About a week before the Tri-State Transportation Campaign issued a report revealing that eight pedestrians were killed on the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood between 2006 and 2008, newly-elected Upper Manhattan City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez attended a protest calling for justice. NYPD, it seems, is regularly ticketing drivers for blocking intersections on traffic-choked W. 181st Street, and Rodriguez wants it to stop.
The December 28 rally, the Manhattan Times reports, was organized by Fundación Minerva Mirabal, and was heavily attended — to the extent that it was attended at all — by representatives of livery cab companies, whose ubiquitous black Town Cars are the uptown counterpart of the yellow cab. The Times explains the problem as Rodriguez and his co-complainants see it:
As vehicles stack up at lights, drivers, hoping the line will inch up before the light turns red, inevitably get stuck in the intersection and are ticketed.
"If you drive 125th Street there’s a team of one to two traffic agents moving traffic," Rodriguez said. Ticketing drivers instead of helping move traffic on the street amounts to harassment, he said.
Rodriguez has put calls into the head of traffic enforcement to hopefully find a solution to the problem.
One solution that must not have occurred to the council member is for drivers to obey the law. Clogged intersections are a major contributor to the gridlock that so offends Rodriguez, and crosswalk violations pose a significant safety risk to people on foot. For these reasons, city traffic law is fairly unambiguous when it comes to proper motorist protocol:
No operator shall enter an intersection and its crosswalks unless there is sufficient unobstructed space beyond the intersection and its crosswalks in the lane in which he/she is traveling to accommodate the vehicle, notwithstanding any traffic control signal indication to proceed.
But Rodriguez would apparently rather shift enforcement resources to "helping move traffic," which to us sounds like code for ushering drivers through intersections teeming with pedestrians. This in a district where roughly 80 percent of households don’t own a car. It must also be noted that, during his campaign, Rodriguez bragged of helping quash the effort to toll northern Manhattan’s "free" bridges, ensuring 181st Street’s status as a traffic magnet for the foreseeable future (while endangering his constituents’ access to adequate transit service).
A Rodriguez staffer indicated to Streetsblog that we’d get clarification on where Rodriguez stands when it comes to balancing motorist convenience and pedestrian safety, but his office ultimately did not respond to our questions. DOT’s planned revamp of 181, meanwhile, has been delayed by at least a year, according to the Times.