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Posts from the "Bill de Blasio" Category

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If Police Don’t Take Traffic Violence Seriously, Vision Zero Will Fail

Eight months in, Mayor de Blasio and his administration should be proud of how much has been achieved under the Vision Zero program. As an attorney and advocate for crash victims, my expectations were exceeded by the early progress in almost every area of this multi-agency initiative. There have even been noticeable changes at the police department — the one agency that historically has been most resistant to stepping up on street safety. But as shown by the Dulcie Canton scandal NYPD’s response has been inconsistent. [Disclosure: The author is on the board of StreetsPAC, which endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor, and his law firm represents Dulcie Canton.]

Dulcie’s case illustrates the gaping holes that remain in NYPD’s approach to Vision Zero. She was struck with tremendous force in a horrific hit-and-run crash on August 7 and suffered serious injuries, somehow managing to escape with her life (in large part because she was wearing a helmet). Surveillance video shows a sedan driver speeding behind her fully-illuminated bicycle, striking her, and driving off without so much as hesitating.

Although, as is often the case, the surveillance video did not capture the car’s license plate, and the driver sped off before witnesses could get a look at him, Bushwick residents at the crash scene came together in a remarkable way to help identify the driver. The owner of the building by the crash site went to extraordinary lengths to preserve footage from his surveillance cameras. People on the block recovered a piece of the car that fell off when it struck Dulcie, bearing serial numbers that link it to the vehicle. The skateboarder with Dulcie that night worked with neighbors to identify the car, parked just a block or so from the crash scene. This prompt action from neighborhood residents — the lengths people went to in order to help a crash victim and find a perpetrator — shows just how much the principles of Vision Zero matter to New Yorkers.

All that was left for me to do as Dulcie’s lawyer was to bring this evidence to the police and let them do their job — or so I thought. But that’s where the process broke down. Because Dulcie thankfully hadn’t been killed or critically injured, the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad did not respond. Instead, a detective at the 83rd Precinct was assigned to investigate the case as a hit-and-run. With all optimism, I met with the detective on the fourth day after Dulcie’s crash and gave him all the evidence, and told him we were waiting to inform the insurer of the car of our claim because we didn’t want the company to alert the owner of the car to the investigation.

Over the following month, I followed up with the detective several times by phone and in writing. He explained to me that he was busy with a heavy caseload and needed more time before he could question the owner. After three weeks, the Bushwick neighbors who had been so helpful and had continued to monitor the car advised that the owner had fixed the damage from the crash. Now that critical evidence was being lost and concealed, we had to act, and so the car’s insurer was alerted.

Naturally, I heard back from the insurer that the owner of the car denied any knowledge of the incident. But recent press attention to this case has caught the attention of some law enforcement officials, and following a meeting yesterday it appears that Dulcie’s crash may finally be investigated as it should have been. Many thanks to folks who made phone calls and used social media to help us move this case higher on NYPD’s to-do list!

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De Blasio and DOT Ring In the New School Year With More Speed Cameras

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today officially announced the expansion of the city’s speed camera program, which will eventually bring automated enforcement to 140 school zones across the boroughs. Today’s event also underscored the fact that streets around schools won’t be as safe as they could be, thanks to restrictions imposed by Albany.

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: ##https://twitter.com/NYCMayorsOffice/status/506813044467728384##@NYCMayorsOffice##

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: @NYCMayorsOffice

At a press conference this morning at PS 95, on Hillman Avenue in the Bronx, de Blasio and Trottenberg were joined by NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a key supporter of legislation that brought the first 20 speed cams to NYC streets last year.

“Our kids are going to be safer walking to school and coming home because of this new enforcement,” said de Blasio via a press release. “We are sending a powerful message that we take safety near our schools seriously, and we will enforce the law to keep children safe.”

With the new school year set to start Thursday, DOT is on its way to deploying the 120 additional cameras authorized by state lawmakers earlier this year. Twenty-three cameras will be up and running this week, according to a de Blasio spokesperson, with 40 to 50 cameras operational by the end of 2014. All 140 cameras are expected to be online by the end of 2015.

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC in 2012, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Automated enforcement is vital to reducing traffic casualties, but NYC’s cameras come with a bevy of conditions that limit their effectiveness. Per today’s press release:

DOT is permitted to place cameras within a quarter mile of a corridor passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school on the corridor. The cameras are only active on school days during school hours, one hour before and one hour after the school day, as well as during student activities at the school, and 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after school activities.

In addition, cameras can only ticket drivers who speed by 11 or more miles per hour, and the penalty for speed cam tickets is a nominal $50 fine, with no license points. According to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of DMV data, the majority of fatal speeding-related crashes statewide occur on weekends or between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights — hours when speed cameras aren’t normally allowed to operate. To prevent as many injuries and deaths as possible, state lawmakers should remove these restrictions.

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One City, By Bike: Huge Opportunities for NYC Cycling in the de Blasio Era

Jon Orcutt was NYC DOT’s policy director from 2007 to 2014. He developed DOT’s post-PlaNYC strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, oversaw creation of the Citi Bike program, and produced the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In this five-part series, he looks at today’s opportunities to build on the breakthroughs in NYC cycling made during the Bloomberg administration.

Part 1 – What’s Next for New York City Cycling Policy?

Bike transportation in New York City unquestionably saw historic progress during the second half of the Bloomberg administration. For the first time, city government treated cycling as a serious mode of transportation and continually achieved new milestones: a bigger bike network, safer street designs, higher cycling levels, and a network of bike-share stations that received massive usage. NYC DOT, City Hall, and city cyclists endured and moved past the “bikelash.” But even after smashing so many barriers, cycling in New York is still relatively underdeveloped, with gigantic opportunities for growth ahead.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

There are still many gaps in the bike network, like this harrowing connection from the Willis Avenue Bridge on 135th Street in the Bronx, where the de Blasio administration can make tremendous progress by adding new infrastructure.

2014 has not been without progress: This year, new bike networks began to take shape in Long Island City and East New York. New lanes on Hudson and Lafayette Streets added to Manhattan’s set of protected bikeways. A key Queens-Brooklyn bottleneck will be uncorked with the pending Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. And NYC DOT has spent the year to date renegotiating the Citi Bike operating agreement to give the system stronger management and the resources needed for technological improvement and expansion.

But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing on the streets in 2014 are projects developed under the Bloomberg administration and Janette Sadik-Khan’s leadership at NYC DOT. DOT’s annual street improvement program takes shape during the fall and winter: Implementation begins in late winter and spring when weather becomes warm enough to resurface and repaint city streets. The 2015 program will be the first shaped by Mayor de Blasio’s administration and new DOT leadership. Will it have a strong bike lane component, and where are the additions to the bike network likely to be?

De Blasio’s campaign material promised significant progress, calling cycling a mainstream means of travel in the city. He stated that his administration would achieve a 6 percent bike mode share by 2020 by expanding bike lanes and bringing bike-share to the boroughs. Putting aside the problem of measuring mode share, the mayor was right to recognize that there are huge opportunities to take cycling in New York to new levels — the city can still achieve manifold increases over cycling’s role in NYC transportation in 2014.

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De Blasio Signs Traffic Safety Bills, Says 25 MPH Will Go Into Effect This Fall

Mayor de Blasio signs 11 traffic safety bills this morning at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor de Blasio signed 11 traffic safety bills earlier today at PS 152 in Queens, surrounded by families of traffic violence victims. Photo: Stephen Miller

Earlier today, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to the schoolyard where he launched his administration’s Vision Zero campaign in January, just feet from where 9-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed last December while walking to PS 152 with his sister. A little more than six months after announcing his intent to eliminate traffic fatalities within 10 years, the mayor signed bills that suspend the licenses of dangerous taxi drivers, require the installation of 20 mph Slow Zones, and make it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, among other changes.

While today’s press conference struck a celebratory note, the mayor made clear that Vision Zero is a continuing effort. “The vision is to end traffic fatalities in this city. It’s not easy. Nobody said it was easy,” de Blasio said. “When you think about Vision Zero and all its components, fundamentally it comes down to reducing speeding, reducing reckless driving.”

“A special thanks to all the family members of all the individuals who have turned their pain into action and who have had a huge impact in this city and in this state,” he said. “[They] have been fantastic advocates, particularly in Albany.”

With Families for Safe Streets members in Albany last week, the State Senate and Assembly passed legislation to lower the default speed limit in New York City to 25 mph. De Blasio said that the new limit will likely go into effect this fall after Governor Cuomo signs the bill and the City Council passes its own speed limit legislation.

The package of bills that the mayor signed today focuses on TLC, DOT, and NYPD.

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De Blasio Signs 11 Traffic Safety Bills

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan speaks at today's bill signing. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/ydanis/status/481103315409698816##City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez/@ydanis##

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan speaks at today’s bill signing. Photo: City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez/@ydanis

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed 11 bills today intended to make it safer to walk, bike, and drive in New York City.

De Blasio was joined by in Queens this morning by Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, and other council members. Bills signed into law include Intro 171-A — “Cooper’s Law” — which will allow the Taxi and Limousine Commission to act against hack licenses of cab drivers who injure and kill pedestrians while breaking traffic laws, and Intro 238-A, which makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way.

Streetsblog will have full coverage of the presser later today.

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Will New Yorkers Get Doored by de Blasio’s Taxi of Tomorrow Opposition?

As Mayor de Blasio weighs the potential $100 million cost of converting his opposition to the Taxi of Tomorrow into official city policy, New Yorkers on two wheels should remember one key feature of the Nissan NV200 selected as the city’s next taxi: It will all but eliminate the possibility of getting doored by an exiting taxi passenger.

The Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC

If it survives the courts and Bill de Blasio, the Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC

The vehicle has sliding doors for backseat passengers, reducing the need for Taxi TV public service announcements reminding passengers not to whip open their doors into the path of a passing cyclist — something that’s not just dangerous, but also against the law.

That improvement and others, including built-in GPS for drivers, rear-side lights to indicate when passengers are entering or exiting, a front-end design that reduces the severity of crashes with pedestrians, “lower-annoyance” horns, and rear cameras drivers can use while backing up, would be lost if the mayor decides to scrap the design.

On Tuesday, a state appeals court reversed a lower court ruling against the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow plan. The case could be appealed to the state’s highest court, and de Blasio said on Wednesday that, although the city’s law department continues to defend the project, he is opposed to it:

I think it is not right to have a single vehicle approved instead of a variety of vehicles that meet certain standards. I don’t like that we’ve lost an opportunity to create jobs here in New York City. I don’t like Nissan’s involvement in Iran. I don’t like a lot of things about this. I think it was a broken process on many levels.

Other criticisms of the Nissan vehicle are that it is not a hybrid and it is not wheelchair-accessible by default. London, which has also selected the NV200 as its new taxi, will have a fully-accessible fleet. A modified accessible version will be made available in New York.

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De Blasio Budget Sets Aside Money for Vision Zero

Mayor de Blasio attached some numbers to his Vision Zero Action Plan in today’s executive budget announcement.

In a speech this afternoon, de Blasio said he was moved to take action when he realized that in 2013, there were 286 traffic deaths in NYC, compared to 333 homicides.

“The Vision Zero plan is being implemented intensely as we speak,” de Blasio said. “It is already having a very positive effect. You’ll be seeing more red light cameras ahead, continued efforts to lower speed limits, more speed humps and redesigns of streets, more NYPD enforcement. All of this is already having an effect. You’re going to see a lot more in fiscal ’15 because of this budget.”

Here are figures released today by the mayor’s office:

Vision Zero: Mayor de Blasio’s executive budget strategically allocates funds toward his interagency goal of eliminating the city’s traffic fatalities. Specifically, the budget adds $28.8 million for DOT initiatives, including the installation of 50 speed bumps near schools, the development of neighborhood slow zones, the installation of speed cameras, and intersection redesigns; $13 million for NYPD traffic enforcement; and $1.1 million for TLC’s safety squad ad campaign.

City departments, including NYPD, have yet to reveal publicly how much they will spend to implement Vision Zero initiatives, so it’s good to finally see some line items. One key question will be how NYPD intends to use the $13 million allocated for additional enforcement. The department’s annual budget exceeds $3 billion.

De Blasio called for $226 million for road repaving, an increase of $49 million, and an additional $346 million for bridge maintenance. He also proposed more funds for snow removal.

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De Blasio Calls For Vision Zero Apps. How Much Data Will He Release?


BigApps NYC, EDC’s four-month competition to develop mobile and web applications using city data, is set to launch tomorrow with a mission from Mayor Bill de Blasio to build tools for Vision Zero. The more data the city opens up to developers, the better these apps will be, so the question now is how far City Hall will go to make crash and enforcement information transparent and accessible.

This morning, de Blasio appointed Anne Roest as commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and indications are that a Vision Zero data announcement is coming soon. The key aspects to keep an eye on are improvements to datasets that are already public, and which additional datasets will be released.

Currently, the public can track tickets from red light and speed cameras, find out how many moving violations the police issued each month, and get monthly reports from NYPD on where each of the city’s reported crashes occurred. But the crash data is released in a difficult format that developers must unscramble before using.

Last week, NYPD told the City Council that it will soon improve the way it releases crash data. Putting the data out through the city’s existing open data portal would help, and so would the release of additional traffic safety information. For instance, crash investigations remain sealed from public view. In addition, because there’s no way to track moving violations below the precinct level, right now it’s hard to know exactly where NYPD is concentrating its enforcement efforts.

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De Blasio Talks Planning and Housing But Not Transpo at RPA Assembly

Planning and transportation leaders from across the tri-state area met at the Waldorf Astoria today for the Regional Plan Association’s annual gathering, featuring panel discussions and a keynote by Mayor Bill de Blasio that was noticeably light on transportation issues.

Bill de Blasio wants to talk housing, but not as much about transportation infrastructure. Photo: Kevin Case/Flickr

Bill de Blasio talked housing today, but not as much about transportation infrastructure. Photo: Kevin Case/Flickr

The mayor’s speech was a bit of a coming-out to the city’s planning community. “Planning is not a luxury; it’s a necessity,” he said, later quoting Daniel Burnham to the crowd of regional planners. “I think of environmental sustainability in the same breath as economic sustainability.”

“We haven’t fallen into the trap of thinking that we can expand ever-outward,” de Blasio said. “Here in New York City, we have to be smart. We have to be efficient.”

Not surprisingly, the mayor made income inequality the fundamental theme of his speech, but he also noted the limits of local action in the face of a federal government he described as absent. “It’s better addressed in a regional manner, and better still in a national manner or international manner,” he said. “We’ll do it locally, until the day comes when the paradigm shifts.”

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg came to today’s event, but that issue was mostly absent from de Blasio’s speech. Aside from lamenting the federal government’s slow fade from transportation investment, the mayor did not outline his vision for how transit links to inequality and environmental sustainability. Vision Zero went unmentioned, as did the long commute times facing some of the poorest outer-borough residents.

Instead, de Blasio talked up his administration’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing in 10 years, calling the plan to achieve that goal, which is due next week, “extraordinarily ambitious.”

Although transportation didn’t take center stage at today’s event the way it might have in previous years, when congestion pricing or DOT’s bike and pedestrian programs took the limelight, it did feature in a number of breakout sessions, including one on traffic safety and another on transportation funding. And today’s assembly was a stark contrast from last year’s, when RPA heaped praise on the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

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De Blasio’s First 100 Days Speech: Vision Zero Has “Just Begun”

Graphic from today's speech via ##https://twitter.com/NYCMayorsOffice/status/454295949049749504##@NYCMayorsOffice##

Graphic from today’s speech via @NYCMayorsOffice

Mayor de Blasio mentioned Vision Zero pretty early in his first 100 days speech this afternoon. He said the program has “just begun” to address what he called a “growing epidemic of pedestrian deaths.” Traffic deaths are down 26 percent, the mayor noted.

There were 51 traffic deaths through the end of March, compared to 69 during the first three months of 2013. Injuries are down 8 percent, from 11,650 to 10,729.

Motorists killed 27 pedestrians and cyclists on surface streets through March, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and NYPD data showed 45 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities during the same time frame last year — a 40 percent decrease, though this year’s count may be incomplete at this point.

Also on the transportation front, de Blasio said DOT filled 289,000 potholes in the first quarter, compared to 115,000 in 2013.