A Year Later, How’s James Vacca Doing on His Pledge to Protect Pedestrians?

Today NYC DOT announced its progress on a series of measures designed to promote safer riding habits among commercial cyclists. The agency has held 17 multi-lingual forums around the city to educate businesses and commercial cyclists about how to ride safely, and distributed kits with reflective vests, bells, and lights to 1,500 commercial cyclists through a partnership with delivery.com.

DOT also announced that enforcement of a package of laws passed by the City Council last October will start in April. The new laws, which include a requirement that commercial cyclists take an online safety course, were touted by City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca as a way to end the “wild, wild west” environment on city streets.

Now that Vacca’s laws are about to take effect, it’s worth looking back at what’s happened since he started his big safety push.

Back at the end of 2011, Vacca told the Post that he wanted to ramp up bike enforcement in the year ahead because, “My priority is protection of the pedestrians, and my mantra is that the pedestrian is always right, even when the pedestrian is wrong. Everything I do is governed by that basic foundation.”

In the year after Vacca proclaimed that everything he does is governed by the imperative to protect pedestrians, more than 130 pedestrians have been killed by drivers in New York City. None have been killed by cyclists.

But it was the commercial cyclist legislation that sailed through Vacca’s committee in the fall, while bills urging reforms to NYPD’s broken crash investigation procedures, which let deadly drivers get back behind the wheel without so much as a slap on the wrist, continue to languish.

So you’ve got to question whether protecting pedestrians is really a priority for the chair of the transportation committee, since improving pedestrian safety seems to fall somewhere below “making it legal to park in front of your own curb cut” on Vacca’s to-do list.

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious about that online safety course. Have the course materials been made public?

  • Voter

    He is having an emergency hearing on subway deaths, however, even though the total number of deaths hasn’t really changed much in the last few years.  Plus, some of those deaths are unpreventable suicides.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-pol-call-emergency-hearing-subway-deaths-article-1.1245003

    As Vacca says, “Even one life lost…is one too many.”

    He’s a political opportunist who only cares about sticking it to DOT.  He does not care about New Yorkers who are hit and killed by cars.

  • Guest

    I agree that Vacca is not doing a very good job… but it might help if you didn’t attack him when he does actually do something right.

    Double check the Introduction about parking in front of your own driveway.

    You will find it has long been legal.  What this Introduction would do, if passed into law, is clarify some restrictions.  Among those is reinforcing the prohibition against parking in a bike lane.

    That is obviously not a bad thing.

  • Other Guest

    @abb249055208c7af4d35568e422dfd63:disqus there’s no harm in doing something that is technically right and on that, Vacca is doing fine. But there is real moral harm in fixating on the minutiae while an awful public health crisis continues to unfold on city streets. It’s even more glaring when Vacca makes grand statements — “wild wild west,” “Even one life lost,” etc. — and then turning back to let people get five more minutes on the meter just in case.

    I guess the real question is this: in a city where hundreds of people are killed and thousands are injured each year by dangerous driving, do you believe that Vacca’s priority should be writing laws about driveway parking?

  • Guest

    @b9223ddfb743f75d957a405f4f9d4b36:disqus you’re completely right about the real point.I just wanted to suggest that it is better to make the point the way you did, rather than misrepresenting legislation that has a tiny benefit for cyclists as pro-driver legislation. 

    If it seems like we’re not being fair, we’re easier to dismiss.

  • > He’s a political opportunist who only cares about sticking it to DOT.  He does not care about New Yorkers who are hit and killed by cars.

    @Voter agreed, he deserves hard criticism, I completely disagree with @Guest, let him have it. It’s not just that he doesn’t care, he’s an impediment to safer streets, and we can’t have people like that running our city anymore. Enough already, he’s a clown show, let the media reflect that.

  • > He’s a political opportunist who only cares about sticking it to DOT.  He does not care about New Yorkers who are hit and killed by cars.

    @Voter agreed, he deserves hard criticism, I completely disagree with @Guest, let him have it. It’s not just that he doesn’t care, he’s an impediment to safer streets, and we can’t have people like that running our city anymore. Enough already, he’s a clown show, let the media reflect that.

  • Guest

    @billygray:disqus if you approve of misrepresenting facts to advance the cause, then you are absolutely right that we’re in complete disagreement on that point.

    There’s so many honest-to-goodness things you can use to let Vacca have it that misrepresenting things isn’t even particularly helpful.

  • The text of the curb cut parking bill leaves plenty to be repulsed by: “The  hearing  officer  shall  dismiss  any  notice  of violation issued to the owner of such  passenger  vehicle  upon  receipt from  the  owner,  in  person  or  by  mail,  of  a  copy of the vehicle registration containing the same address as that at which the ticket was given or other suitable evidence showing compliance with  the  law…”

    http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1102923&GUID=819D993A-DAA7-4E99-9B24-295F240554CA&Options=&Search=

    What a system they’ve proposed. I wonder if its beneficiaries also complain about how everything the government does is inefficient and expensive. I wonder if they hate paying taxes to pay people to open their mail and verify documents and nullify tickets that other people have been paid to issue and process.

    And how are parking enforcers supposed to divine whether a vehicle in a curb cut is in violation, or not? Do they already have instant access to the registration address for every NYS license plate or is that a new thing the public is expected to pay for? And what is other “other suitable evidence”? The beleaguered hearing officers will be sure to get mail from people registered elsewhere (even out of state), with documentation that they own the car and the lot and therefore “own” the parking space in front of it. I can hardly wait to employ people to sort through this garbage.

    The first version of the exemption was unworkable, so it wasn’t followed. This version will make the enforcement of the prohibition on curb cut parking unworkable, so that won’t be enforced. I’m sure Vacca will then ride to the rescue with a new bill to make it extra-super illegal to park in front of other people’s curb cuts, enforcement plan TBD.

    The council might want to try thinking this stuff through before making it law.

  • Anonymous

    The City Council “called on Ray Kelly” to behave himself.  He didn’t.

    This is stupid. The City Council is Ray Kelly’s boss.  They should have simply fired him.  He’s a criminal, after all.

    It’s obvious the City Council is taking a page from the US Senate: doing its best to not do its job, and attempt to claim that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

  • Sammy K

    Does a bicycle accident count in the pedestrian pledge!?

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