Traffic Justice: Will NYPD enforce the Law?

Last month , CHEKPEDS board of Directors met with Steve Vaccaro, of the law firm of Vaccaro & White,  whose life’s  mission is to further traffic justice for pedestrians and bicyclists. He is also a co-founder of StreetsPac which vets candidates for their traffic safety and complete streets creds.

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Steve had good news and bad news on traffic justice. There is much progress on the front of the laws- Mayor de Blasio passed 11 laws in June to give more tools to NYPD and District Attorneys to crack down on drivers that injure or kill vulnerable users .

In particular Intro 238, created section  19-190 of the Administrative Code of New York that establishes criminal penalties for drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists and injures or kill them, a major progress that makes it possible for NYPD to investigate even if they have not personally observed the violation. Precinct officers can use this tool for lesser injuries without having to involve the Collision Investigation Division. The drivers can be found guilty regardless of intent. Read a full explanation by Steve Vaccaro Here. 

However in a recent New York Time Oped , Dana Lerner, the mother of a child killed in a pedestrian crossing while he had the walk sign, wonders Why Drivers get away with Murder?  She writes”Cooper’s Law authorizes the Taxi and Limousine Commission to immediately revoke the licenses of drivers involved in serious crashes, pending an investigation. It went into effect last week. When the law was passed in June, it felt like an important accomplishment. Now, I have doubts.”  and then she echoes our feelings. “Vision Zero is an admirable plan, but this is a city where every 48 hours, a pedestrian or cyclist is killed by traffic. We don’t need more laws named for the victims; we need to hold law enforcement accountable for using the laws we have. It’s either that, or condemn more parents to the misery my husband and I know“.

While the law should be enforced as a routine, it will not bring the victims back to their families. DOT has step up the reengineering the streets to prevent such tragedies:  install split phases at each of those intersections so that their is no vehicular/pedestrian conflicts. Amongst the many benefits of split phases for pedestrians and bicyclists, the main one is that pedestrians have a green light while vehicles have a red arrow thus eliminating turning conflicts. No wonder that on the 9th Avenue bike lane in Chelsea , such feature nearly doubled the reduction in crashes compared to other bike lanes without it.

Our elected officials have to ensure the DOT is proactively installing this feature and the NYPD enforces the law. Fortunately Council Member Chin stepped up to the plate and recently wrote to Chief Chan about a recent pedestrian death asking that the full law be enforced.

Drivers injured and killed over 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists in 2013; CIS works around 300 cases a year. Unless NYPD begins enforcing Section 19-190 as it was intended, the vast majority of drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists will continue to go unpenalized.

It is time to double down and challenge our police precincts on the use of section 19-190 of the administrative code . You can use this chart of reported injuries in September to ask your police precinct how many 19-190 infractions they have written.

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Are Cyclists like Drivers or Pedestrians?

In the wake of the horrific deaths of two pedestrians after being hit by cyclists , a healthy debate has taken place in the press and at CHEKPEDS. It seems that the question is at the heart of the current debate on cyclists.

 

One treats bicycles like vehicles because they use the roadway, but they do not enjoy the same privileges as the cars do: no bicycle highways,  no dedicated roads except a few protected bike lanes which are still the exception. When there is a bike lane, bicyclists get a ticket if they ride on the rest of the road, contrary to drivers which are allowed to drive on non-protected bike lanes. Bike parking is quasi nonexistent, while car parking is ubiquitous.

 

Parking, when available, is on the sidewalk. Does that mean bicyclists  should be treated like pedestrians? Both groups are vulnerable users of the roads: in a crash with a car, it is easy to see who is most at risk. But pedestrians jaywalk everywhere while seldom risking a ticket and the sidewalk is dedicated to them, a luxury cyclists do not have.

 

Don’t get me wrong: I get mad at cyclists on the sidewalk, although I frequently walk in the street, and I am particularly scared of cyclists going the wrong way, although pedestrians can go both ways. Can you imagine the compliance level if sidewalks were one-way only ?

 

As classes with established rights, we expect newcomers to strictly follow the rules while we feel entitled to bend them. As New-Yorkers, we are very protective of our scarce public space. Hence the general rage at seeing a new tribe grabbing a bit of our territory… Not much evolution in 4 million years.

 

And like in any other population, there is a certain percentage of crazy, obnoxious, reckless cyclists and drivers that will cause collisions and harm. They should be prosecuted severely, but this is not an excuse to blame the whole group for their misdeeds.

 

So bicyclists are a new category of street users and overtime I expect they will get their own rules consistent with a completed infrastructure. Until then, they are flesh and blood, as vulnerable as pedestrians,  and that’s enough for me.
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Success: Reclaiming our Streets from Buses

Last month , CB4 Chairs of Transportation met with 20 bus companies, including New Jersey Transit, DOT , Port Authority  and NYPD to discuss the various issues that plague our neighborhoods. Two major successes came out of the meeting:

IB-3New Jersey Transit indicated that they have implemented, jointly with Port Authority , a new protocol for buses coming in form New Jersey in the afternoon: instead of leaving early and queueing in the street and the bus terminal, they now leave right on time and proceed directly into the terminal without being diverted to the street. This requires an intense use of the PA police officers who dislodge any bus double parked in the terminal. This also requires that other companies follow the same protocol.

As a result, the massive queues of idling buses on 10th avenue from 30th to 40th streets have disappeared between 4:00 and 5:30 pm. Depending on the conditions , the diversion may be reactivated at 5:30 pm. It is still an experiment but the results are stunning.  People can cross the street on 10th Avenue without risking their life, businesses can have access to their lots and the MTA bus can pick up passenger at 34th and 37th Streets. In short a normal life.

We also learned in the meeting that a traffic agent at 40th Street and 10th Avenue wassystematically directing buses away from 40th Street and up 10th Avenue. Bus companies complained that once the bus drivers reached 44th Street, they were getting tickets, the result of a combined CHEKPEDS and 44th Street Block Association efforts.

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As a result Chief CHAN ordered the traffic team to let buses use 40th Street. Since then 44th Street has seen a drastic reduction in bus traffic and those same buses do not clog 9th Avenue or effect four  dangerous turns that put pedestrians at risk.

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Join Us to Meet with our Favorite Bus Companies

CB4 Transportation Committee
Wednesday, September 17, 6:30 p.m.
Cameo Studios, 307 West 43rd street, Studio B

The executives of many of our favorite bus companies  - including New Jersey Transit – have accepted to meet with the community to discuss their plans related to Bus Routes, Pedestrian Safety and Long Term Initiatives to limit or eliminate using our streets as a parking and taxiway to the Bus Terminal. We also expect members of DOT, NYPD and Port Authority to attend.

Do not miss this opportunity to make your voice heard and to better understand the challenges facing these carriers.

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More Bus Challenges at CB4 Transportation Committee

The Transportation committee will discuss long distance and bus stop placements at

Jitney buses – relocation from currently W. 42nd street (8/9)

to possible locations including W. 40th Street (8/9),  W. 41st (Dyer/10) , W.39th Street (9/10), W.42nd Street (Dyer/10), (discussion)

Martz bus – 9th Avenue (33/34).  (vote)

 

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Same Street, A Second Name

 

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Last Friday at 2 p.m. our elected officials and a large crowd overtook the Northeast corner of 43rd Street and 10th Avneue to honor the memory of Stan Brooks, who passed away early this year. Sam a radio legend and the voice of New York: he had been working as an announcer on 1010Wins for 50 years and was universally loved in the profession.

He had been living with his wife at Manhattan Plaza for the last 28 years. ” Better to Burn out than to fade away… “

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On both sides of the Hudson, Businesses want More Mass Transit to cross the river

1910 is the last time a rail connection was built across the Hudson River. Since then competition  between the states and the emergence of the automobile resulted in no improvement in public transit connectivity. At a packed Symposium convened by the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce last week, a panel of Transportation and Business Executives called for a future where to compete in the global markets and succeed,  both states need to work together as a Region.

Steven Spinola, head of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, opened his remarks as saying: “30 years ago I came to this state to debate how New York competes with New Jersey : I was wrong! we need to work together as a region”  and Veronique Hakim, Executive Director, NJ Transit discussed her model of Cross Hudson partnerships to resolve problems on the ground on both sides of the river.

IMG_34smallJohn Robert Smith , CEO, Transportation4 America opened with statistics on generational and population changes that are already taking place and will accelerate in the near future. Less and less people want to use their cars in the US and especially in the region. 77% of americans want to live in a pedestrian friendly neighborhood . To attract highly qualified employees, corporations have to locate downtown or in proximity to transit. For municipalities, property taxes generated by a pedestrian friendly neighborhood  are 100 X those generated by Walmart on a per foot basis. eh jobs per acre are 73. 7 instead of 5.9 per acre for Walmart. Proposed changes to the Federal funding may give more power to the regions to select the most critical regional projects that  should be funded by Washington.

Mitchell Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation (NYU) illustrated how much New Jersey and New York are already functioning as a region, with many examples and – what else –  a map of the “New York ” sports team some of them  with a home in New Jersey , and the transit options to visit them . Powerful message.  If we are all cheering for the same team, we are probably on the same team. 

Martin Robins, Fellow at Rutgers University Transportation Center, pointed out the need for a joint prioritization of trans Hudson projects  and the need of both a rail and subway crossing.  Obviously Port Authority is more focused on maintaining existing facilitates on both sides of the river, and especially bridges as Michael Massiah, Chief, Capital Planning , Port Authority NY&NJ described .

Drew Galloway, Chief Planning and Performance, Amtrak described efforts to improve capacity across the river, by the expansion of the Amtrack platforms under  Moynihan Station, the construction of Gateway,  an enclosed easement  under the Hudson Rail Yards, to preserve the opportunity to build a new rail tunnel, and other projects which taken together are the foundation for a future new Hudson Crossing by rail .

While Veronique Hakim described the magnitude of capacity and customer service problems faced by New Jersey Transit  and announced short term changes that will eased the problem, Steve Spinola raised the challenge of the long term solution:  “Extending the # 7 to New Jersy is too good an idea to let it languish because of lack of funding”. On a per passenger basis the costs would be less than the price of the La Guardia airport renovation  and would yield a massive economic benefit in increasing the pool of workers, increasing property values, and quality of life for residents and commuters.  In a recent survey 85% of business respondents in New Jersey.com voted in favor of expanding the #7 line from 33rd Street and 11th Avenue to Secaucus., where a new bus terminal would be built and thus remove the need for many buses to bring commuters to the West side. They would board the subway in Secaucus. see more on the proposal here 

Rutgers university is undertaking a study to qualify the economic benefits of such a connection. See article 

 

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Pedestrian Delight: 41st Street Protected Crossing

After six years of asking and two neighbors killed, it is finally SAFE for pedestrians to cross 41st Street on the West side of 9th Avenue! As you can see below, pedestrians are actually talking and smiling while crossing the street, a real testament to the immense relief the improvements the DOT installed are bringing to our neighbors.

IMG_3379IMG_3381In addition to the dedicated crossing while the turning buses and trucks have a red arrow, there is now a bulb-out for pedestrians to use , that will soon receive large planted pots. DOT also created two turning lanes reserved for buses at peak hour and going north above 42nd street a bus lane up to 47th Street. This is intended to regroup buses on the west side of the avenue and let other traffic flow on the east side and thus reduce congestion at this intersection.

This installation continues the succession of improvements the DOT has made on this corridor. Combined with the changes at 36th street, it now allows pedestrians to use the West Sidewalk of 9th Avenue between 34th and 42nd Street when they could not before. The corollary is that the East Sidewalk is less congested and easier to navigate except at peak hours.

DOT still has  16 intersections to improve, for which we should get a report this year and installation next year.

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Join us: Trans-Hudson Transportation Summit

Connecting the region
Fiday, September 12, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Hilton Hasbrouck Heights / Meadowlands , 650 Terrace Avenue , Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604

REGISTER HERE

The Meadowland Chamber of commerce is convening a Transportation Summit covering topics extremely relevant to the future of the West side:

FEDERAL PERSPECTIVE ON INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
THINKING REGIONALLY, ACTING REGIONALLY
TRANS-HUDSON INITIATIVES
REGIONAL TO LOCAL NEEDS
LAST MILE CONNECTIONS
NEXT ACTION STEPS

With an exceptional panel of speakers:

  • John Robert Smith , CEO, Transportation4 America
  • Mary K. Murphy, Executive Director, NJTPA
  • Veronique Hakim, Executive Director, NJ Transit
  • Martin Robins, Rutgers University Transportation Center
  • Mitchell Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation (NYU)
  • Drew Galloway, Chief Planing and Performance, Amtrak
  • Steven Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York
  • Michael Massiah, Chief, Capital Planning , Port Authority NY&NJ

REGISTER HERE

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In the News

Progress Is Made in Plan to Convert Post Office Into Penn Station Annex – NYTimes.com.

Jitney bus in Lincoln tunnel crash: one killed three injured

9th avenue bike lane (16th to 23rd Street) brings the most safety improvements for cyclists

NYPD “not Ready” to apply New Vision Zero laws that protect pedestrians

Council Bill proposes higher fines for Hit and run drivers 

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