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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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Van Bramer + 24 Council Members Call on Albany to Allow More Speed Cams

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer standing in support of speed cameras at every school earlier this month alongside Transportation Alternatives' Paul Steely White and members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (second from left) with Transportation Alternatives Director Paul White, Public Advocate Tish James, and members of Families for Safe Streets calling for speed cameras at every school earlier this month. Photo: David Meyer

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, 24 of his colleagues, and Public Advocate Letitia James are calling on the state legislature to expand NYC’s life-saving automated speed enforcement program.

Assembly Bill 9861, sponsored by Deborah Glick, would allow New York City to expand its speed camera program to every school in the five boroughs. It would also allow the cameras to operate at all hours, instead of only during school activities, and make the program permanent (it’s currently set to expire in 2018).

Van Bramer introduced a resolution yesterday with 25 co-sponsors calling on the state legislature to do away with the limit on the number of speed cameras NYC can employ. A separate resolution from Council Member Carlos Menchaca, with eight co-sponsors, calls for the elimination of the time-of-day restrictions on automated speed enforcement.

Van Bramer, James, and the two dozen other sponsors of the resolution — including Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson and Deputy Leader for Policy Brad Lander — also sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to support the expansion of the speed camera program [PDF].

“All pedestrians, particularly children, are at a heightened risk of traumatic injury and death in speed-related crashes,” the letter says.

State law currently limits the city to 140 speed cameras for its 6,000 miles of streets. The cameras can only be used during school activities — even though most fatal crashes occur at night.

Speeding has dropped by 60 percent in locations with automated enforcement since the city first began using the cameras in 2013, according to NYC DOT. In 2014 and 2015, traffic deaths in New York City reached historic lows, but more than 200 people each year still lose their lives to motor vehicle crashes on city streets.

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Brewer to DOT: Start Looking Into a Bus-Only 14th Street

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants bus-only lanes on 14th Street. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants the city to study making 14th Street car-free so buses can carry the load while the L train is shut down for repairs. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is calling on DOT to study making 14th Street a bus-only thoroughfare while L train service is disrupted during Sandy-related repairs.

To allow for urgently-needed fixes to the L train tunnel, the MTA is considering either a full shutdown of service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for 18 months, or a three-year variation that preserves about 20 percent of current service. At a press event this morning, the Riders Alliance revealed that most L train riders who responded to an online survey prefer to get it over with in 18 months — a position the MTA seems to share.

In either case, said Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes, the city and the MTA need to take steps to keep people moving: “No matter what the MTA does, a shutdown will profoundly change transportation options for commuters on both sides of the East River.” Sifuentes said survey respondents “called broadly for robust, supplementary bus service in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

In the survey, respondents suggested bus lanes in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and along the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as a number of other measures, including Citi Bike expansion, more capacity for bicycling on the Williamsburg Bridge, increased service on nearby subway lines, and increased ferry service.

“The shutdown will not be easy, but a robust set of alternatives would reduce the pain,” said Kate Slevin of the Regional Plan Association. “For example, 14th Street could become reserved for buses, pedestrians and bikes, and the Williamsburg Bridge could offer dedicated bike and bus routes. The MTA and DOT need to be bold.”

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Manhattan CB 8 Votes Against Basic Striped Crosstown Bike Lanes

At CB 8's request, DOT proposed alternative pairings (in blue) to those in its original proposal (in purple). Image: DOT

At CB 8’s request, DOT proposed a menu of six potential crosstown bike lane pairs. Image: DOT

Last night, by a vote of 25-19 with one abstention, Manhattan Community Board 8 voted against DOT’s plan for three pairs of painted crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side. Despite four months of deliberations, bike lane opponents managed to achieve their desired outcome last night, sending a strong signal that no bike lane design is too mild to avoid their wrath.

The board was considering a resolution passed by the CB 8 transportation committee in favor of crosstown lanes on 70th/71st, 77th/78th, and 84th/85th. Multiple meetings and several months of absurd wrangling over thermoplastic stripes preceded that vote.

The Upper East Side plan does not remove any parking or car lanes — it just puts lines on the ground to designate space for cycling.

To opponents, this basic safety measure is, for some reason, unsuitable for any street with a school, hospital, church, or other notable institution. Parents and administrators from schools on 84th and 85th Streets in particular have said the presence of bike lanes would, all evidence to the contrary, endanger their students.

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James and Cumbo Wilt Under Pressure, Oppose Clinton Ave Bikeway

DOT wants to give Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

The proposed street redesign creates space for a two-way protected bike lane by removing the southbound traffic lane on Clinton Avenue. Image: DOT

Last year, Public Advocate Tish James called on DOT to make protected bike lanes a standard feature of street redesigns, a stance she recently elaborated on in an interview with Streetsblog. In December, Council Member Laurie Cumbo stood with the family of Victoria Nicodemus, who was run over and killed on a Fort Greene sidewalk, at a vigil for safer streets.

Now DOT is making a concrete proposal to redesign a street in Cumbo’s district for greater safety [PDF] — a plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue first floated at the “Vision Zero town hall” Cumbo convened after the vigil for Nicodemus. But James and Cumbo have folded under pressure from street redesign opponents, coming out against the project at a public meeting last night. If Brooklyn Community Board 2’s transportation committee endorses the redesign when it reconvenes on Thursday, it won’t be thanks to leadership from James or Cumbo.

Public Advocate Tish James

Public Advocate Tish James

More than 250 people attended last night’s CB 2 meeting. Opponents outnumbered supporters among people who testified, but fewer than a third of the 90 people who signed up got a turn at the mic. The committee will reconvene at the Brown Memorial Church on Thursday to allow for more public comment, then vote on the plan.

The redesign would convert Clinton between Flushing Avenue and Gates Avenue from two-way motor vehicle flow to one-way northbound with a two-way, parking-protected bike lane on the east side. Crossing distances for pedestrians would be significantly shorter, and concrete islands would encourage motorists to take right turns more carefully. The design would be very similar to the two-way protected bike lane on Kent Avenue, but with more pedestrian islands and more frequent intersections.

Last night was DOT’s first public presentation of the full project, but in April the agency had met with local residents’ associations, schools, and employers about the proposal, and sent staffers to get the word out in the neighborhood. At the same time, some property owners on Clinton Avenue were mobilizing and collecting 1,300 signatures against the project.

James and Cumbo clearly had those signatures in mind as they attempted to reconcile their stated positions on Vision Zero and protected bike lanes with their opposition to this project.

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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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No Right of Way Charge for Driver Who Killed Toddler in Bronx Crosswalk

The driver who killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko narrowly avoided striking her mother and a younger sibling. Will Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark file charges against him?

The driver who killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko narrowly avoided striking her mother and a younger sibling. Will Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark (right) file charges against him?

Update: Darcel Clark’s office sent us this statement: “Our office is investigating the incident with the NYPD Accident Investigation Squad, as we do with any fatality or serious injury when a pedestrian is struck.”

NYPD and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark have not charged the driver who struck and killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko in a crosswalk near Yankee Stadium Monday.

Mariam, her mother, and a 2-year-old sibling in a stroller were crossing E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue north to south when a 21-year-old man hit Mariam with a 2014 Nissan while turning left from Gerard, which is northbound, onto E. 164th, according to NYPD and published reports. DNAinfo reported that Mariam was on her way to preschool when the crash occurred, at around 8 a.m.

“There’s no charges at this point,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. True to NYPD protocol when a motorist kills a pedestrian and is not charged or ticketed, police shielded the driver’s identity.

We have a message in with Clark’s office asking whether the DA is investigating the crash.

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue are one-way residential streets that meet at a signalized intersection. There is no dedicated turn phase, meaning motorists and pedestrians are signaled to enter the crossing at the same time. If they entered the crosswalk before the pedestrian signal flashed orange, Mariam’s family would have had the right of way.

E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue. The white arrow indicates the path of Mariam and her family, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, according to NYPD’s account of the collision. Image: Google Maps

E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue. The white arrow indicates the path of Mariam and her family, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, according to NYPD’s account of the collision. Image: Google Maps

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SI Driver Charged With Manslaughter for Killing Cyclist With Boat Trailer

A motorist was charged with manslaughter for the death of a Staten Island cyclist who was struck by a boat trailer that detached from a truck.

Alexa Cioffi. Photo via SI Advance

Alexa Cioffi. Photo via Staten Island Advance

Alexa Cioffi and her friend Briana Emanuele were riding on Hylan Boulevard at Redgrave Avenue on the afternoon of September 14, 2015, when the driver of an SUV, who was towing a boat, attempted to pass them on their left.

The trailer carrying the boat became unhitched from the truck and struck both victims. Emanuele, then 22, was injured, and Cioffi, who was 21, was killed.

Last month, District Attorney Michael McMahon charged Michael Khmil with manslaughter, homicide, misdemeanor assault, and reckless endangerment, according to court records.

From the Staten Island Advance:

According to the indictment, Khmil’s SUV was pulling a boat trailer with a maximum hauling capacity of 3,000 pounds, yet the boat weighed in excess of 4,000 pounds.

Khmil failed to secure the trailer to his SUV with chains and also failed to install a braking system on the trailer as prescribed by warning labels affixed to the trailer, contends the indictment.

As a result, the trailer detached from Khmil’s SUV and struck Cioffi and Emanuele while traveling at a speed exceeding 20 miles per hour, the indictment alleges.

Manslaughter, the top charge against Khmil, is a class C felony that carries penalties ranging from probation to 15 years in prison.

Khmil’s next scheduled court date is set for next week.

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Ulrich Back on Board With Woodhaven SBS After DOT Waters Down Turn Bans

DOT has significantly reduced the number of left turn bans in the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project. Image: DOT

DOT has decided to significantly reduce the number of left turn bans in the Woodhaven Select Bus Service project. Image: DOT

DOT has halved the number of left-turn restrictions and cut about a mile of bus lanes from its plan to enhance bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The changes will dampen the expected improvements in bus speeds and pedestrian safety but have won over Council Member Eric Ulrich, who’s back on board supporting Woodhaven Select Bus Service. Most of the street design, which will add dedicated bus lanes and pedestrian islands along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, remains unchanged since the last iteration of the project, and DOT says the effects will be small.

In January, Ulrich told a meeting of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association — which organized against the plan — that DOT’s proposal “stinks.” Chief among Ulrich’s concerns was a proposed left-turn ban at Jamaica Avenue. “I don’t think it’s good,” he said of the plan. “I think we have to go back to the drawing board.”

Eric Ulrich

Eric Ulrich

It was a disappointing change of stance from an elected official who had been one of the project’s main proponents. In 2014, Ulrich co-authored an op-ed in the Daily News calling for “world-class” bus rapid transit on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Later that year, he told Streetsblog that the project was important to improve safety on Woodhaven, where more people lost their lives than any other street in Queens between July 2012 and December 2014, according to Transportation Alternatives.

“Whatever we’re doing now obviously isn’t working,” Ulrich said at the time.

DOT presented the revised project last week [PDF]. In addition to the left turn at Jamaica Avenue, the updated plan preserves left turns at Pitkin Avenue, Forest Park Drive, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, 67th Road, 62nd Road, and southbound at Rockaway Boulevard — all of which were set for turn bans in the previous iteration of the plan. A section of bus lane between the Belt Parkway and Jamaica Bay has also been cut.

I tweeted at Ulrich to ask if the changes to the project meant he was back on board, to which he responded in the affirmative.

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Melinda Katz Tries to Kill Queens Blvd Bike Lane in the Name of “Community”

Tuesday night’s meeting on the redesign of Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst was one of the uglier exercises in petty community board obstructionism in recent memory.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said the safety of cyclists should be “an afterthought.”

The board, as is its custom, didn’t allow members of the public to speak about the project until after they voted.

The vote was a hastily-called show of hands, orchestrated by board chair Lou Walker, to “accept the safety plan for Queens Boulevard except the bike lane.” Good luck making sense of that resolution — the safety plan and the bike lane are inseparable.

Who thinks life-or-death decisions about street design should be entrusted to this process? Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

After Mayor de Blasio instructed DOT to proceed with the Queens Boulevard project in full, Katz released this statement. It’s a classic attempt to kill a street safety project by hiding behind the word “community”:

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