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Posts from the "Street Safety" Category

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Advocates in Neighborhoods Waiting for Slow Zones Call for 20 MPH Limit


Over the weekend, advocates from Right of Way and residents in a dozen Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens neighborhoods installed dozens of “20 Is Plenty” signs, which urge drivers to slow down, and asked Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise to fast-track Slow Zone installations. The neighborhoods represented in yesterday’s demonstration are among those that have either had their applications for 20 mph zones rejected by DOT or are waiting up to two years for the city to implement the traffic calming program.

“These Slow Zones have massive community support,” said Keegan Stephan of Right of Way. “This is an actionable item that could be implemented immediately.”

On Saturday and Sunday, the group installed 110 custom 20 mph signs, donated by RoadTrafficSigns.com, in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, Tribeca and the West Village.

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Who Killed Kumar Ragunath? Police Seek Suspect as Advocates Call for Action

Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer join neighborhood and street safety advocates to call for the arrest of the hit-and-run driver who killed Kumar Ragunath. Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

Kumar Ragunath, 64, came to New York from Guyana in 1987. Five years later, he and his wife bought a house in Jamaica near Richmond Hill. He loved to play cricket and listen to Indian music, and he kept working through his retirement to help fund college for his six grandchildren. Ragunath had been out of work since August, but recently found a job at the Queens Plaza Holiday Inn.

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

On March 7 at about 10:25 p.m., he was on his way to his second day of work at the hotel when he crossed Northern Boulevard near 40th Road in Long Island City. Ragunath was outside the crosswalk when the driver of a dark-colored Chevy Blazer in the westbound right-hand lane hit him. The driver kept going. Ragunath was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was put into a medically-induced coma and died the next day.

Now, police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver who killed Ragunath. Local elected officials, neighborhood advocates and street safety activists gathered today at the crash site to call for Ragunath’s killer to be brought to justice and for safer streets, especially in the growing Long Island City neighborhood and along Northern Boulevard.

Northern Boulevard has a long record of fatalities and injuries: Last year, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian and 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa were both killed by drivers on the street. Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked it as the second most deadly street in Queens for pedestrians. Last month, after a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver seriously injured five people at a Northern Boulevard bus shelter, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make the street a priority in its Vision Zero initiative. As at last month’s event, Van Bramer was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris today.

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Morningside Road Diet Supporters Try to Find Common Ground With CB 10

Wednesday night, Harlem road diet supporters and opponents met in an attempt to find common ground on what can be done to improve safety on Morningside Avenue. The move comes in advance of DOT releasing a second plan for the street, after its first design encountered opposition from Community Board 10.

CB 10's chair is worried that adding pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will cause problems for double-parkers. Photo: DOT

CB 10′s chair is worried that reducing car lanes to add pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will create problems with double-parked drivers. Photo: DOT

The plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue [PDF], requested by North Star Neighborhood Association and supported by CB 9, has been waiting for action from neighboring CB 10 since it was released last September. But key CB 10 members object to its central component — a reduction in the number of car lanes to create space for a painted median and pedestrian refuge islands — and the board has refused to take action on the plan. In response, DOT went back to the drawing board and is creating a second plan to be presented in the coming weeks.

About 25 people attended the Wednesday meeting, which was hosted by North Star and included presentations from CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle and Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito, who talked about how the plan fits into Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

The event featured plenty of crosstalk and heated exchanges, but there was also discussion of the need for a plan that everyone in the room could support. While the meeting ended on a positive note, the path to agreement remains murky: Lyle and many CB 10 members remain opposed to reducing the number of car lanes, and DOT has not yet released its alternative plan.

“I just don’t think it’s a good community position for us to be battling when safety is the number one thing,” said Aissatou Bey-Grecia, a founding member of North Star. The group focused on Morningside Avenue after an unsuccessful bid for a 20 mph Slow Zone in the neighborhood yielded discussions with DOT about the street. “Any change would be a good change, as far as I’m concerned, on Morningside Avenue. But what happens should come out of the collective voice.”

For her part, Lyle alternated between support of unspecified traffic safety improvements and telling the group that there was no pressing reason to implement a road diet on Morningside. Lyle held up a printed Google Map of traffic speeds to show that because Morningside Avenue was not colored in red, yellow or green, it did not require any changes. ”They had nothing on Morningside Avenue, meaning it is okay,” she said.

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Ignizio Bill Would Turn Pedestrian Timers Into Countdown Clocks for Drivers

City Council Member Vincent Ignizio has another red light camera bill — one that seems to be a variation on a failed bill from six years ago.

Council Member Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes speeding drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##

Vincent Ignizio wants the city to prioritize pedestrian countdown clocks at intersections with red light cameras. In 2008 he tried to get signal timers for drivers at the same locations. Photo: DNAinfo

In addition to a bill that would require DOT to post warning signs where red light cameras are stationed, Ignizio last month introduced legislation that would mandate pedestrian countdown signals at those same intersections.

We’ll get to that second bill in a moment, but first some background. As we reported in February, Ignizio is known for opposing measures to make streets safer and improve transit. He wanted to subject NYC bike lanes to environmental review, and succeeded in erasing the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, watering down Select Bus Service on Hylan Boulevard to preserve parking, and degrading SBS service citywide by getting the MTA to shut off the flashing blue lights on all SBS buses.

Ignizio premised his pedestrian countdown bill on street safety. Here’s an excerpt from an Advance story that mentioned the bill:

The pedestrian countdowns have been shown to decrease crashes at intersections, and those with red light cameras have already been identified as high-risk spots.

“We’re deploying countdown clocks throughout the city, all I’m saying is deploy them in areas where you have red light cameras first,” Ignizio said.

A couple of things about this proposal don’t make sense. One, Ignizio is not a fan of automated traffic enforcement. In that same Advance story, he said of red light cameras, ”These ‘safety devices’ — in quotes — sometimes are causing more accidents than they’re trying to avoid.” In fact, NYC’s red light camera program has led to a significant drop in dangerous T-bone crashes – and if Ignizio thinks cameras are causing crashes, how would pedestrian countdown signals help?

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Tri-State Maps Ped Deaths by Legislative District and Community Board

After Albany wraps up the budget process, legislators will shift their focus to bills that have been awaiting action — including a suite of legislation to address traffic safety issues.

From 2010 to 2012, there were more than 900 pedestrian fatalities in New York State. Now they're mapped by legislative district. Map: TSTC

From 2010 to 2012, there were more than 900 pedestrian fatalities in New York State. Map: TSTC

Bills lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, cracking down on unlicensed and hit-and-run drivers, requiring wheel guards on large trucks, and strengthening existing rules like Hayley and Diego’s Law are in play this year.

Yesterday, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released a new tool that could help make the case for the street safety bills: A map of the more than 900 pedestrian fatalities across New York State from 2010 to 2012, sortable by State Senate and Assembly districts, as well as City Council districts and community board boundaries.

The information behind the map comes from the same federal data source Tri-State used for its report on the region’s most dangerous streets. The group has created similar maps for New Jersey and Connecticut as well.

“With the information in these maps, elected officials can pinpoint the riskiest roadways for pedestrians in their districts,” wrote Tri-State’s Renata Silberblatt, ”and advocate more effectively for increased pedestrian safety infrastructure funding.”

Next Tuesday, representatives from Families for Safe Streets are traveling to Albany to speak with legislators. ”This is a smaller day with just family members,” said Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West last October. “We are planning a large day with more families and supporters for early May.”

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Ignizio: NYC Should Tell Drivers Where It’s OK to Run Reds

You’ve got to hand it to City Council Member Vincent Ignizio: If nothing else, the man is consistent.

Council Member Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes speeding drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##

Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: DNAinfo

Ignizio has a long history of opposing measures to make streets safer and improve transit. The Staten Island rep’s greatest hits include a proposal to subject NYC bike lanes to environmental review, killing the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, watering down Select Bus Service on Hylan Boulevard in order to preserve parking, and degrading SBS service citywide by cowing the MTA into shutting off the flashing blue lights on all SBS buses.

For his next trick, Ignizio wants to take the teeth out of NYC’s automated traffic enforcement program. The Daily News reports:

New York City Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-S.I.) will introduce a bill Wednesday to require the city to post signs alerting drivers at intersections where there are red-light cameras.

The city’s current policy is not to reveal the cameras’ locations in order to maximize the deterrent effect.

“We owe it to the motorists to let them know this is a camera-enforced intersection,” said Ignizio. “It’s not about revenue-generating, it’s about slowing people down and getting them to stop.”

This bill probably won’t go anywhere, in part because, as the News points out, it would make the city’s small number of enforcement cameras far less effective. After all, signs telling drivers where cameras are would also tell them where cameras aren’t.

Ignizio is right, of course, that the traffic camera program is all about getting people to drive safely — and as a council member, he must be aware that speeding is the city’s leading cause of traffic deaths. But how will NYC get people to obey traffic laws on 6,000 miles of streets if motorists know exactly where they’ll never get caught?

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Brooklyn CB 7 Working for Safer Streets in Sunset Park

Community Board 7 in Brooklyn continues to emerge as a force for safer neighborhood streets.

This week, the CB 7 transportation and public safety committees held a joint meeting to address pedestrian safety issues in the district, which encompasses Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace. The board also sent a letter this month to the 72nd Precinct asking for more traffic enforcement.

“We have some advocates at the top­ tier level of the community board,” says Ryan Lynch, CB 7 transportation committee chair and vice board chair. Among those working for improvements is new board chair Dan Murphy, whom Lynch calls “a pretty fierce advocate for safer streets.”

In 2013, CB 7 requested nearly two dozen street safety measures from DOT and NYPD. The board has worked with DOT in recent years on improvements to Fourth Avenue and Park Circle, and also engages with community groups, including UPROSE, which Lynch says “has been working on these issues in Sunset Park for years.”

One area the board is focused on is reducing pedestrian deaths on Sunset Park avenues. “We’ve had a number of fatalities along the avenues over the last six months,” says Lynch.

On Tuesday, about 40 people attended the first of two planned street safety forums. “It was really just a kick-off to identifying new areas that need attention in Sunset Park,” Lynch says. In what has to be considered an encouraging sign, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson’s office sent someone to the forum. “We haven’t had a representative from the district attorney’s office in quite a long time at a community board meeting.”

CB 7 also wants lower speed limits and traffic calming around senior centers and parks, like DOT has done with Slow Zones near schools,.

On February 6 the board dispatched a letter to Captain James Grant, commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct. The letter lauds the precinct for reducing crime overall, and asks Grant to devote “the same focus and dedication” to dangerous driving, particularly speeding and failure to yield. The letter points to recent efforts by the 78th Precinct, where traffic safety has become a priority. The board has yet to receive a reply from Grant.

Lynch says CB 7 will be reaching out to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and would like to develop a multi-lingual crowdsourced traffic conditions map, modeled on the Make Brooklyn Safer maps for Fort Greene and Park Slope. And there will be other forums in the district, including one in Windsor Terrace in March, to be co-hosted by City Council Members Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca.

“CB 7 has taken the mantle of being one of the more progressive community boards on pedestrian safety issues,” says Lynch. “This is the first of hopefully many efforts to get more attention to our district.”

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In Queens, Parents Push for Safer Streets Near Schools

After 25-year-old Martha Tibillin-Guamug was killed crossing the street in Jackson Heights last week, the 110th Precinct went on the offensive, writing 200 summonses in 72 hours, including dozens for failure to yield to pedestrians. At a traffic safety town hall on Sunday, residents applauded the effort, then asked the police and DOT to do more.

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, was killed by a bus driver in Jackson Heights last week. Photo: NY Post

The 110th already has a leg up on most other precincts when it comes to traffic safety — it issued 442 failure-to-yield and nearly 3,000 speeding tickets last year — but at the town hall hosted by Make Queens Safer, Congressman Joseph Crowley, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya, residents said it would take more than a ticket blitz to clamp down on dangerous driving.

Dozens of Queens schools have been designated as priority locations in DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, for example, but most have not received street redesigns as a result. From 2004 to 2009, DOT implemented street redesigns in areas surrounding 30 schools citywide. Researchers say these types of traffic calming measures could prevent 210 child injuries annually if the city applies them to all 1,471 elementary and middle schools.

I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights has already been identified as a Safe Routes to Schools priority location. Victoria Medelius, president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said traffic safety efforts shouldn’t happen only after someone dies. ”We have to do more than just issue a summons,” she told Streetsblog.

Medelius said one of her son’s classmates was walking to school with his mother last year when a driver hit and injured him. “It shouldn’t be that way. It wasn’t like that for me growing up,” said Medelius, who grew up in Jackson Heights. “Drivers should be more responsible.”

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These Are NYC’s Most Dangerous Streets. Will de Blasio Fix Them?

The 2013 citywide data on traffic fatalities is out, and a pair of number-crunching reports from street safety advocates confirm what New Yorkers know in their gut: Wide, car-centric streets are the most dangerous places to walk in New York City. Now, the question is whether Mayor Bill de Blasio will use the release of his Vision Zero strategy later this month to put the full power of his administration behind fixing the city’s most dangerous streets.

It’s going to take a lot more than signs to drastically reduce the death toll on streets like Queens Boulevard.

“Arterial streets make up only 10 percent of our city’s road network, but these multi-lane speedways are the site of more than half of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said in a statement yesterday. TA crunched the recently-released 2013 numbers from NYPD, which showed that traffic violence claimed the lives of 286 New Yorkers and injured nearly 55,000. Pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 178 deaths and more than 16,000 injuries.

Last September, a TA poll [PDF] asked New Yorkers to identify the most dangerous street in their borough. The results aren’t surprising: Queens Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan were the top suggestions. Last year, on these five roads alone, drivers killed 18 people and injured 2,671, including 305 cyclists and 762 pedestrians.

These numbers are up compared to 2012, when this selection of streets saw 51 fewer injuries and three fewer deaths. Other areas with high numbers of fatalities and injuries according to TA’s analysis include 125th Street and 14th Street in Manhattan, Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and Broadway in Williamsburg.

Also today, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its annual report on the region’s most dangerous roads for walking, compiling federal data on pedestrian fatalities from 2010 to 2012. On top of the dangerous streets identified by TA’s analysis, Tri-State’s report highlights even more streets in the city that need life-saving safety measures.

On the six most dangerous roads in Brooklyn, a total of 27 pedestrians died over three years. In Queens, drivers on the four most dangerous roads killed 23 pedestrians. In the Bronx, 16 pedestrians died on the four most dangerous roads. These streets often appear on Streetsblog as sites of motor vehicle mayhem: Woodhaven Boulevard, Northern Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Parkway, Grand Concourse. The list goes on.

City Hall is probably well aware of the danger these streets pose. In its pedestrian safety action plan from 2010, DOT analyzed injury and fatality data and also found that the highest rates of traffic violence are concentrated on these major roads.

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Martin Dilan Introduces 20 MPH Bill in State Senate

Supporters of home rule legislation for NYC speed limits at Grand Army Plaza Sunday. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Supporters of home rule legislation for NYC speed limits rallied at Grand Army Plaza Sunday. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

State Senator Martin Malave Dilan, of Brooklyn, has introduced companion legislation to Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell’s speed limit bill, which would set the maximum speed on NYC streets at 20 miles per hour, except on streets ”where the City Council determines a different speed limit is appropriate.”

“In the first two weeks of 2014 there were seven pedestrian fatalities, two in the same day,” reads a statement on Dilan’s web site. “While Mayor de Blasio’s ramped-up enforcement has made an impact, the city requires additional tools to realistically address these fatalities.”

Dilan chairs the Senate transportation committee. At this writing the speed limit bill has no Senate cosponsors, and could face an uphill climb. When O’Donnell introduced the Assembly version in January, Senator Marty Golden called it an “overreaction” to pedestrian deaths.

A pedestrian hit by a vehicle moving at 20 mph has a 95 percent chance of surviving. For a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph, the current city speed limit, the survival rate drops to 55 percent. Research cited by the 20′s Plenty For Us campaign shows that lower speed limits reduce collisions overall.

In their first two weeks of operation, DOT speed cameras issued 900 tickets in school zones. The cameras are operational only during school hours, and only ticket drivers who are traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit.

At least 12 children age 14 and under were killed by New York City motorists since January 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Traffic crashes consistently rank as the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC. Research shows that children under the age of 10 can’t hear oncoming vehicles as well as older kids and adults.

Yesterday, over 100 people gathered on Prospect Park West in support of the speed limit bills, at a rally organized by Right of Way. “This is a crucial step in Mayor de Blasio’s push toward Vision Zero,” said Right of Way’s Keegan Stephan in a written statement. Stephan said yesterday’s event was held with just two days’ notice.

As we reported in January, the proposed state legislation is stronger than similar bills introduced in the City Council last year, and would supersede equivalent city laws.