Skip to content

Posts from the Vision Zero Category

14 Comments

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.”

Read more…

9 Comments

NYC Traffic Deaths Fell in First Five Months of 2016

2016jan-may

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.

Read more…

No Comments

What Every Elected Should Say About Speed Cameras

When City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer talks about street safety and automated enforcement, the message is clear: speeding is always wrong, it’s dangerous, and anyone who gets a ticket needs to change their behavior.

In NYC, you have to be driving 11 mph or more above the speed limit to trigger a camera ticket. With a $50 fine and no license points, the penalty is small — but the reward is great, as speeding drops by 60 percent where cameras are deployed.

Listen to Van Bramer and ask yourself, wherever you live, ‘How would my leaders react?’ To change the mindset of drivers and achieve Vision Zero, politicians can’t crumble anytime a constituent complains about being penalized for dangerous driving.

No Comments

78th Precinct Honors Mike Ameri’s Commitment to Safe Streets

The unofficial Michael Ameri bike lane on Bergen Street. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Michael Ameri made sure the 78th Precinct respected this block of the Bergen Street bike lane Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

The Bergen Street bike lane between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush was unofficially christened the “Inspector Michael Ameri Bike Lane” yesterday in honor of the late commander of NYPD Highway Patrol.

Outside the 78th Precinct, police officers, Public Advocate Letitia James, and local residents honored Ameri, who took his own life on May 13, for his commitment to safe streets. Ameri served as commanding officer of the 78th before taking the reins at Highway Patrol in July of 2014. It was at the precinct where he acquired a reputation for taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Early in 2014, Ameri began holding monthly community meetings on traffic safety in the 78th Precinct. Residents were pleasantly surprised by his responsiveness to their concerns. “That to me really gets to what Mike Ameri was all about,” said Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors. “He helped to embrace the community aspect of policing, and he really came to value Vision Zero.”

Read more…

12 Comments

City Hall Has Allowed a Blackout on Vision Zero Crash Data Since February

A trucker killed cyclist James Gregg in Park Slope in April. With City Hall withholding crash data, the public doesn’t know how many other serious crashes are occurring. Photo: Eric McClure

A trucker killed Brooklyn cyclist James Gregg in April, one of the serious crashes that have yet to be accounted for on City Hall’s Vision Zero View site. Photo: Eric McClure

Is NYC reducing traffic injuries and deaths as called for by Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative? The public has no way to know, because the city hasn’t published crash data since the end of February and won’t start again until sometime this summer.

City Hall’s Vision Zero View map was a breakthrough when it debuted in 2014, providing frequent updates on traffic deaths and injuries. It quickly became an indispensable tool to assess progress on street safety, with data refreshed every month. But the most recent data in the system is now three months old.

After City Hall stopped posting new data, with no advance notice, a note on the map said the city is “transitioning to a new electronic crash data reporting system,” and Vision Zero View would be updated when the transition is complete. No timeline was provided.

NYPD also stopped posting its monthly crash reports after February. However, the department recently resumed publishing crash data on the city’s open data portal, after the feed went dark for about two months.

We asked de Blasio’s office when City Hall expects the new Vision Zero View system to come online, and why the city can’t continue publishing data on the current platform while the new one is in development.

“We expect the feed to be restored this summer at which point any old data will be posted retroactively,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan replied via email.

Can you imagine the city putting an indefinite hold on the release of gun crime stats while NYPD developed CompStat 2.0? Yet de Blasio’s office won’t say why it was necessary to stop using the existing traffic crash data platform, and won’t provide a hard deadline for the resumption of data releases.

Until that undetermined date, when it comes to tracking progress on street safety, New Yorkers are in the dark.

23 Comments

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.

Read more…

2 Comments

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.

27 Comments

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.

Read more…

11 Comments

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.

46 Comments

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.