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Posts from the Vision Zero Category

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TA Calls on de Blasio to Act After Driver Kills Cyclist, 78, on Northern Blvd

NYPD filed no charges and issued no summonses after a driver struck and killed Michael Schenkman, 78, while he biked on Northern Boulevard in Bayside.

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

Michael Schenkman was the 16th cyclist killed by a New York City motorist this year. Photo via Facebook

New York City motorists have now killed 16 cyclists this year, compared to 14 cyclist fatalities in all of 2015, according to city crash data. After yesterday’s crash, Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor de Blasio to pick up the pace of Vision Zero safety improvements.

Schenkman was eastbound on Northern Boulevard near 223rd Street at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling in the same direction hit him with a Chevrolet sedan. Schenkman, who lived in Flushing, sustained head and body trauma and died from his injuries at North Shore Manhasset Hospital, police said.

The NYPD public information office said Schenkman “collided in the left lane” with the car. A photo published by the Daily News shows the car with a dented hood and a large hole in the windshield — the type of damage that would occur in a high-speed collision. Information released by NYPD did not mention driver speed.

As is customary when police don’t ticket or charge a motorist who kills a person, NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 25-year-old man. The department said the investigation was ongoing as of this afternoon.

Schenkman was a driver for former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the Daily News reported, as well as a long-time cyclist and member of Transportation Alternatives. “Every morning he got on his bike and rode 15 or 20 miles,” Peter Schenkman, the victim’s son, told the News.

“Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users,” said TA Executive Director Paul White in a statement released today. “We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.”

In addition, TA has scheduled a “Ride for Mayoral Action” on September 15. In his statement, White noted that a large share of cyclist fatalities this year happened on streets that the city knows are dangerous:

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Don’t Underestimate the Street Safety Benefits of Congestion Pricing

The primary benefits of the Move NY toll reform plan are reducing congestion and funding transit — but don’t overlook the huge potential to improve street safety.

Road pricing in Stockholm and London, above, has yielded a street safety dividend -- even in times and places when the charge is not in effect. Photo: Andrew Lassiter

Road pricing in London has yielded a street safety dividend — even when and where the charge is not in effect. Photo: Andrew Lassiter

Recent research at Lancaster University in the UK suggests that since the introduction of the London congestion charge in 2003, lethal crashes have fallen faster than traffic congestion. The safety gains have even “spilled over,” as planners put it, to uncharged times of day, areas of the city, and modes of travel. While traffic deaths have declined in New York since 2003, the fatality rate has fallen much more sharply in London.

For my recently completed master’s thesis, I recently set out to find out just how road pricing in London and Stockholm, which adopted a congestion charge in 2006, has catalyzed safer streets. Here are the top four factors:

1. Fewer Vehicles Means Fewer Crashes

Most of the two dozen planners, academics, and advocates I interviewed in Stockholm, London, and New York agreed that the lower traffic volumes caused by congestion pricing result in safer streets for everyone. This runs counter to the notion that crawling Midtown gridlock means safer streets because cars are moving so slowly. Ultimately, fewer cars on the streets means a lower likelihood that people will be struck.

Although increased average traffic speeds from congestion pricing may sound like a risk, vehicles aren’t likely to end up driving at more dangerous speeds. That’s because pricing causes traffic flows to be “smoothed.” Stop-and-go driving is reduced, and while average speeds increase, maximum speeds do not.

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The Missing Piece in DOT’s Left-Turn Safety Plan: Real Split-Phase Signals

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DOT is ramping up the use of leading pedestrian intervals to reduce left-turn collisions, without committing to add signals that completely separate pedestrians and turning drivers. Photo: Brad Aaron

Split-phase traffic signals protect pedestrians and cyclists by separating them from turning drivers — people walking and biking across the street get their own signal phase, and drivers turning into the crosswalk get another. Research indicates that split-phase signals are highly effective at preventing traffic injuries and deaths. But when DOT revealed its strategy to reduce crashes caused by left-turning drivers, there was no commitment to increase the use of split-phase signals.

DOT is scaling up a similar intervention — leading pedestrian intervals, which allow pedestrians to enter intersections a few seconds before turning drivers get a green light. LPIs reduce injuries too, but not as much as split-phase signals, according to a 2014 DOT-funded study published in the journal “Accident Analysis and Prevention” [PDF].

The study analyzed crash data from 68 New York City intersections with either LPIs or split phases between 2000 and 2007, though the vast majority — 59 — had LPIs. Both types of signal adjustments performed better than a control group of intersections where turning drivers were permitted to proceed at the same time as pedestrians and cyclists. The improvement was more pronounced, however, at split-phase signals.

At intersections equipped with split-phase signals, pedestrian and cyclist injuries declined a precipitous 67 percent. At intersections with LPIs, pedestrian injuries declined 38 percent and bicyclist injuries 52 percent. (For the control group, the reduction was 25 percent for pedestrians and 44 percent for cyclists.) The data on split-phase signals was limited, however — it came from only nine intersections, with no locations in Manhattan.

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DOT Lays Out a Strategy to Make Left Turns Less Dangerous

Left turns accounted for 30 percent of pedestrian and cyclists fatalities in 2015. Image: DOT

Motorists tend to take left turns faster than right turns, leading to a higher rate of injuries and fatalities. Image: DOT

DOT will be ramping up the use of intersection treatments to protect pedestrians and cyclists from left-turning drivers, the agency announced today. The initiative is paired with a DOT study, “Don’t Cut Corners” [PDF], that illustrates the disproportionate danger of left turns. Mayor de Blasio had announced in January that reducing the risk of left turns would be a focus of his administration’s Vision Zero agenda this year.

Drivers turning left account for 19 percent of serious pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in New York City — three times the share caused by right turns, according to the DOT report. Motorists tend to take left turns faster than right turns, a risk that is further compounded by the vehicle’s “A-pillar” (between the windshield and the driver’s door) obscuring the driver’s vision, the pressure of both oncoming traffic and traffic behind the driver, and a greater area of exposure for pedestrians.

Based on crash reports, DOT found that injuries involving left turns typically occur when the driver turns from a minor street (usually one-way) onto a street 60 feet or wider (usually two-way).

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The posts in this “hardened centerline” prevent left-turning drivers, like the person behind the wheel of the Lay’s van, from cutting corners and taking turns too fast. Photo: David Meyer

The study also found that seniors are more likely to be injured or killed by left-turning vehicles: The average age of victims in left-turn crashes was 67, compared to 50 for victims of right-turn crashes.

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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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