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Posts from the "Street Safety" Category

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Mary Beth Kelly: Let’s Start Driving on City Streets With a Respect for Life


Tomorrow the default New York City speed limit will drop to 25 miles per hour. This change was a major component of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and thanks to support from city and state lawmakers, and tireless advocacy on the part of Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, streets will be more forgiving for New Yorkers who walk, bike, and drive.

While new signage is at the ready, and the city has worked at getting the word out, all city motorists won’t ease off their accelerators at the stroke of midnight. In this short PSA, Mary Beth Kelly of Families for Safe Streets tells Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson what she hopes to see as drivers become accustomed to the new law.

“I’d like to see New Yorkers re-learn how to drive in an urban space,” says Kelly.

I think, like with any change, our neuro-circuitry isn’t prepared, and it’s going to take practice, and time, and people are going to feel like going slower with the new 25 miles per hour is too slow. But that’s only because we’re used to going so much faster, or trying to. So it’s a matter of practice and getting used to that, so that when you go fast you feel uncomfortable, you feel the difference, and you realize, rather it feeling too slow, you’re noticing when it’s feeling too fast.

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Hit-and-Run Drivers Strike Twice at Dangerous Fourth Avenue Intersection

A driver speeding north on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope this afternoon ran a red light and struck a woman, leaving her seriously injured before speeding away from the scene. Less than six weeks ago, a hit-and-run driver — also speeding north on Fourth Avenue, also running a red — injured a cyclist at the same location before crashing his car and fleeing on foot.

Police investigate the crash scene this afternoon. Photo: @JohnJayInNYC/Twitter

Police investigate the crash scene this afternoon. Photo: @JohnJayInNYC/Twitter

The woman injured today was crossing Fourth Avenue at Union Street at 12:35 p.m. when the northbound driver ran a red light and struck her in the crosswalk. She was transported to Lutheran Hospital in serious condition. According to the Daily News, she suffers from an open skull fracture. Police have not released her identity.

Witnesses interviewed by DNAinfo said the victim, age 46, landed head first on the pavement. The witnesses, who both work as EMTs, assisted the woman before an ambulance arrived. “Her face was covered with blood,” one witness said. “She was unconscious.”

The driver, behind the wheel of a dark Hyundai Elantra, fled the scene and kept going up Fourth Avenue. Police say the car may be the same vehicle that was reported stolen in Borough Park a half-hour after the crash. DNAinfo reports that police are looking for a vehicle with the license plate GRM8448.

On September 28, a similar crash occurred at the same location. A driver going north on Fourth Avenue sped past Union Street before crashing into a parked car one block away at Degraw Street. The driver got out of the car and fled on foot. Although witnesses said the driver had injured someone at Union Street before fleeing, police said the crash involved only property damage.

Two weeks after the crash, Boerum Hill resident David Pauley, 48, contacted Streetsblog to say he was the person injured by the driver at Union Street. According to a police crash report Pauley shared with Streetsblog, the driver was traveling northbound on Fourth Avenue when he ran a red light and struck another vehicle in the intersection. The driver then struck Pauley, who was going west on Union and had just entered the intersection. Like the woman injured today, Pauley landed on his head. He credits his bike helmet, which split in half, for sparing him more serious injury.

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NYPD Training Precinct Cops to Charge Drivers Who Violate Right of Way Law

All 35,000 of New York City’s uniformed police officers will be trained to file charges against drivers who violate the new Right of Way Law, according to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Image: NYPD

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYPD

The law, also known as Section 19-190, established misdemeanor penalties for drivers who strike and injure pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way, part of a Vision Zero legislative package Mayor de Blasio signed earlier this year. Now, a reckless driver who harms someone else could end up with a permanent criminal record instead of facing no meaningful consequences, which has typically been the case even when a motorist inflicts grievous injury or death.

Since the law went into effect in August, however, charges have remained scarce. Most citations for violating the Right of Way Law have been filed by the Collision Investigation Squad, which is staffed by fewer than 30 officers and can handle only a small fraction of crashes that result in serious injury. To date, only one reported Right of Way violation has been issued by a precinct officer. Since precinct officers are far more numerous than CIS investigators and are usually the first to arrive at a crash scene, the success of the Right of Way Law hinges on equipping them to enforce it.

I asked Chan about how the department enforces the Right of Way Law after the mayor’s press conference yesterday on the city’s new 25 mph speed limit. Here is his response, in full:

We’re in the process. We’re working with our police academy, and we’re taking a look. Because we have a large [department] — 35,000 officers are going to be doing the enforcement on that area — it’s not only on the level of CIS. We want to make sure that they have the proper guidance and the proper protocol for that.

Right now, it’s running through the course of channels, the legal bureau within the police department. And then ultimately, we will touch base also with the DA’s offices, because again, we want to make sure that we get it out there, and we get it out there correctly, because it’s a very important law that will make an impact out there. Again, with 35,000 people, we don’t want to get variations, different interpretations, and that’s part of why it’s important for us to make sure we get our people on board and get it done correctly.

I asked to confirm that precinct-level officers will be enforcing the 19-190 law. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely,” Chan said. Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for more information on how the department is training officers to enforce Section 19-190.

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De Blasio Signs 25 MPH Legislation, Promises More NYPD Bike Enforcement

It’s official. This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio, surrounded by administration appointees, elected officials from the City Council and state legislature, and families of traffic violence victims, signed legislation that lowers New York City’s default speed limit to 25 mph. The law takes effect November 7.

Before the bill signing, de Blasio crossed Delancey Street near where a driver killed 12-year-old Dashane Santana in 2012. DOT modified the street’s design later that year in response to her death. Today, de Blasio called for more. “We have to do a lot of work to fix conditions like this across the city,” he said. “It can be done, but it begins with reducing speeding.”

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted that 50 years ago this month, the state legislature raised the default speed limit from 25 to 30 mph. “With this history in mind, it is so nice to be here today having a chance to right this historical wrong,” she said, “and lower the speed limit back to 25 miles per hour.”

Council Member David Greenfield proposed lower speed limit legislation in the City Council in 2013. “This is literally the linchpin of Vision Zero,” he said. “When you drive slower, you can stop faster.”

Under the new law, DOT will be able to sign streets on a case-by-case basis for speed limits other than 25 mph. Trottenberg has said that DOT will set higher speed limits for some major streets, but has not clarified which ones will be exempt from the new 25 mph limit. Earlier this year, DOT refused to lower the speed limit on Queens Boulevard as part of its “arterial Slow Zone” program.

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DA Cy Vance: $250 Fine for Motorist Accused of Deliberately Striking Cyclist

Manhattan DA Cy Vance dropped assault charges against Jose Henriquez, the hit-and-run driver accused of intentionally striking a cyclist with an SUV. Henriquez was allowed to plead to leaving the scene and was fined $250. Vance photo: Brad Aaron. Henriquez photo via Facebook

Manhattan DA Cy Vance dropped assault charges against Jose Henriquez, a hit-and-run driver accused of intentionally striking a cyclist with an SUV. Henriquez was allowed to plead to leaving the scene and was fined $250. Vance photo: Brad Aaron. Henriquez photo via Facebook

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped assault charges against a hit-and-run driver accused of intentionally ramming a cyclist with an SUV, allowing the defendant to plead guilty to leaving the scene and pay a small fine, according to court documents and the victim’s attorney, Steve Vaccaro.

Vaccaro says the case was one of several handled by his firm, Vaccaro and White, in which Vance’s office declined or otherwise failed to pursue assault charges against motorists and pedestrians who attacked cyclists or purposefully hit them with motor vehicles.

According to Vaccaro and a witness affidavit [PDF], at around 5:00 p.m. on July 13, 2013, Michael (not his actual name) was riding his bike on Avenue B on the Lower East Side. Avenue B is a narrow two-way street with no bike lanes and parking on both sides. To avoid being doored, Michael was riding in the center of his lane. When a motorist approached Michael from behind, tailgating and honking, he responded by flipping the driver off.

Approaching the intersection of Avenue B and E. 13th Street, Michael slowed for a red light. According to the affidavit, the driver, still behind him, accelerated, striking the back of Michael’s bike and flipping him over the handlebars, causing him to hit his head on the ground. With Michael in the street bleeding from his face and head, the motorist swerved around him and attempted to drive off. A second motorist on the opposite side of the intersection tried to block the way, but the SUV driver went around the vehicle and left the scene.

Witnesses noted the SUV’s plate number, and the driver was identified by NYPD as 33-year-old Jose Henriquez, of Queens.

Michael suffered lacerations to his face. Despite his injuries and the circumstances of the crash, NYPD and prosecutors with Vance’s office initially charged Henriquez only with leaving the scene. “We went out and got the witnesses to establish that it was a deliberate strike, and to the DA’s credit, they added assault charges,” says Vaccaro. “Now, inexplicably and without justification, they have dropped them.”

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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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Rumor Mill: Safety Overhaul in the Works for the “Boulevard of Death”

Word on the street is that Queens Boulevard could be the first major arterial redesign initiated by Polly Trottenberg’s DOT.

DOT is preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

DOT is reportedly preparing to launch an effort to redesign Queens Boulevard. Photo: gaspi/Flickr

At a Friday panel on transportation equity organized by the Congress for the New Urbanism, architect John Massengale said he is working with Transportation Alternatives on conceptual designs that will spark conversation before DOT hosts workshops about the project. ”The idea is that side lanes on the multi-lane boulevard become much, much slower,” Massengale said. The basic framework he envisions would include wider sidewalks and a protected bike lane next to the sidewalk.

DOT has not responded to a request for comment, but a source familiar with the project confirmed that the agency will soon reach out to elected officials and community boards about remaking what’s long been known as the “Boulevard of Death.” Update: ”Safety on Queens Boulevard is a priority for DOT,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to engage elected officials, community boards and other local stakeholders in the coming months in a conversation about Queens Boulevard safety.”

While fatalities on Queens Boulevard dropped after changes made more than a decade ago, the street still ranks as one of the borough’s most dangerous streets. In May, DOT added Queens Boulevard to its arterial Slow Zone program, but did not lower its speed limit to 25 mph.

Volunteers at TA have spent years building support for a safer Queens Boulevard, with a united front of council members and growing interest from community boards along the street.

Massengale said New York will have to continue breaking new ground on street design to eliminate traffic deaths. “These new arterials, they have cut fatalities,” Massengale said, referring to NYC DOT’s protected bike lane and arterial traffic calming projects. “But this design is not going to get to zero, because the only way to get to zero is to slow the cars way down.” Even recently redesigned streets like Second Avenue, he said, don’t have design speeds that match the city’s impending 25 mph speed limit.

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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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Report: Pedestrian Injuries Caused by Cyclists Declining in NYC

Contrary to the would-be bikelash revivalists among the city press corps, a new study finds that injuries to pedestrians hit by cyclists are on the decline in NYC.

Released this week, the study was authored by Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski of Hunter College, along with NYU’s Richard Maisel. Reporting for CityLab, Sarah Goodyear writes that researchers examined hospital records in New York City and New York State between 2004 and 2011, in addition to California records from 2005 to 2011.

The study adds more recent information to figures Tuckel and Milczarski shared with Streetsblog in 2011, and reflects the same trends. As NYC added bike infrastructure and more cyclists took to the streets, the report says, the rate of injuries to pedestrians caused by cyclists dropped. Writes Goodyear:

In both New York City and New York State, which the researchers considered separately, the current decline began after several years of a steady upward trend. Between 2004 and 2008, the rate of cyclist-caused pedestrian injuries in New York State went from 3.29 per 100,000-person population to 5.45, then dropped to 3.78 by 2011. In New York City, the rate climbed from 4.26 in 2004 to 7.54 in 2008, but then fell again, to 6.06 by 2011.

As the paper states, the sheer number of cyclists in New York City soared during the years in question: The number of people biking into lower Manhattan, for instance, doubled between 2007 and 2011, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.

Overall, Goodyear writes, cyclists injured 7,904 pedestrians in New York State, NYC included, between 2004 and 2011. Ninety-two percent of victims were treated as outpatients.

For the sake of comparison, New York State motorists injured and killed approximately 22,000 pedestrians and cyclists in 2012 alone. City cyclists have killed three pedestrians since 2009, with two fatal crashes occurring in the last two months. Drivers killed 178 pedestrians and cyclists in NYC in 2013, according to NYPD.

The report attributes the drop in injuries to pedestrians becoming more accustomed to cyclists on the streets, safety education campaigns, and a higher number of kids being driven to school and fewer playing outside, though that stat is likely not as relevant in NYC.

“The other, more compelling explanation advanced by the researchers is that improvements in bike infrastructure have led to streets that are safer for all users,” writes Goodyear. “They cite NYC DOT reports that show, for instance, a decline of 58 percent in injuries to all users on Ninth Avenue, where a protected bike lane was part of a significant street redesign.” The city doubled the size of its bike network between 2007 and 2010.

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NYPD Data Show Cracking Down on Cyclists Isn’t Preventing Cyclist Deaths

Eight months into Vision Zero, and after weeks of targeted enforcement during “Operation Safe Cycle,” department data show NYPD isn’t moving the needle much on cyclist injuries and deaths.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan can save lives and prevent injuries by concentrating traffic enforcement on reckless drivers, rather than cyclists. Photo: NYC DOT

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan can save lives and prevent injuries by concentrating traffic enforcement on reckless drivers. Photo: NYC DOT

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced Wednesday that drivers have killed 17 city cyclists so far this year. That’s a 142 percent increase from the first nine months of 2013 — but fatalities can vary widely from year to year, and with 10 total deaths, 2013 marked a record low. This year’s figures are on par with 2012, when motorists killed 17 people on bikes through September, according to NYPD.

Injuries are not as prone to random variation, and numbers have held relatively steady for the last three years. Through August 2014 (the latest data available), NYPD reported 2,575 cyclist injuries. There were 2,684 and 2,599 cyclist injuries through August of 2013 and 2012, respectively. Thanks to new bike lanes and Citi Bike, more people are cycling in New York, so any given cyclist is safer, but to reduce the absolute number of injuries and deaths, NYPD has to raise its game.

Based on NYPD crash reports from the late 90s, research from Charles Komanoff and Right of Way showed that driver behavior was the principal cause of 57 percent of crashes that resulted in cyclist deaths, and that motorists were partly responsible for an additional 21 percent of cyclist fatalities [PDF]. Leading causes of crashes were unsafe passing, drivers turning in front of cyclists, speeding, and drivers running red lights and stop signs.

NYPD summons reports show police are citing more drivers for speeding, running red lights, and failure to yield than in 2013 and 2012, while enforcement for driving while using a cell phone is down. Enforcement continues to lag in significant ways, however. For instance, one of the most valuable tools police now have to deter traffic violence — Section 19-190, the new law that makes it a crime for a driver to injure a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way — remains virtually unused.

Targeting those who are being harmed won’t get NYC to Vision Zero. To reduce cyclist injuries and deaths, NYPD has to reduce the incidence of motorist behavior that puts others at risk.