More Highlights From Yesterday’s Vision Zero Hearing

TLC chief operating officer Conan Freud, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council
TLC Chief Operating Officer Conan Freud, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council

Yesterday’s four-hour City Council hearing on Vision Zero featured testimony from families of traffic violence victims, discussion of NYPD’s enforcement priorities, and Cy Vance’s office weighing in on how district attorneys should be involved in traffic justice. But not all of the testimony fit neatly into a theme or narrative.

Here are some of the highlights from yesterday’s hearing that didn’t make it into our other coverage:

  • The Vision Zero Action Plan does not include benchmarks to measure progress. In its testimony, Transportation Alternatives urged the City Council to set deadlines as well as provide funding to ensure that DOT has enough engineers and planners to make the changes happen on schedule.
  • Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who said that DOT initiated an internal Vision Zero working group last week, noted that expansion of automated enforcement will be key to improving traffic safety: At intersections where red light cameras have been installed in New York City, she said, injuries to cyclists were down 64 percent and injuries to pedestrians were down 31 percent.
  • Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson asked why the administration endorsed a 25 mph citywide speed limit, as opposed to the 20 mph citywide limit that advocates are pushing for. “I don’t think the answer is necessarily written in stone,” Trottenberg replied, adding that she would work with the council to come up with a final speed limit the city will pursue through legislation in Albany.
  • Council Member Mark Weprin argued that there needs to be a presumption of criminality if a driver crashes onto a sidewalk. NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Thomas Chan said the department’s hands were tied by current law: “Unless we can determine other factors, where this individual might have a suspended license or he’s intoxicated,” he said, “It is difficult.” Chan added that state legislation upgrading sidewalk crashes to a misdemeanor would give the police more tools in this area, and Weprin said he would be interested in pursuing that.
  • Taxi and Limousine Commission COO Conan Freud said TLC has recently contracted with CUNY to update the taxi school program, which provides classroom training to yellow and green car drivers, to include information about bus and bike lanes, among other topics. TLC hopes to roll out the newly-revamped program this summer.
  • TLC will also provide new training for drivers involved in crashes. Freud said he hopes to require drivers who have been in serious crashes to take an on-road driving course, as well.
  • Inside cabs, TLC will be adding street safety PSAs to Taxi TV and will install stickers visible to drivers that remind them of the dangers of left turns.

  • Both Gibson and Public Advocate Letitia James asked about the dangers posed by large tractor-trailer trucks. “Truck safety is a huge issue,” Trottenberg said. “We ought to have a special truck safety working group as part of Vision Zero. Clearly, this ought to be a big priority for us.”
  • Chan said each precinct will be revising its traffic safety plan to focus on pedestrians, and NYPD will provide more training for officers responding to crashes. In addition to more precinct-level enforcement, Chan said the agency would target safety hotspots with tow trucks to remove illegally parked cars and community affairs officers to engage in public outreach.
  • Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer continued to push for open data from NYPD and other agencies so advocates and the public can better understand street safety issues. Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez asked about data-sharing between agencies, and Trottenberg replied that some of the city’s relevant traffic safety data is not centralized and easily available to all agencies.
  • Brewer announced that she and Council Member Mark Levine would be introducing a bill that requires accessible pedestrian signals for the blind wherever a leading pedestrian interval, which provides walkers a head-start on drivers, is installed.
  • James asked about expanding bike-share and the bike lane network to more neighborhoods. Trottenberg would not commit to anything on bike lanes, but gave a teaser about Citi Bike. “We’re taking a look at Citi Bike’s financial outlook, their operations,” she said. “I’m hoping in the next couple months we’ll have an announcement about expanding Citi Bike.”

“We started a conversation today that has been a long time coming for New York City,” Rodriguez said in a statement after the hearing. “We at the Council will continue to work with the administration to educate the public, lobby for needed legislation at the state level and ensure that Vision Zero is implemented in a timely fashion to put an end to avoidable deaths on our streets.”

  • Andrew

    Brewer announced that she and Council Member Mark Levine would be introducing a bill that requires accessible pedestrian signals for the blind wherever a leading pedestrian interval, which provides walkers a head-start on drivers, is installed.

    What’s the connection? I have no objection to either program, but why are Brewer and Levine linking the two?

  • Ian Turner
  • sbauman

    The decision to ask for a 25 mph citywide limit is probably political.

    NYS law already gives cities and villages the power to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph along designated highways. This means posting speed limit signs along such designated highways is all that is required. That still requires NYC to post and maintain thousands of signs. That is very costly.

    My guess is that NYC’s lobbying approach to Albany will be that it’s not asking for any additional speed limit setting power than it or any other city or village already has. It is asking to permission make setting its existing speed limit power less costly. Under the proposed legislation, all any city or village need do is to post signs at their city or village line. That should be an easier sell.

    The downside is that crash fatality statistics don’t follow politics. There’s a lot more to be gained by reducing impact speed from 30 mph to 20 mph than to 25 mph.

  • Aunt Bike

    The current NYC law states “Unless a sign is posted otherwise, the speed limit on City streets is 30 miles per hour”. I believe the change being sought is to make that unmarked limit 25. I don’t see how that would require any change in signage.

  • sbauman

    Any NYC rule must adhere to NYS statutes. The relevant statute in this case is Section 1643 of the Vehicle and Traffic Laws. This states in part:

    “No such speed limit applicable throughout such city or village or within designated areas of such city or village shall be established at less than thirty miles per hour. No such speed limit applicable on or along designated highways within such city or village shall be established at less than twenty-file miles per hour,…”

    N.B. if you travel into NYC, you will find a 30 mph speed limit sign on every street at the City line. The only land borders for NYC are Queens-Nassau and Bronx-Westchester. There are 4 bridges and 2 tunnels that connect NYC to NJ. There are also 30 mph speed limit signs on these.

  • SteveVaccaro

    The theory seems to be that a leading pedestrian interval that makes a life-saving adjustment but only for those with sight, fails to make a reasonable accommodation (as required by our disability laws) to pedestrians without sight. Seems right to me.

  • Andrew

    Thanks, that makes sense.

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