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Posts from the Ben Kallos Category

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Drivers Are Killing People, and the 19th Precinct Is Sending Cyclists to Court

The 19th Precinct likes to boast about local officers aggressively ticketing people for riding bikes on sidewalks. A data analysis by Transportation Alternatives shows the precinct also issues far more criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding than other Manhattan commands.

According to TA, in 2015 the Upper East Side 19th Precinct issued 116 criminal summonses for sidewalk riding, and 15 moving violations — a ratio of eight to one. TA says the typical ratio for precincts citywide is close to one criminal summons to one moving violation.

A moving violation can be resolved online or through the mail, while a criminal summons requires a court appearance. Failure to appear in court can result in a warrant that leads to jail time and barriers to employment.

NYPD greatly reduced the issuance of criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding in 2014, but the 19th Precinct is one of several that still sends hundreds of cyclists to court per year. Next month TA will release an in-depth report on bike enforcement, which will include criminal court summons data.

“In addition to disproportionately high bike enforcement in general — they issue 51 percent of all bike on sidewalk c-summonses in the Manhattan North patrol area — [the 19th Precinct is] choosing to take the extremely harsh option,” says TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro.

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Do the 19th Precinct and Ben Kallos Know Drivers Cause Most Street Carnage?

Per square mile, the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side has one of the higher traffic injury rates in the city. Though motorists cause the vast majority of traffic injuries and deaths, the 19th Precinct continues to make an example of cyclists, with support from City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.

Our Town reports that local officers ticketed 100 cyclists during a two-day period last week. According to NYPD data, the 19th Precinct ticketed just 11 speeding drivers this year as of the end of April — meaning precinct officers issued almost 10 times as many summonses to cyclists in two days as they issued to speeding drivers in four months. While the precinct has been more active citing motorists who fail to yield, issuing 395 tickets through April, that still works out to just a little more than three per day.

Motorists have killed at least 12 people walking in the 19th Precinct in the last 24 months, according to crash reports tracked by Streetsblog.

Our Town says last week’s bike crackdown was conducted in collaboration with Kallos and Garodnick.

“One of the top complaints I get in the district is about bikes,” said Kallos, who added that he was “deeply disappointed” by the community board’s continued inaction on bike lanes. “On the flip side, people on bicycles feel that pedestrians are not respecting the bike lanes… We are spending a lot of time working with motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians on education and sharing the road.”

Kallos says he was disappointed when Community Board 8 caved to complainers and failed to endorse new crosstown bike lanes, but with his calls for increased bike enforcement, he’s responding to the same sentiment. And his “sharing the road” happy talk implies that all street users are equally responsible for the carnage on Upper East Side streets, when reckless drivers do nearly 100 percent of the maiming and killing.

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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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DOT Finalizes Weak Bike-Share Station Maps for Manhattan Expansion [Updated]

DOT’s bike-share expansion maps for the Upper West Side and Upper East Side are now final, and they’re not any better than the draft maps that showed a thinned-out network of stations for some of the city’s densest neighborhoods.

UWS_thin_bike_share

The orange discs represent areas that would have bike-share stations in a well-designed network but don’t in DOT’s plan for the Upper West Side. Map: Transportation Alternatives

The final maps shift a handful of stations around but don’t add any (here’s the UWS final and draft map, and here’s the final and draft map for the UES).

That’s a problem. In each neighborhood, the planned bike-share network falls about 10 to 12 stations shy of the 28-stations-per-square-mile density recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

The likely result will be a more frustrating experience for bike-share users above 59th Street, and fewer subscribers than a densely-sited network would generate. If this is how DOT is going to handle station siting in the rest of the bike-share expansion zone, it will spell trouble for the whole system.

As Streetsblog reported earlier this month, the thinned-out bike-share network in these expansion zones arises from a dispute between DOT and Motivate, the company that operates Citi Bike. DOT wants the next wave of bike-share to reach all the neighborhoods that were promised as part of the “phase 2” expansion, but Motivate doesn’t want to supply the number of stations needed to attain effective density throughout that area.

While Motivate supplies stations, the company can’t install any without permission from DOT. So far, though, DOT appears to be refraining from using this leverage to get more stations out of Motivate. Unless something gives, New York is going to be left with a subpar bike-share network not just on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side, but throughout the expansion zone, which is supposed reach Harlem, western Queens, and several more Brooklyn neighborhoods by 2017.

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side in the City Council, and Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side. The council members could make a difference by telling DOT they want an effective neighborhood bike-share network for their constituents. Neither office, however, has replied to Streetsblog’s requests for comment.

Streetsblog has a request in with DOT about what might prompt the agency to beef up the bike-share networks in these neighborhoods. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

Update, 6:50 p.m.: DOT sent the following statement about the system expansion and bike-share network density…

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Can New York City Reform Its Dysfunctional Community Board System?

New York City’s 59 community boards often serve as the sole venues where the public can assess and vet street design projects. But they are also structured in a way that inhibits any sort of change, giving de facto veto power over street improvements to a small clique who can serve for life.

trottenberg_DOT_Bronx

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called community boards “a nice bit of urban democracy” that “actually works very well.” Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

A bill in the City Council would establish term limits for community board members, but the reform would only go so far. Under the bill, current community board members would be grandfathered in, meaning they would face no term limits while new appointees would. Meanwhile, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg shows no inclination to change the agency’s policy of giving community boards the final say on its street safety projects.

The term limits bill, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would limit new community board appointees to six two-year terms. After reaching the maximum term, people could still attend and speak at community board meetings but could no longer hold a voting seat.

Despite allowing all current board members to escape term limits, the bill is opposed by all five borough presidents, whom appoint people to community boards. A spokesperson for Eric Adams said the Brooklyn borough president is “supportive of term limits in concept” but opposes this bill. Queens Beep Melinda Katz supported term limits as a candidate [PDF] but now opposes them.

Staff of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer [PDF] joined district managers and board members from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx testifying against the bill yesterday before the City Council governmental operations committee, saying term limits would decimate institutional knowledge on the boards.

A united front of good government advocates at the hearing, including Citizens Union, New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause New York, and Transportation Alternatives [PDF], supported term limits and argued for further reforms to bring more daylight to the appointment process.

“When it comes to Vision Zero and traffic safety, we often see a large divide between members who have been serving for their entire lives and came of age when the car was king in New York City, and members of all ages who think more in tune with the modern state of urban planning and street design,” said TA’s Paul Steely White. “People are prioritizing a single parking space over daylighting an intersection, for example.”

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Ben Kallos Won’t Talk About Why He Wants to Gut the Right of Way Law

Ben Kallos. Photo: NYC Council

You can’t support Vision Zero, as Ben Kallos says he does, while gutting the laws behind it. Photo: NYC Council

On October 8, 2014, the driver of a Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation bus hit cyclist Anna Maria Moström while making a left turn. Moström was mortally injured. Two days later, a Coca-Cola truck driver hit an unidentified 86-year-old man in a crosswalk while turning from E. 96th Street onto Third Avenue. The senior died from his injuries. Both drivers reportedly failed to yield.

This is the type of collision the Right of Way Law is intended to prevent. But a group of City Council members wants to weaken the law by creating an exemption for MTA bus drivers. One of them is Ben Kallos, who represents the district where Anna Maria Moström and the Upper East Side senior were killed.

We attempted to contact Kallos about the Right of Way Law exemption bill. Last week, his office said they would call on Monday. The phone call never came and Streetsblog’s follow-up messages went unreturned.

The Right of Way Law is a key component of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Before its adoption, all NYPD crash investigations were handled by the Collision Investigation Squad, a unit of around 20 detectives who work a few hundred cases a year. The Right of Way Law gives precinct officers a mechanism to hold drivers accountable in thousands of crashes that would not otherwise be investigated.

These are not hypothetical scenarios. In the past, New York City drivers were rarely penalized for killing and injuring people, even if they broke the law. This included MTA bus drivers, who in 2014 alone killed eight pedestrians while making turns.

The Right of Way Law is meant to deter reckless driving by showing motorists that there are consequences for harming people who are following all the rules. Kallos says he supports Vision Zero, but how does he square that with exemptions to the Right of Way Law? Does he think anyone should be allowed to hit people in crosswalks?

The public should know why Kallos wants to undermine this law, but apparently he doesn’t want to talk about it.

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NYPD: Failure to Yield Caused Crash That Left Cyclist Brain Dead; No Charges

The bus driver was making a turn, in red, when he struck cyclist Anna Maria Moström, whose path is shown in white. NYPD's preliminary investigation results fault the driver, but no charges have been filed. Photo: Google Maps

The bus driver was making a turn, in red, when he struck cyclist Anna Maria Moström, whose path is shown in white. NYPD’s preliminary investigation results fault the driver, but no charges have been filed. Photo: Google Maps

Update: Moström was removed from life support a week after the crash, according to the Post.

No charges have been filed against the bus driver who left a Roosevelt Island cyclist brain dead last week, even though NYPD’s preliminary investigation shows the driver caused the crash by failing to yield to the cyclist.

Photo: annamariamostrom/Instagram

Photo: annamariamostrom/Instagram

At 9:18 p.m. on Wednesday, October 8, Anna Maria Moström, 29, was riding her bike northbound on Roosevelt Island’s Main Street. A 51-year-old man behind the wheel of a Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation “red bus” going south turned left across her path to enter a turnaround beneath the Motorgate parking garage. The drivers-side bumper struck Moström and she fell off her bike, according to police. She was unresponsive when EMS arrived, and was transported to Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Moström, a model who moved to New York two years ago, is a Roosevelt Island resident. After the crash, her family arrived from Sweden to be by her hospital bed. Although she has undergone surgeries and doctors hope she can begin breathing without a respirator soon, she faces a bleak prognosis for regaining consciousness, according to Swedish newspapers Nöjesbladet and Expressen. The family is making end-of-life preparations including organ donation, according to a friend of Moström’s who spoke to the Daily News.

While the driver was not intoxicated and was not using a cell phone at the time of the crash, NYPD said preliminary investigation results showed that the driver was at fault for not yielding to the cyclist. Although there is a new law to penalize drivers in exactly this type of crash, no summonses have been issued and no charges have been filed against the driver.

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Kallos Puts Out a Meek Report on Upper East Side Street Safety

The Upper East Side is full of dangerous intersections, and residents are clamoring for bus countdown clocks, benches, and bike racks, according to a two-part report released today by Council Member Ben Kallos [PDF 1, 2]. It’s not often a council member releases a report on livable streets, and Kallos should be commended for his interest. (DOT says it “has not received any similar reports from other elected officials.”) But the report amounts to a wish list of small fixes, with nary a recommendation to improve street design and enforcement in the neighborhood.

A new report from Ben Kallos on livable streets and traffic safety doesn't offer weighty recommendations on much of either.

A new report from Ben Kallos on livable streets and traffic safety doesn’t offer substantial recommendations on either topic.

Kallos’s staff combed through NYPD crash data, 115 survey responses, and input from the council member’s traffic safety forums and participatory budgeting meetings to come up with recommendations. The end result is more an index of day-to-day requests rather than a roadmap for livable streets.

The report identifies the district’s most dangerous streets, including those with recent fatalities. Second Avenue tops the list, with seven of the district’s 10 most collision-prone intersections. Despite pinpointing where people are getting injured and killed, the report only ventures to suggest adding more time to crossing signals, repainting crosswalks, repairing potholes, smoothing pavement, and improving rainwater drainage, among other changes. The need for safer street designs, including the one planned for Second Avenue after subway construction is complete, is never mentioned.

Kallos’s staff said they hope the report can inform DOT’s Vision Zero work, including the borough-wide pedestrian safety action plan expected to be released by the end of the year.

The report has a bit more to say about bus improvements, but not much. Kallos has allocated $640,000 for 32 countdown clocks at bus stops, a top request at participatory budgeting meetings. The report notes the demand for more service on the M15 Select Bus Service route, identifies the need to improve the M31, M72, and M98 crosstown routes, and recommends locations for new benches and bus shelters. It oddly omits the SBS upgrades planned for the M86 crosstown bus.

While the report recommends specific locations for bike racks, it’s equivocal on bike lanes: “Bike lanes have passionate support and opposition in the community, which is why the issue requires continuous conversation and communication between small businesses, residents and city government.”

Streetsblog asked which streets residents have prioritized for new bike lanes. “We didn’t receive specific suggestions for where individuals would like to see bike lanes expanded,” said Kallos spokesperson Sarah Anders.

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Ben Kallos Seeks to Make NYPD Traffic Summons Data Open and Mappable

As part of a raft of bills on government data and transparency, Council Member Ben Kallos has introduced legislation that would require the city to release and map data about where NYPD issues moving violations, among other things. The bill would open up new traffic enforcement information to the public, but it might also require a top-to-bottom overhaul of how city agencies issue and process violation notices.

A new bill could require NYPD to change the way it tracks and releases data about moving violations. Photo: Runs With Scissors/Flickr

A new bill could help New Yorkers see if NYPD is issuing traffic violations at the locations most in need of enforcement. Photo: Ken Stein/Flickr

Currently, information on moving violations is available only at the precinct level, aggregated in reports on the NYPD website each month. The Kallos bill would require NYPD to specify the date, time, and location of each moving violation in updates posted at least monthly. The bill calls for precise latitude and longitude coordinates, but allows for data to be coded to the nearest intersection.

“There’s a lot of fascinating questions you could explore,” said statistics professor and I Quant NY blogger Ben Wellington, who was particularly interested in tracking whether high-crash areas are also receiving the highest levels of enforcement. “In a Vision Zero plan, you probably want to shift resources to places where there are the most problems but the least resources,” he said.

City agencies would themselves benefit from user-friendly data releases. “Getting this crime, crash and summonses data online in a usable form would help the police share it both internally and with other agencies,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, in a statement. “We strongly support the intent of this bill, and would like to see the NYPD and City Hall work with CM Kallos and the public to open this data.”

The bill is sponsored by Kallos, Peter Koo, and Rory Lancman, and has also received encouragement from other key council members. Technology Committee Chair James Vacca told Streetsblog last month that he supports releasing geo-coded moving violations data. A spokesperson for Brad Lander said the bill included “good next steps.” Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement that he is “hopeful to see this bill pass.”

The amount of work NYPD would have to undertake to comply with the bill’s mandate remains an open question. The DMV’s traffic ticket form, used by the police department, only has a “place of occurrence” line, in which officers can write a location. This type of non-standardized information is near-impossible to sort geographically.

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Two Pedestrians Killed in a Month in Same Upper East Side Precinct

Motorists have killed two pedestrians in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, in the last month. The second victim was a woman hit by a school bus driver yesterday.

Photo: Neetzan Zimmerman / ##https://twitter.com/neetzan/status/464490348698693633/photo/1##@neetzan##

Photo: Neetzan Zimmerman / @neetzan

The victim was crossing E. 93rd Street at Second Avenue south to north at around 3:30 p.m. when she was run over by the bus driver, who was traveling west on 93rd, according to reports. She died at the scene.

NYPD had not released the victim’s identity as of this afternoon. Reports said she appeared to be in her 40s.

From the Daily News:

“The bus was traveling westbound and trying to get through a yellow light before it turned red. The bus driver didn’t see the pedestrian. He was looking straight ahead trying to make the light,” the witness said.

He said the [Second Avenue subway] construction barriers were likely a factor.

“It really does obfuscate the view,” he said.

Multiple media reports speculated that the victim may have been crossing against the light, though one man told DNAinfo that drivers often run reds at the intersection.

Freddy Alvarez, the resident manager at the nearby Waterford Condominiums, did not witness the accident but saw the gruesome aftermath and groceries scattered in the roadway.

He said that traffic barriers and equipment from construction on the Second Avenue subway line create a hazard for pedestrians and a distraction for drivers.

It is “very dangerous. They don’t stop,” he said. “The fence blocks the [traffic] light.”

A temporary light was placed at the intersection when a stop sign failed to properly regulate traffic, Alvarez said.

“Even with light,” he added, “people don’t stop.”

No summonses were issued to the driver, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, and the investigation is ongoing.

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