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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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TA: Unfocused, Ineffective NYPD Enforcement Isn’t Helping With Vision Zero

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

NYPD precincts that issued more tickets for tinted windows than for speeding and failure to yield combined from January through May 2016. Image: TA

Since the launch of Vision Zero more than two years ago, NYPD has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy to target dangerous driver behaviors that are known to cause most injuries and deaths. To the contrary, a new Transportation Alternatives report finds that NYPD enforcement often targets the people most vulnerable to traffic violence, while motorist violations like speeding, failure to yield, and even leaving the scene of a crash go unchecked.

“Death, Danger and Ignoring the Data: How the NYPD is Getting Vision Zero Wrong” [PDF] notes that injuries to pedestrians and cyclists increased by 11 percent the first five months of this year relative to the same time frame in 2015. While there was a slight decline in the number of people killed by drivers while walking, cyclist deaths more than doubled.

TA says scattershot traffic enforcement is a big part of the problem.

“The NYPD is falling short on its commitment to consistent, appropriate policing to deter the most deadly driving violations,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a statement accompanying the report. “Commissioner Bratton and other top police officials don’t even seem to have a clear plan for participation in Vision Zero, and their allocation of traffic enforcement resources does not appear to be based on actual conditions on New York City streets.”

Though the majority of cyclists who lost their lives this year were killed by drivers breaking traffic laws, NYPD tends to respond to cyclist fatalities by cracking down on cyclists and publicly blaming victims for their own deaths. This approach epitomizes the department’s failure to direct resources toward enforcement that would actually save lives, says TA.

In addition, enforcement priorities vary widely from precinct to precinct. While some precincts have stepped up enforcement against speeding and failure to yield, others are issuing fewer such tickets this year than in 2015, the report says.

TA found there are eight precincts where cyclists are more likely to receive a criminal court summons — which can lead to jail time and barriers to employment — than a moving violation for riding on the sidewalk. In the apparent absence of guidance from department brass, precinct COs are free to aggressively target relatively low-risk cycling offenses as motorists kill people in crosswalks.

Other findings from the report:

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Behold the Transport for London Traffic Collision Map

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TfL’s crash map distinguishes between “serious” and “slight” collisions. Image: Transport for London

As City Hall staffers work on improvements to Vision Zero View, hopefully they’re taking cues from Transport for London’s collision map.

Launched last September, the TfL map “shows traffic collisions that resulted in personal injury and were reported to the police” from 2005 through 2015.

Some features of the TfL map that Vision Zero View doesn’t currently have:

  • Crashes are searchable by the severity of injury (“serious” or “slight”), whereas Vision Zero View lumps all non-fatal injury crashes together — this is important because the rate of serious injuries is considered a better measurement of street safety than the rate of fatalities or total injuries;
  • You can see fatal and injury crashes simultaneously, and icons for individual crashes vary based on injury severity, while on Vision Zero View fatalities and non-fatal injuries can only be viewed separately;
  • Summaries of individual crashes include vehicle types involved, the time of day each crashed occurred, and information on resulting injuries.

Streetsblog reader Robert Wright pointed me to the location where he was struck by a driver in 2009. The map described the crash like so:

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NYPD “Bicycle Safe Passage” Stings Aren’t Creating Safe Passage for Cyclists

Earlier this year, when City Hall announced NYPD’s “Bicycle Safe Passage” enforcement initiative to ticket drivers for blocking bike lanes and failing to yield to cyclists, it sounded like a step up from predecessors like “Operation Safe Cycle” — which were notorious for fining cyclists, not protecting them. But the new NYPD bike safety approach still looks a lot like the old.

This week marks the third “Bicycle Safe Passage” operation of 2016. So far, people have reported NYPD ticketing cyclists on Ninth Avenue, Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side, Second Avenue near Stuy Town, and Jay Street by the Manhattan Bridge.

On Jay Street, the 84th Precinct is ticketing cyclists around Nassau Street and Concord Street. Just south of that location, between Fulton Street and Tillary Street, the bike lane remains blocked by double-parkers, as per usual.

During the previous “Bicycle Safe Passage” week, in June, the NYPD gave out 1,757 tickets to drivers obstructing bike lanes and 810 for motorists who failed to yield to cyclists or pedestrians, according to AM New York. It’s not known how many tickets were given to cyclists.

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Crash Data Show NYC Is Losing Ground on Vision Zero

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Citywide traffic deaths rose slightly in the first six months of 2016. Map: Vision Zero View

After a four-month hiatus, City Hall is again updating its Vision Zero View map with new crash data, and through the first six months of 2016, traffic deaths rose slightly compared the same period last year. Through the end of June, 111 people lost their lives to traffic violence, up from 107 in the first half of 2015.

Drivers killed 58 pedestrians and 12 cyclists from January through June this year, compared to 63 pedestrians and five cyclists in the first six months of 2015.

The month of June was especially deadly, with 29 fatalities, wiping out what had looked like progress in the first five months of the year.

Traffic injuries, which are less prone to random variation, are also up from last year for pedestrians and cyclists, though Vision Zero View does not track injury severity. Motorists injured 7,110 people walking and biking through June, compared to 6,518 pedestrian and cyclist injuries during the same period in 2015 — an increase of 9 percent.

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Naomi Doerner on How Street Safety Advocates Can Support Racial Justice

When a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile earlier this month, the encounter began with a traffic stop. The stop fit a pattern: Castile had been pulled over many times before — 46 times in 13 years — but few of those citations were for dangerous driving. More prevalent were stops for minor issues like vehicle defects or misplaced license plates — the type of justifications that police are more likely to use when stopping black and Latino drivers throughout the country.

Naomi Doerner is a consultant who helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Naomi Doerner helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Street safety advocates often call on police to reform traffic enforcement practices in order to reduce dangerous driving that jeopardizes people walking and biking. Given the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory police work and the prevalence of police brutality in many communities, how should biking and walking advocates shape their strategies and messages?

Naomi Doerner, the former executive director of New Orleans’ advocacy organization Bike Easy, is a consultant who specializes in helping biking and walking advocates develop racial justice and social equity plans. She says advocates should be grappling with structural racism and considering how their own choices can entrench or dismantle it.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

What’s a mistake some biking or walking organizations are making with regards to diversity?

I think that one of the things I see is hiring of people of color and then making them sort of the voice for diversity and equity, which are not the same thing.

It is great to hire the folks, to have the folks who do potentially have better understanding. Even if you had a staff that was diverse, if there’s not a co-created understanding of equity within your organization and how you’re contributing to it, it won’t succeed.

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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

Pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Foot traffic on Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and Construction announced this afternoon.

Set to begin next Monday, the project will also add a one-block bus lane and high-visibility crosswalks, part of a bottom-up reconstruction of Main Street between 37th Avenue and 40th Road.

This section of Main Street is located at the convergence of the 7 train, the Long Island Railroad, 13 MTA bus routes, and many private bus lines. At any given point in the day, the sidewalks are overflowing with commuters and shoppers, 83 percent of whom arrive by foot or transit, according to DOT.

Council Member Peter Koo (center) spoke this afternoon alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Peter Koo (center) with DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Downtown Flushing’s streets are designed primarily to move motor vehicles, however, and people walking on Main Street have to contend with heavy car traffic. In 2015 alone, 28 pedestrians were injured and two were killed along the .9-mile stretch of Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Elder Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

The $7.8 million reconstruction project will add between two and eight feet of sidewalk space, depending on the location, building on a 2011 project that used paint and flexible bollards to narrow the roadway and expand space for pedestrians. That project led to an 11 percent decline in traffic injuries, according to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Casting the wider sidewalks in concrete, she said, will “deliver on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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TA: City Hall’s Spending Decisions Are Limiting Life-Saving Street Designs

Transportation Alternatives says the de Blasio administration’s failure to fully fund Vision Zero street improvements is limiting the number of split-phase traffic signals DOT can install to prevent collisions at dangerous intersections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

In June, 30-year-old cyclist Olga Cook was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who made a right turn across the Hudson River Greenway at Chambers Street, one of several spots where motor vehicle traffic is allowed to encroach on one of the busiest bike routes in the United States. Crashes at these conflict points are common, often resulting in injury and death for cyclists who use the greenway.

In a statement released today, TA Executive Director Paul White says Cook’s death could have been prevented with split-phase signals at Chambers and West streets, to prevent turning drivers and greenway cyclists traveling straight ahead from entering the intersection at the same time.

The same principle applies to designing safe intersections for pedestrians. Nearly a third of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in NYC are caused by turning drivers who fail to yield, according to TA.

“Shared-phase traffic lights do not work,” said White, “just as shared lanes for drivers and people on bikes do not work.”

Data from street redesigns with protected bike lanes — where some intersections features split-phase signals and others do not — indicates that total crashes resulting in injury decline twice as much at intersections with split phases.

After Cook’s death, DOT told the Tribeca Tribune the agency is “studying the area for safety enhancement, including a right turn lane and signal phasing upgrades.”

White points out there are hundreds of intersections across the city that need safety upgrades, but those fixes won’t happen on the timetable prescribed by Vision Zero because Mayor de Blasio denied the City Council’s request to boost the DOT budget for street improvements. The most recent city budget also cut funding for DOT Traffic Operations staff by 2 percent, according to TA.

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Advocates Don’t Expect Judge’s Ruling Against Right of Way Law to Hold Up

In rejecting the case against a school bus driver who struck and killed an elderly woman in a Queens crosswalk, a criminal court judge deemed the city’s Right of Way Law unconstitutional. The constitutionality of the law had previously been upheld in a different court, however, and street safety advocates don’t expect the new ruling to hold up. Applying the same logic would render criminal statutes against drunk driving unconstitutional as well, they say.

Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris

The Right-of-Way Law, enacted in 2014, made it an unclassified misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. The law was intended to overcome NYPD’s reluctance to investigate injury crashes that officers did not witness firsthand.

The decision released Friday by Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris regarded the case of Isaac Sanson, who struck and killed 85-year-old Jeanine Deutsch in the crosswalk as he turned onto 70th Road from 108th Street in Forest Hills on December 19, according to the Daily News. Deutsch succumbed to her injuries two months later, and the city charged Sanson with misdemeanor failure to yield.

In her decision, Morris sided with Sanson’s claim that the law violates his right to due process because it imposes criminal penalties without needing to prove the perpetrator’s intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.

“The very fabric of our criminal justice system is that an accused person stands before a court innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to significant constitutional protections separate and distinct from a civil case,” Morris wrote.

The decision conflicts with — but does not overrule — New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer’s ruling from December in the case of MD Hossain, a yellow cab driver who killed 58-year-old Silvia Gallo in August 2014 while turning into a crosswalk.

Scherzer argued that the Right of Way law does not presume driver guilt, since prosecutors must “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.”

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NYC Traffic Deaths Fell in First Five Months of 2016

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Through the end of May, traffic fatalities declined 11 percent this year compared to the same period in 2015. Data from NYC open data portal, compiled by Jon Orcutt

Traffic fatalities in NYC declined 11 percent through the end of May compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD crash data.

Up-to-date crash data hasn’t been available through City Hall’s Vision Zero View website since the end of February, with the city saying it will post fresh data after a new reporting system is implemented. NYPD has, however, resumed publishing crash information on the city’s open data portal, which is publicly available but lacks the same accessibility and ease of use.

Jon Orcutt, former policy director at NYC DOT and current advocacy and communications director at TransitCenter, posted an update on fatalities at his personal Tumblr using the NYPD feed. As of the end of May, 77 people were killed in traffic in 2016 — down from 87 at the same point last year.

All of the improvement happened in a single month — May — a caveat to avoid reading too much into the numbers.

One cause for concern is that total traffic injuries are up, from 18,914 in the first five months of 2015 to 22,226 through May this year. Looking only at pedestrian injuries, the number is also on the rise — from 3,949 to 4,395. The injury statistics don’t account for severity, however, so we don’t know if serious injuries have increased, bucking the trend in fatalities, or if minor injuries are propelling the increase.

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