turned off at night, when severe crashes tend to occur.

Instead, reporter Reuven Blau ran with an outrage quote from City Council Member Mark Treyger, whose big Vision Zero idea is ticketing cyclists for texting. And the paper played up revenue figures as “wallet-walloping.”

“Your pain is the city’s gain,” goes the scare-graphic. Which, in fairness to the Daily News, rhymes better than “cameras are preventing speeding drivers from inflicting actual pain.”

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Albany Bill Would Bar Police From Cuffing Bus Drivers Who Hit People

State lawmakers have introduced legislation that would prohibit police from detaining, but not charging, bus drivers who hit pedestrians and cyclists.

State Senators Adriano Espaillat, at mic, and Martin Malave Dilan, at left, at a Families for Safe Streets rally in Albany in 2014. Dilan and Espaillat have introduced a bill to prohibit police from arresting bus drivers suspected of committing misdemeanors in crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Brad Aaron

State Senators Adriano Espaillat, at mic, and Martin Malave Dilan, at left, at a Families for Safe Streets rally in Albany in 2014. Dilan and Espaillat have introduced a bill to prohibit police from handcuffing and detaining bus drivers suspected of committing misdemeanors in crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Brad Aaron

The bill appears intended to spare bus drivers from being handcuffed and taken into custody for violating the Right of Way Law without exempting them from the law altogether, as a City Council bill would do. The council bill, which currently has 25 sponsors, was introduced after the Transport Workers Union complained that bus drivers were being charged for injuring and killing people who were following traffic rules.

The proposed state legislation is sponsored by Walter T. Mosley and William Colton in the Assembly and Martin Dilan and Adriano Espaillat in the Senate. It would direct police officers to issue a desk appearance ticket when police have “reasonable cause to believe” a bus driver has committed a “traffic infraction or misdemeanor” in a crash involving a pedestrian or cyclist. As long as the bus driver has a valid license, remains at the scene, and cooperates with police, the bill says officers “shall not detain or otherwise prevent” the driver from leaving the scene after police complete an “immediate investigation.”

While the state bill wouldn’t gut the Right of Way Law like the council bill would, there are several problems with it.

It would take away officers’ discretion in determining whether a bus driver should be detained after a serious crash. It doesn’t provide exceptions for officers to make arrests for suspected misdemeanors that are more serious than a Right of Way Law violation, such as reckless endangerment. And like the proposed City Council exemption, the state bill would create a separate standard under the law for bus drivers.

As we’ve said before, the Right of Way Law was adopted to address the very real problem of motorists, bus drivers included, not being held accountable for injuring and killing people. One reason a city law was necessary is that, according to NYPD’s interpretation, state code made it difficult for police to charge a driver who harmed someone unless an officer personally witnessed a crash. This led to thousands of crashes every year, many of them resulting in life-altering injuries, that were not investigated by NYPD.

A goal of the Right of Way Law is to change driver behavior, leading to fewer deaths and injuries on NYC streets. But for it to work the way it should, the law has to be applied consistently. Carving out exemptions for a specific class of driver could set a dangerous precedent.

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NYC Now Tracking Crashes Involving City Government Fleet, Except NYPD

Drivers of city government vehicles crashed at least 5,605 times last year, including 378 collisions that resulted in injury and seven fatalities, according to a new city database. Of the injury crashes, 41 harmed pedestrians and 11 hurt cyclists. The database collects information on crashes involving vehicles from all city agencies — except NYPD, which has yet to share its data.

Photo: ddartley/Flickr

Every city agency, including the fire department, sends data on crashes involving its fleet to a central database, but NYPD is not sharing its information yet. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a citywide program of tracking all the collisions that involve the city’s fleet,” said Keith Kerman, deputy commissioner for fleet management at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “It’s one of our major commitments as part of Vision Zero for the city fleet.”

The database is called CRASH and contains information going back to October 2013. CRASH is populated with data from the standard DMV crash report form, such as the date, time, and location of a crash, as well as the vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists involved and whether the crash resulted in injuries. It also includes causal factors and traffic conditions at the time of the crash.

NYPD has not responded to questions about why it is not yet reporting data to the CRASH database. The police have “additional reporting and management needs,” Kerman said, including marking whether a crash occurred during enforcement activity and whether emergency lights and sirens were on at the time of the crash.

Tracking whether lights and sirens are turned on at the time of a crash in a citywide database could be important in cases where a pedestrian or cyclist is injured by an NYPD driver. After 24-year-old Ryo Oyamada was killed by an officer driving a cruiser in 2013, the department said the vehicle’s emergency lights were engaged. That claim was later contradicted by witnesses, video footage, and testimony from the officer himself.

FDNY, which like the police department also regularly engages its lights and sirens, is already participating in the CRASH database. Kerman says he is working with NYPD to bring its data into the system.

Kerman said Department of Sanitation vehicles are involved in the highest number of crashes in the database, followed by the fire department. This aligns with pedestrian personal injury claims tracked by Comptroller Scott Stringer, who found NYPD is far and away the top agency for crash claims, followed by DSNY and FDNY.

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TA: De Blasio Must Undo Construction Budget Cuts to Fix Dangerous Streets

The Grand  Concourse at 149th Street. Transportation Alternatives recommends major redesigns and significant investments in this arterial street and others.

What the Grand Concourse could look like with dedicated bus lanes and protected bike lanes. Click to enlarge. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives

Arterial streets — the city’s big, busy, highway-like roadways — cover just 15 percent of the New York City street network but account for nearly 60 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. The city will have to overhaul these streets to achieve Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals. And to make those changes, the city must reverse cuts to its roadway reconstruction budget, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives [PDF].

Arterial roads comprise 15 percent of NYC's streets but are the site of nearly 60 percent of the city's pedestrian deaths. Map: TA

Arterial roads comprise 15 percent of NYC’s streets but are the site of nearly 60 percent of the city’s pedestrian deaths. Map: TA [PDF]

Earlier this month, DOT announced that it will be committing $250 million to multi-year overhauls of Queens Boulevard, Fourth Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and the Grand Concourse. TA urges the city to make that announcement a downpayment, not the final number. The report estimates that as many as 50 lives could be saved and 1,200 serious pedestrian injuries could be avoided each year if DOT redesigns all major arterial streets for safety.

At the city’s current rate of investment, however, it will take more than 100 years to fix the city’s arterial streets, TA says. The group estimates that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget drops funding for road reconstruction from an average of 47 lane-miles each year to 35 lane-miles each year. TA is asking the city to double its commitment, to $2.4 billion over 10 years. This would also ensure that streets do not fall into disrepair for decades before there is funding to rebuild them again.

In addition to more funding, TA recommends setting specific benchmarks and accelerating the timetable for implementation, with groundbreaking on the first arterial reconstructions by 2017 and a fast-tracked delivery plan. (Transportation Commissioner Trottenberg made promises to that effect earlier this month.)

Smaller projects that add curb extensions and road diets to targeted locations can have a big impact even without a complete road reconstruction. DOT has promised to complete 50 of these projects a year. TA is asking for an additional $50 million annually from the city budget to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.

The report also recommends greater clarity from DOT about where it is looking to install safety improvements, and what changes will be pursued. That way, the public can ensure the agency’s plans align with the locations DOT identified in pedestrian safety action plans for each borough. Those plans identified 443 miles of dangerous corridors in need of safety overhauls.

Why is it important to fix the city’s arterial streets? In addition to making the city safer and less stressful for everybody, the implications are especially significant for New York’s most vulnerable residents. Studies show that low-income communities, seniors, and children are disproportionately affected by traffic violence.

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Ben Kallos Won’t Talk About Why He Wants to Gut the Right of Way Law

Ben Kallos. Photo: NYC Council

You can’t support Vision Zero, as Ben Kallos says he does, while gutting the laws behind it. Photo: NYC Council

On October 8, 2014, the driver of a Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation bus hit cyclist Anna Maria Moström while making a left turn. Moström was mortally injured. Two days later, a Coca-Cola truck driver hit an unidentified 86-year-old man in a crosswalk while turning from E. 96th Street onto Third Avenue. The senior died from his injuries. Both drivers reportedly failed to yield.

This is the type of collision the Right of Way Law is intended to prevent. But a group of City Council members wants to weaken the law by creating an exemption for MTA bus drivers. One of them is Ben Kallos, who represents the district where Anna Maria Moström and the Upper East Side senior were killed.

We attempted to contact Kallos about the Right of Way Law exemption bill. Last week, his office said they would call on Monday. The phone call never came and Streetsblog’s follow-up messages went unreturned.

The Right of Way Law is a key component of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Before its adoption, all NYPD crash investigations were handled by the Collision Investigation Squad, a unit of around 20 detectives who work a few hundred cases a year. The Right of Way Law gives precinct officers a mechanism to hold drivers accountable in thousands of crashes that would not otherwise be investigated.

These are not hypothetical scenarios. In the past, New York City drivers were rarely penalized for killing and injuring people, even if they broke the law. This included MTA bus drivers, who in 2014 alone killed eight pedestrians while making turns.

The Right of Way Law is meant to deter reckless driving by showing motorists that there are consequences for harming people who are following all the rules. Kallos says he supports Vision Zero, but how does he square that with exemptions to the Right of Way Law? Does he think anyone should be allowed to hit people in crosswalks?

The public should know why Kallos wants to undermine this law, but apparently he doesn’t want to talk about it.

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Another Day, Another Daily News Potshot at Vision Zero

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Get it? The Daily News editorial board doesn’t.

Today’s Daily News swipe at Vision Zero is the tabloid’s lamest yet.

An editorial published this morning clocked in at all of four sentences. Citing a study that counted the number of pedestrians listening to headphones and using cell phones while crossing at four Manhattan intersections, the Daily News editorial board concluded:

If Mayor de Blasio wants to slap cuffs on bus drivers, fine — so long as cops also charge phone-walkers who survive with attempted suicide.

There’s a lot of willful ignorance packed into that sentence. First, it’s not against the law to use an electronic device while walking. And the report, from the Journal of Community Health, presents no new evidence that pedestrians who use electronic devices cause vehicle crashes.

This editorial is supposed to be a sarcastic jab at the Right of Way Law, which the Daily News thinks should not apply to MTA bus drivers. The new law is in good company: Whenever the city implements a new street safety policy — protected bike lanes, the 25 miles per hour speed limit — you can count on the Daily News to undermine it.

According to NYPD, this morning a driver hit a 61-year-old woman while turning right from 21st Avenue onto Cropsey Avenue in Bath Beach. The victim was declared “likely to die,” but police said she was alive as of this afternoon. The NYPD public information office had no details on who had the right of way, but in most NYC crashes where a turning driver harms a pedestrian, the victim was following the law.

Equating injury and death caused by careless driving with the invented problem of “distracted walking” overlooks crashes that killed people, including Seth Kahn and Marisol Martinez, who did nothing wrong. While drivers keep hurting people, Daily News editorial writers are tossing out dumb one-liners.

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With Traffic Deaths Trending Downward, Lancman Attacks Right of Way Law

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the City Council today that NYC traffic fatalities have continued to drop in 2015, but not every council member is pleased with the city’s recent steps to deter dangerous driving.

Rory Lancman

In testimony to the public safety committee, Bratton said traffic deaths were down 43 percent as of mid-February, though he didn’t give exact figures or dates. NYPD collision data from January show overall fatalities were down 38 percent compared to January 2014, and pedestrian and cyclist deaths decreased by 46 percent compared to last year. Injuries to pedestrians and cyclists also declined relative to 2014. NYPD didn’t release January data until March, so February data likely won’t be available to the public for a few weeks.

This is too small a sample to draw hard conclusions. But it could be an indication that NYC’s speed camera program, coupled with NYPD enforcement of speeding and failure to yield — which is inconsistent among precincts but trending upward overall — is paying dividends.

Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said enforcement of the Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor for drivers to harm someone with the right of way, continues to be limited to the Collision Investigation Squad, as the department is still developing a protocol for precinct officers to apply it. Council Member Rory Lancman, who in February asked Chan how police determine whether a driver who failed to yield also failed to exercise due care, again questioned whether NYPD is applying the law correctly.

“I get it that you’re formulating a procedure for the rest of the force, but you’re arresting people now,” Lancman said. “And so those arrests need to be done in conformance with the law, which requires not merely failure to yield, but also the failure to exercise due care. So for the group of officers, the CIS team, that are authorizing those arrests, what standards are they applying to whether or not somebody not just failed to yield, but also failed to exercise due care?”

Chan laid out the procedure. “What happens is that the CIS officers and investigators will conduct a thorough investigation, and taking a look at the totality of the evidence, whether it be video tape, an interview with witnesses, the right of way of the pedestrian who was crossing at the time, and doing a full investigation and taking all those circumstances into consideration,” he said. “And if we do find that the individual failed to use due care when they struck the pedestrian in the crosswalk, then they will make the arrest for that particular violation.”

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MTA Refuses to Test Simple Bus Design Fix That Could Save Lives

sideguard

A San Francisco Muni bus equipped with a side guard to keep pedestrians or cyclists from being crushed beneath the rear wheel. The MTA has refused to test the equipment on its fleet. Photo: Paul Sullivan/Flickr

Council Member Antonio Reynoso has introduced a resolution calling on the MTA to install rear wheel side guards, which keep pedestrians and cyclists from being crushed beneath the wheels of a bus. The equipment is already used on buses in cities across the country, but the MTA says it’s not interested in installing sideguards on its vehicles.

At least three of the eight pedestrians killed by MTA bus drivers last year were run over by the rear wheel of the bus, according to the City Council resolution. They include two deaths at intersections in Reynoso’s district: Marisol Martinez, 21, killed last March at Union Avenue and Meeker Street in Williamsburg, and Edgar Torres, 40, killed in October at Palmetto Street and Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick. According to witnesses, both were in the crosswalk with the signal when a turning bus driver struck them. They were knocked down before being run over by the rear wheel.

Rear wheel side guards are hard plastic appendages designed to bridge part of the gap between the bottom of a bus and the ground, deflecting a fallen pedestrian or cyclist to avoid impact with the wheel. Public Transportation Safety International manufactures the S-1 Gard, which has been installed on buses in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, among other cities. The product is also being added to buses in Sweden and Nigeria.

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Demonstrators Call for Swift Action From City Hall to Fix Queens Boulevard

aaron_c-p

Aaron Charlop-Powers of Families For Safe Streets said DOT should start redesigning Queens Boulevard today. Photo: Ben Fried

When it comes to redesigning Queens Boulevard for safe walking and biking, there’s no time to spare. It’s a matter of life and death.

Dozens of local residents marched with members of Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives in the icy cold yesterday to urge swift action from City Hall on its Queens Boulevard safety efforts. They were joined at Queens Borough Hall by Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who said she supports “whatever it takes” to stop the death toll on New York’s most notorious urban speedway.

Last week Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT would spend $100 million to reconstruct Queens Boulevard, focusing first on the section in western Queens between Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street. The extent of the redesign has yet to be determined.

The demonstrators called for bold, rapid action from DOT. “It’s heartening to see that budget commitment,” said Aaron Charlop-Powers, who lost his mother to a dooring crash on Crotona Avenue in the Bronx. “But [at that rate] it would take 100 years to rebuild the streets of NYC in a way that we would find sufficient. We’d like to encourage everyone involved in this work to move faster. DOT should start on Monday.”

With such widespread recognition that the current design of Queens Boulevard is failing, he said, waiting for a lengthy public process will put people’s lives at risk. “We are the community,” he said. “Failure is waiting until my mother is killed, then adding a bike lane.”

During the rally, many speakers paid tribute to Asif Rahman, whose life was cut short in 2008 when a truck driver struck him while he was biking on Queens Boulevard. His mother, Lizi Rahman, began advocating for a safe bike lane and better pedestrian crossings on the street seven years ago.

Koslowitz has lived in the area 53 years. Her district includes several miles of Queens Boulevard between the Long Island Expressway and the Van Wyck. During her first stint in the City Council in the 1990s, nearly 100 people were killed on the street in a ten-year span. “I have to cross Queens Boulevard and so do my children,” she said. “From the LIE to Borough Hall, people use Queens Boulevard as a highway. We have to show them it’s not a highway, it’s a neighborhood.”

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Hsi-Pei Liao Tells Pete Donohue Why the Right-of-Way Law Matters

Daily News reporter Pete Donohue speaks with Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter was killed by a driver that failed to yield the right of way. Image: <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2015/03/4/transit-reporter---families-for-safe-streets--member-discuss-traffic-safety--enforcement-on-ich.html" target="_blank">NY1</a>

Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter was killed by a driver who failed to yield, speaks with Daily News reporter Pete Donohue and NY1’s Errol Louis. Image: NY1

In the skirmish over the Right-of-Way Law, which allows for misdemeanor charges when a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, the rationale for enacting the law sometimes gets lost.

Last night on NY1, Inside City Hall host Errol Louis interviewed Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, who has taken up the cause of TWU Local 100’s opposition to the law, and Hsi-Pei Liao, who helped found Families For Safe Streets after his 3-year-old daughter Allison was killed in a Flushing crosswalk while she and her grandmother had the right of way.

“The Right-of-Way Law is because of situations like ours,” Liao said. The driver’s blood alcohol level was elevated but below the legal limit, so he got off with two summonses, one for failure to yield and another for failure to exercise due care. Both were dismissed by the DMV, which Liao and his wife learned about months later. Under the Right-of-Way Law, the driver who killed Allison would likely have faced consequences.

“To have this law implemented is to make sure that they understand this is their responsibility. This is what they have done,” Liao said. “The police, the DA, they never once mentioned that our daughter’s right of way was taken… It was like, ‘It’s an accident, sorry. I can go home now.’ And we want more answers than just that.”

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