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DMV Cheating Cyclists With Unlawful Surcharges and License Points

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As NYPD’s latest bike ticket blitz — “Operation Safe Cycle” – rolls into its second week, here at my law firm we’ve been getting more than the usual number of phone calls and emails from cyclists with questions about summonses. Usually the big question in these discussions is whether to plead guilty, not how to plead guilty. But now it appears that if you pay your fine online for a moving violation while cycling, you’ll probably be paying an $88 surcharge that you shouldn’t be, and getting points on your license that don’t belong there.

The problem arises when cyclists make their plea and pay the fine online, as most who receive traffic tickets in New York City do. Even though traffic tickets issued to cyclists usually indicate on their face that the vehicle is a “bicycle,” the DMV’s online payment system appears to ignore this fact.

Yet the DMV’s own rules with respect to surcharges and license points make crystal clear that they do not apply to cyclists. The specific provisions of law that exempt cyclists from the $88 surcharge and from points are set forth in a letter we recently sent to the DMV demanding that it cease and desist from applying these unlawful penalties. We have yet to receive a response.

This is no simple computer glitch either. Judging from the pre-printed traffic forms supplied by the DMV, you’d think it’s trying deliberately to trick cyclists into overpaying their fines. The form states: “included in the total amount for each violation (except equipment) are mandatory surcharges in the amount of $88. Equipment violations include mandatory surcharges of $58.”

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Don’t Blame Hills for Pittsburgh’s Pedestrian Injuries

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published an in-depth investigation of the city’s pedestrian safety record. The paper reported that 2,100 collisions injured or killed pedestrians in the city between 2006 and 2013.

Being a hilly city doesn't preclude being a great place to walk. Photo: Wikipedia

Being a hilly city doesn’t preclude being a safe place to walk. Photo: Wikipedia

That should be a wake-up call, says Bike PGH Executive Director Scott Bricker on the organization’s blog. But some local traffic engineers are trying to deflect blame to the city’s famously hilly topography. In a letter to the editor published in the Post-Gazette and on the Bike PGH blog, Bricker says blaming the city’s hills is a copout:

The suggestion by Todd Kravits, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 11 traffic engineer, that it is our topography that is at fault is confusing and unfounded. He suggests that if Pittsburgh had more streets resembling “nice flat tables,” it would enable our streets to be engineered more safely; in reality, according to the article’s accompanying map, our flattest stretches of roadway are seeing the highest number of crashes with pedestrians. Mr. Kravits’ assertion that our hills are at fault in some way for these crashes simply does not jibe with the data here.

Norway, home of the vertical city of Oslo, has the second-lowest pedestrian fatality rate in Europe. How do they do it? By putting people, not cars, first in their planning and roadway engineering. For 50 years engineers in the United States have done the opposite. Righting this wrong will not only save lives but also create great, walkable places at the same time.

The city of San Francisco, another famously hilly city, recently announced its adoption of “Vision Zero,” a plan to completely eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2024. I urge Pittsburgh and its partners at PennDOT to do the same. Adopting a Vision Zero policy will set in motion the strategies needed to eliminate serious crashes locally by uniting design and engineering, enforcement, legislation and public health into a singular vision for the safety and vibrancy of our streets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Strong Towns wonders whether it’s wise to count streets as public assets, rather than liabilities. And Mobilizing the Region reports that New Jersey legislators are finally attempting to piece together a solution to the state’s transportation funding problems.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Karoll Grzegorczyk, 32, Crossing Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth (News, NY1)
  • Police Search for Driver Who Used Car as Weapon in Bruckner Blvd Hit-and-Run (WCBS, WNBC)
  • Driver Who Called Sikh Man a “Terrorist” and Ran Him Down Last Month Has Been Arrested (Post)
  • Cab Riders United Launches, Focused on Safety, Boro Taxis, Vehicle Improvements (CapNY)
  • SI Pols Call for More Transit, Then Work Against Actual Transit Improvements (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • Malliotakis, Astorino Want MTA Funds for S.I.; Call Speed, Red Light Cams “Entrapment” (Advance)
  • SIEDC Relaunches Effort to Study West Shore Light Rail With Plea to Cuomo (Advance, DNA)
  • Jury Awards Brooklyn Man $150,000 for False Arrest After Cops Got Upset About Traffic (News)
  • Queens CB 9 Will Meet Thursday After Complaints About Plaza Replacing Parking (Forum, QChron)
  • TA Designates Sunnyside a Bike-Friendly Business District (Sunnyside Post)
  • Six Months Into Vision Zero, Queens Precincts Are Mixed on Traffic Safety (Make Queens Safer)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Kidical Mass NYC and Summer Streets Bring Out the Tykes on Bikes

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This just about captures the mood on the ride from Borough Hall to Astor Place. (Note: Biking on the sidewalk is legal in NYC if you’re under 13.) All photos: Ben Fried

Mission accomplished for the first Kidical Mass NYC ride: The all-ages Saturday morning bike convoy from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Summer Streets was a ton of fun.

Moms, dads, and kids — about two dozen people all told — made the trip with an assortment of box bikes, child seats, trailers, and kiddie cycles. The self-propelled children were super impressive. No one had training wheels, and they all made it over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here are some photos of the ride, plus some shots of Summer Streets, which seems to be drawing more families with kids every year. To plug into the next Kidical Mass NYC ride, follow them on Facebook.

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At Kidical Mass, everyone got their cues from ride organizers Ali Loxton and Doug Gordon.

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First leg: Cadman Plaza.

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Tourists all over the place on the Brooklyn Bridge? No problem.

Summer Streets itself has turned into a great family event and on-the-ground classroom for precocious cyclists. It is simply amazing to see kids as young as 4 pedaling down Park Avenue and Lafayette Street. And there are a ton of them…

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Why It Makes Sense to Add Biking and Walking Routes Along Active Rail Lines

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River Trail -- 60 miles long and about to double in length -- provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from ##http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork/reports/railwithtrail/report.html##RTC##

Despite high train frequency, southeastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail — 60 miles long and about to double in length — provides a stress-free biking and walking experience. All photos from RTC

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

You’ve heard of rail-trails — abandoned rail lines that have been turned into multi-use paths for biking and walking. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

But these trails don’t need to be built on the graves of defunct rail lines. A growing number of them, in fact, are constructed next to active rail lines. In 1996, there were slightly less than 300 miles of these trails. Today there are about 1,400 miles.

Railroads tend to be skittish about approving walking and biking routes because they fear liability if someone gets injured. Even so, 43 percent of rails-with-trails, as they’re known, are located wholly within railroad rights-of-way, while another 12 percent have some segments inside the right-of-way. So negotiating with railroads — from Class I freight railroads to urban light rail operators — is possible, if you know how to approach them.

At the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in Pittsburgh next month, Kelly Pack of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will be joined by Thomas Baxter of Pittsburgh’s Friends of the Riverfront and Jerry Walls, who chairs the board of the SEDA-COG joint rail authority in central Pennsylvania, to give tips on how to create new rails-with-trails.

While railroads are wary of opening up space near tracks to people walking and biking, there are ways to get through to them. And if advocates in your area aren’t convinced that walking and biking alongside a noisy railroad track is such a great idea, there are arguments to address their perspective, too. Here are eight great things about rails-with-trails.

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Jerrison Garcia, 25, Third Cyclist Killed Near Park Ave. Viaduct in Two Years

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Cyclists on Park Avenue are sandwiched between the viaduct and parked cars while contending with moving vehicles and intersections with limited visibility. Image: Google Maps

Update: Cab driver Nojeem Odunfa of the Bronx was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, careless driving, and a right of way violation, according to NYPD. Odunfa was not immediately charged for killing Jerrison Garcia, and, if past patterns hold, he won’t be. Aggravated unlicensed operation carries nominal penalties and tends to be the default charge against sober unlicensed drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians in NYC.

For the third time in two years, a driver has killed a cyclist at the same Park Avenue intersection, under the Metro-North viaduct in East Harlem. In addition to recent fatalities, data show that Park Avenue along the viaduct is a hotspot for cyclist injuries.

At around 5:15 this morning, a livery cab driver traveling southbound on Park turned left into Jerrison Garcia, who was also southbound, at E. 108th Street, according to DNAinfo.

Blood stains at the intersection marked the roughly 80 feet that police said Garcia was dragged until the livery cab came to a rest on 108th Street.

Garcia, 25, was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. The 65-year-old driver, who reportedly works for Glory Car and Limo Service, was taken into police custody. NYPD told Gothamist “it was more than likely he would be charged with driving with a suspended license.”

Park Avenue is divided by the viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is parking on northbound and southbound Park Avenue along this stretch, but there is no designated lane for cyclists, who must share one narrow through-lane with moving vehicles while negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

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To Prevent Distracted Driving, New App Distracts Drivers

The new dash-mounted technology system Navdy proposes making texting while driving easier. Image: Navdy

The new windshield display system Navdy aims to make texting while driving easier. Image: Navdy

The new “heads-up” display system Navdy “feels like driving in the future,” according to its producers. The dash-mounted projector displays images from your phone on your windshield. The idea is that you can text and drive while keeping your eyes focused in the right direction. “No more looking down to fumble with knobs, buttons or touch screens,” goes the pitch.

James Sinclair at Stop and Move is not impressed:

What the product does is project information from your phone onto your windshield. Some of that information is relevant to driving, such as map navigation, and possibly in the future parking information from SF Park. The rest? Not so much.

Apparently driving is so boring that drivers cannot resist texting and checking emails for the duration of their trip. Navdy comes to the rescue by blowing up your text messages onto your windshield so you don’t have to deal with the monotony of driving by instead engaging in a titillating text-based conversation.

The worst part is that this group of entrepreneurs is trying to pitch this as a way to PREVENT distracted driving. Their reasoning is that drivers won’t be looking down at their laps, but will continue to look forward. Their video says “you need your eyes in front of you – you need Navdy.” Problem is, that’s not how distraction works.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Cyclist Hit by Livery Cab Driver Is Third Killed at E. 108th and Park in Two Years (Gothamist, DNA)
  • Steve Hindy: To Be Successful, Vision Zero Must Change Motorists’ Mindset (Crain’s)
  • De Blasio Adding Staff to DOT, NYPD (Post); Would Use City Funds for School Bus Driver Raises (Post)
  • Drunk Drivers Collide in Crown Heights; One Car Jumps Curb; Passenger Dead (NewsAMNY)
  • Jose Peralta Asks NYPD for More Crossing Guards — Not More Enforcement — in Queens Precincts (TL)
  • Cab Riders United: Conventional Taxi Designs Unsafe for Riders, Punishing on Drivers (Gotham Gazette)
  • Motorists: Why Pay for Parking When the Muni-Meter Is Broken? (AMNY)
  • Fare-Beating Arrests Are Way Up, With Many Perpetrators Going to Jail (News)
  • Post: Settlement Cash a Perfect Fit for the New Tappan Zee, ”Something Everyone Wants”
  • Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie Are Two Miscreant Peas in a Pod (WNYC 1, 2)
  • Mets Reliever Vic Black Left His Truck in Florida (News)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Tomorrow: It’s Kidical Mass NYC!

Tomorrow brings the first official ride for Kidical Mass NYC, an opportunity for adult cyclists of varying skill levels to hit the streets with their little ones.

Galit Gordon is ready for the inaugural Kidical Mass NYC ride. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov via ##https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/498895992528601088/photo/1##@BrooklynSpoke##

Galit Gordon is ready for Kidical Mass NYC. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov via @BrooklynSpoke

As the name implies, Kidical Mass brings together kids and parents for group rides. Many cities — including Washington, Philadelphia, and Portland —  have chapters. The local effort was inspired by the relatively recent proliferation of kid-carting cargo bikes in Brooklyn, says Doug Gordon, who founded the group with Alexandra Loxton and Hilda Cohen.

“It used to be that such bikes were rather uncommon in New York, but that’s not the case so much anymore,” says Gordon. “So we started talking about other families who ride with their kids or who have these kinds of bicycles and thought it would be fun to get a lot of them together.”

While the rides are intended to help young cyclists gain experience, Cohen says having strength in numbers is good for parents as well.

“We all three ride with our kids, and as they grow older, they are wanting to ride by themselves,” says Cohen. “We as parents are comfortable on our bikes, but there are many that are not, so we are trying to find a way to make parents more comfortable too.”

Participants in Saturday’s ride will meet up at Brooklyn Borough Hall at 8:45 a.m., then head over the Brooklyn Bridge for the last week of Summer Streets. A second ride is planned for September 20 in Gowanus and Red Hook. “We are all three based in Brooklyn,” says Cohen, “but to have these branch out into other boroughs would be ideal.”

The plan is to do one ride per month through fall, take a winter break, and pick things up next spring.

“Biking is probably the first situation for many kids where they are independent of their parents but able to keep up based on their own efforts,” Cohen says. “We feel that every kid should have this opportunity to experience this, regardless of where they live.”

“The main goal, no matter the location, is fun,” says Gordon. “Hopefully this will grow into something that, much like Critical Mass, becomes an event that any interested parent in the five boroughs can organize without much effort.”

There will be snacks tomorrow, along with stickers and “other goodies.” Check out the Kidical Mass NYC Facebook page, RSVP for the ride here, and if you plan to join, see Cohen’s short list of pointers after the jump.

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Removing Center Lines Reduced Speeding on London Streets

Traffic speeds slowed after London removed center lines. Image: Transport for London

Traffic speeds slowed after London resurfaced three streets and didn’t restore center lines, even though resurfacing alone was shown to increase average speeds. Graphic: Transport for London

On some streets, getting drivers to stop speeding might be as easy as eliminating a few stripes. That’s the finding from a new study from Transport for London [PDF].

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell about 7 miles per hour after centerlines were removed. Image: Transport for London

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell after center lines were removed. Photos: Transport for London

TfL recently examined the effect of eliminating center lines on three London streets. The agency found it slowed average driving speeds between 5 and 9 miles per hour, after taking into account the effect of resurfacing. (All three streets were also repaved, which has been shown to increase driving speeds.)

The experiment was performed last year on three 30 mph roads that had just been resurfaced, where center lines were not repainted. A fourth street was resurfaced and had its center lines painted back to serve as a control.

Researchers found that drivers slowed down on all the three streets without center lines. On Seven Sisters Road, for example, after the resurfacing, northbound speeds dropped 2.5 mph and southbound speeds fell 4.1 mph.

Those changes appear to understate the impact of removing the center lines. When TfL observed traffic on the control street, motorist speeds had increased an average of 4.5 mph. Apparently, the smoother road surface encouraged drivers to pick up the speed, making the reductions on the three other streets more impressive.

Researchers suggested that the uncertainty caused by the removal of center lines makes drivers more cautious:

A theory is that centre lines and hatching can provide a psychological sense of confidence to drivers that no vehicles will encroach on ‘their’ side of the road. There can also be a tendency for some drivers to position their vehicles close to a white line regardless of the traffic conditions, believing it is their ‘right’ to be in this position. Centre line removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds.

When it comes to center lines, TfL notes, “most traffic engineers prescribe them by default without questioning the necessity.” London appears to be reevaluating this assumption after a 2009 directive from Mayor Boris Johnson to eliminate as much clutter from the roadways as possible.