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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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De Blasio Talks Vision Zero on WNYC

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer started off his Friday “Ask the Mayor” segment with Bill de Blasio by taking questions about Vision Zero. No earthshaking news came up, but it’s always interesting to hear how the mayor conveys messages about street safety and urban mobility to the public.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio

The first call came from a woman upset over the city’s focus on motor vehicle enforcement. “All of the penalties and all of the enforcement come down on drivers,” she told de Blasio. “With the city, it seems like they’re afraid of upsetting the bikers lobby or pedestrians.”

De Blasio, who earlier in the segment had called enforcement an “education” tool to shape driver behavior, did not mince words. He said that the city would enforce cycling laws, but that pedestrians and cyclists aren’t the source of the problem

The greatest degree of danger comes from motor vehicles. That’s 100 percent clear. That’s historically where the vast majority of death and injuries come from — is someone using their motor vehicle in an inappropriate fashion. We don’t give a speeding ticket when someone speeds. We don’t give a failure to yield ticket when someone yields. Let’s be blunt: If people are breaking the law and putting others in danger, I’m not going to back down on that. We’re going to go, in fact, do more enforcement of that.

A bicyclist who endangers others, of course we’re going to enforce. The amount of damage they can do is not the same as what a car can do or a truck can do, but of course we’re going to enforce that.

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Talking Street Safety and Vision Zero on Inside City Hall With Errol Louis

ny1_panel

Thanks to Errol Louis and the team at NY1’s Inside City Hall for having me on yesterday with Dana Lerner of Families for Safe Streets and transit reporter Jose Martinez. The show reaches a very influential audience, and Dana and I both appreciated having the platform to talk about the state of street safety in NYC and the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero efforts.

I can’t embed the clip here — head over to the NY1 site to see our conversation.

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TLC: Cab Driver Blocking the Bike Lane? We’ll Allow It

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is telling cyclists the agency is no longer penalizing cab drivers for blocking bike lanes.

It is against city traffic rules to drive or stop a motor vehicle in a bike lane. City rules also prohibit cab drivers from picking up and dropping off passengers in bike lanes. These rules exist because it’s often dangerous to force a cyclist from a bike lane into lanes designated for motor vehicle traffic.

In the past, a cyclist who filed a complaint could expect the TLC to impose a fine when presented with evidence that a cab driver broke those rules. But cyclists who have had recent complaints rejected by the TLC say that’s not the case anymore.

Reader Choresh Wald emailed us to say a TLC employee told him the agency made a “policy change” and will no longer enforce NYC traffic rules against blocking bike lanes. According to Wald, the TLC staffer said the agency will instead defer to state laws that don’t prohibit drivers from blocking bike lanes.

Multiple queries to the TLC for confirmation of the policy change have so far gone unanswered. But cyclists are posting photos of traffic violations they say the TLC dismissed on the grounds that the driver was not breaking agency rules.

That doesn’t make sense, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro.

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Rodriguez: Wouldn’t DOT Like More Vision Zero Funding? Trottenberg: Nope

The de Blasio administration continues to resist the City Council’s efforts to devote more resources to street redesigns that will save lives.

Speaking at a transportation committee hearing yesterday, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT has sufficient funding in the city budget to redesign, within six to seven years, the 292 dangerous intersections where most fatal traffic crashes occur. That “general timetable” is based on an annual pace of redesigning between 50 and 80 of the intersections identified by DOT in its pedestrian safety action plans.

While DOT may be on track to hit that implementation target, the city is not on track to achieve the mayor’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024. After declining in the first two years of the de Blasio administration, fatalities did not drop through February this year — the last time the city updated its public crash data. Advocates have noted that at the current rate, the city will not eliminate fatalities until the 2050s.

In a statement following March’s hearing, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White called on the city to increase funding for operational projects — which can make streets safer quickly and at a low cost — to $52.4 million for 98 projects total, compared to 80 completed by the city in 2015.

Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez expressed frustration that de Blasio’s executive budget adds no new dollars for Vision Zero street safety projects, which the council requested during the preliminary budget process. He pressed Trottenberg on the pace of progress on wide, arterial streets in particular, where the majority of fatal crashes occur.

Trottenberg reiterated her previous stance that DOT does not need more funding for street redesigns, arguing that progress on arterials was not solely a matter of money. “It’s partially a funding issue, but it’s partially a project delivery and staffing issue,” she said, pointing to the extensive communication and outreach DOT conducts for even its quick and low-cost projects.

But if that’s the case, additional resources in the budget should still help DOT staff up and deliver more projects. For whatever reason, the de Blasio administration has decided against increasing its capacity to implement street redesigns.

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City Hall Announces NYPD Crackdown on Drivers Who Endanger Cyclists

NYPD will target drivers who block bike lanes and other violations that put cyclists at risk through Friday, according to City Hall. Photo: Hilda Cohen

NYPD will target drivers who block bike lanes and other violations that put cyclists at risk through Friday, according to City Hall. Photo: Hilda Cohen

NYPD will crack down this week on motorists who put cyclists at risk.

The “Bicycle Safe Passage Initiative,” which coincides with Bike to Work Week, will last through Friday. Officers in precincts citywide will focus enforcement on motorists who commit traffic violations that “endanger bicyclists,” according to a City Hall press release. Traffic enforcement agents will concentrate on bike lane blocking, double parking, and no standing violations.

“We believe in protecting everyone on our streets,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This targeted initiative will make sure New Yorkers on bikes have clear bike lanes and safe conditions as more and more people take to the streets.”

“We are focusing on violations that can endanger our city’s cyclists, and making sure New Yorkers can safely travel on bike lanes throughout the five boroughs,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in the release.

This should be standard procedure, of course, particularly in the Vision Zero era, but it’s good to see this kind of enforcement from NYPD.

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De Blasio’s Budget Has No Funding Increase for Street Safety Projects

Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget yesterday, and it does not include the increases for street safety projects that the City Council recommended earlier this month, says Transportation Alternatives. Without more funding for street redesigns, TA says, the administration won’t be able to improve safety at the pace needed to attain the mayor’s stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

On street safety, de Blasio hasn’t put his money where his mouth is.

De Blasio’s revised executive budget includes a small 1.3 percent increase for DOT’s Traffic Operations division, which executes the low-cost “operational” street safety projects that can be completed much faster than years-long capital projects. It’s not a meaningful change.

At a March budget hearing in the City Council, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said DOT would need to double the number of low-cost redesigns projects it completes each year in order to meet its Vision Zero goals.

At the same hearing, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said it would take “many billions of dollars” to redesign the priority corridors and intersections identified in the city’s pedestrian safety plans, while insisting, “We very much feel we have the resources we need.”

But at the current pace of improvement, NYC won’t get to zero traffic deaths until the 2050s.

The City Council recommended an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 for 98 “operational” projects in its response to the mayor’s budget, a roughly 25 percent increase. The council also proposed $250 million in annual capital funding for street redesigns.

The budget City Hall released yesterday follows none of those recommendations.

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Adding Curb Space for Cars vs. Space for Bikes — DOT’s Double Standard

Whenever curb space is reallocated for bike parking in New York City, the process is intensive. Getting NYC DOT to install a bike corral usually involves lots of signature gathering, and even when a business wants one by their storefront, the local community board can shoot it down. The process can take months or even years, if it ever succeeds at all.

But if DOT decides to add curbside car parking, they often do it without a second thought — or any public notice. Case in point: DOT has added curbside parking at two locations in Park Slope, taking away a loading zone on one street and hindering visibility on another. Neither change was brought to the local community board prior to implementation.

In October 2013, when this Google Street View photo was taken, there was roughly 15 yards of open curb on the northern corner of Baltic Street at Fifth Avenue. Approaching drivers and pedestrians could get a clear view of each other. But as of September 2014, DOT had removed a “No Standing” sign there. Now motorists may park to the edge of the west crosswalk. This makes it harder for drivers on Baltic, which is one-way eastbound, to see pedestrians as they approach Fifth. Likewise, people in the crosswalks can’t see approaching vehicles as well as before.

From 2009 to 2014, two pedestrians and five cyclists were injured in crashes where Baltic meets Fifth Avenue and Park Place, according to city crash data. Three motor vehicle occupants were also hurt there during that time frame — a sign of collisions occurring at high speeds. Another person was injured at the intersection in 2009, but city data does not indicate whether the victim was walking, riding a bike, or in a car.

New York City allows motorists to park to the edge of crosswalks, but as Streetsblog has reported, the National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks to improve sight lines. Pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by turning drivers are frequent, and a bill pending in the City Council would require DOT to daylight 25 intersections per year. In other municipalities, it is simply illegal to park right up against a crosswalk.

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TA Will Track Safety Policies of NYC’s Private Fleet Operators

Transportation Alternatives is calling on private fleet operators who do business in New York City to talk about what they’re doing to make employees safer drivers.

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

Operators of private trash trucks are among the most dangerous drivers in NYC. Photo: Jason Lawrence/Flickr

“Fleet management is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and fatalities on New York City’s streets,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a press release. “Fleet managers set the pace for safe driving, and we want to recognize the operators that are raising the bar for safety on New York City’s streets.”

In Sweden, a principal Vision Zero strategy is to move responsibility upward by directing reforms and incentives at the level of fleet operators. NYC does not keep track of how many people are injured and killed in crashes caused by the drivers of private fleet vehicles, but other data sets point to the extent of the problem.

A 2014 U.S. DOT study of city data found that trucks make up 3.6 percent of vehicles in the city, but account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of cyclist deaths. “Killed by Automobile,” Charles Komanoff’s 1999 analysis of city traffic fatalities, reported that private trash haulers kill more people per mile driven than other truck drivers.

In January, TA sent out surveys to more than 100 commercial truck and taxi fleet operators, with questions concerning driver training, crash avoidance technology, and collision response protocols. Three companies — Fresh Direct, Con Edison, and Academy Bus — were ahead of the pack, TA reports, and were invited to participate in a workshop at last month’s Vision Zero Cities 2016 conference.

The workshop was hosted by Keith Kerman of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. DCAS is taking steps to reduce injuries and deaths from collisions involving city fleet vehicles, including measuring and publishing data on such crashes.

DCAS has also installed “black box” tech on the department’s own vehicles, according to TA, and has pledged to install side guards on 6,000 city-owned trucks by 2024. “Through the early adoption of innovative technology and vehicle design modifications,” says the TA press release, “DCAS has triggered a race to the top for safety among private fleet operators here in New York City.”

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No Charges for Cabbie Who Severely Injured Woman on Sidewalk Near NYU

A yellow cab driver severely injured a woman on a sidewalk in Greenwich Village this morning.

The victim was struck at around 10:50 a.m. on University Place near East Eighth Street. Gothamist says she was “pinned between the taxi and a stucco wall.”

A reporter for Washington Square News, an independent NYU outlet, said the victim was unconscious at the scene. “The woman was facing away from the cab, and when it hit her, she went up in the air and the cab basically pinned her against the wall,” a witness said.

The victim was taken to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition, Gothamist reported. No charges were filed against the driver.

Sidewalk collisions resulted in at least 14 fatalities in the last 12 months alone, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. If the city keeps a data set on the number of people hurt and killed by motorists on sidewalks, in buildings, and other places drivers are not supposed to be, we haven’t seen it.

University Place has excess width and not much car traffic. A narrower roadbed and traffic-calming measures might have prevented this crash.

This morning’s crash is reminiscent of the one that cost tourist Sian Green part of her leg in 2013. Since then, the city adopted Cooper’s Law to yank licenses from cab drivers who hurt pedestrians while violating victims’ right of way. But the Taxi and Limousine doesn’t use the law to take reckless cabbies off the road, in part because police and district attorneys so rarely file charges.

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City Council Proposes Vision Zero Funding Increase — Will de Blasio Agree?

The City Council is proposing a significant increase in funding for street safety projects. Now it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to decide whether to devote more resources to get the city closer to his Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024.

Mayor de Blasio meeting with the family of Noshat Nahian, who was killed by a truck driver on Northern Boulevard, at the announcement of his Vision Zero initiative in 2014. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

The council’s budget proposal calls for an additional $52.4 million in FY 2017 to complete 98 “operational” projects — low-cost improvements that can be built quickly with paint, plastic posts, and light construction work. That would be a nearly 25 percent increase from the 80 operational projects DOT completed in 2015.

The council also wants to allocate $250 million annually to more time- and resource-intensive Vision Zero capital projects. This would represent a big increase and match the funding level called for in Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero Investment Report. (Current annual spending on these projects is a little fuzzy, but the de Blasio administration set aside a total of $240 million for street safety capital projects over 10 years, then added $115 million for the next four years in its 2017 budget proposal.)

The de Blasio administration has reduced traffic deaths each of the past two years. With fatalities rising the first two months of this year compared to 2015, however, the city is not on track to maintain that progress. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the council earlier this month that her agency has the resources it needs, but it’s plain that DOT’s Vision Zero budget would benefit from a significant boost if the city is going to attain its street safety goals.

Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers had a sit-down with council members a few weeks ago to discuss what it would take for the budget to align with the city’s Vision Zero goals. Yesterday the council released its response to the mayor’s preliminary FY 17 budget [PDF, page 42], and the council proposal is “almost entirely in line” with what TA is seeking, according to TA policy and research manager Julia Kite.

“Frankly, we’ve found that we’re not on track to get to Vision Zero, even remotely close to 2024, unless the Department of Transportation is given the resources to greatly expand the number of projects it’s doing,” said Kite. “I think our message was strong and it came across well.”

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