While Drivers Kill People in Crosswalks, 19th Precinct Cracks Down on Bikes

Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.
Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, commanding officer of the 19th Precinct, and DOT precinct traffic crash data as of July. With five pedestrians killed and dozens injured by drivers this year, the precinct is cracking down on bikes.

The first New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015 occurred in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, when Uber driver Aliou Diallo ran over Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli at E. 62nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

Mensing died at the scene. NYPD said the victims were “outside the crosswalk,” though photos appeared to indicate they were at most a few feet from the corner. Police did not say how fast Diallo was traveling or how he failed to see two people in front of him.

Since that crash, drivers have killed four more people walking in the 19th Precinct. All of those victims were seniors. At least three of them were hit in or near a crosswalk by a motorist making a turn.

Motorists killed at least five pedestrians in the precinct in 2014, and drivers were charged with violating the Right of Way Law in at least two of those crashes, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Drivers injured 136 pedestrians in the 19th Precinct through July, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View data map, and there were 52 cyclist injuries in that time frame. As of July 166 motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes, an indicator of high speeds.

But when the 19th Precinct set out to reduce collisions, they didn’t concentrate on drivers who speed or fail to yield. DNAinfo reports:

The 19th Precinct has increased its enforcement of bicyclists by 52 percent since this time last year and it’s paid off with an 18 percent decrease in bicycle-related accidents, police said.

On June 10, the precinct sent out patrols for a bike enforcement operation on First Avenue at 78th and 79th streets and at 90th and 91st streets, and handed out 94 summonses to cyclists for running red lights and riding in the wrong direction in the first three hours, according to the NYPD.

As of July, 19th Precinct officers had summonsed 819 motorists for failing to yield, and cited 76 for speeding, in 2015. That means they issued more tickets to cyclists in three hours than they wrote to speeding drivers in seven months. The 94 cyclist summonses issued on June 10 equals about 40 percent of the total number of failure to yield citations issued by the precinct in the entire month.

Vision Zero View tracks the density of traffic injuries by precinct, on a five-level scale, indicated on the map in shades of red. As of July the 19th Precinct ranked one notch below the highest (worst) level. If the precinct wants to improve those numbers it will have to prioritize enforcement against driver behaviors that cause the vast majority of injuries and deaths.

  • Critical critic

    To the NYPD, drivers can do no wrong, so it must be the cyclists.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    we now know that Bratton hates new Yorkers who walk or cycle. Bratton wants NYC pedestrians and cyclists to fear for their lives. His Time Square comments illuminate how much he believes walking New Yorkers should be killed

  • Simon Phearson

    Well, doesn’t the data speak for itself? Discourage cycling, and cycling “accidents” go down.

  • BBnet3000

    Vision Zero at its best.

  • Alex 3speed

    This is a problematic way of both creating and interpreting numbers. Kallos is a data guy. We need to get him to talk to the precinct about how outlier policing does nothing to increase safety, particularly when they’re going after the wrong category of street user.

  • New Yorker

    If only there was some sort of head of the city, let’s call him the “mayor,” who could instruct his police chief to change the department’s priorities in a way that might save lives. Alas, I guess we’re out of luck.

  • New Yorker

    Ben Kallos supports exempting bus drivers from the ROW law. He won’t challenge the cops to stop ticketing cyclists. He pays lip service to safe streets issues, that’s all.

  • harry smith

    This is a sick joke, the limited resources of the coppers diverted to the safest road user.

  • JK

    I won’t join the chorus on this one. This falls more into the category of quality of life policing than Vision Zero — and yes, the public does expect the cops to enforce laws that keep the public realm unthreatening and tolerable for pedestrians. Bikes on sidewalks and menacing pedestrians in crosswalks have been a major complaint of the UES for decades, and the cops are supposed to be responsive to community concerns. Of course the cops should enforce traffic laws and target dangerous locations, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore long-standing,high volume community complaints. I have no idea if the bike enforcement they did was high quality or the kind of dumb red light quota at empty intersection stuff they often do. But getting bikes off the sidewalk and getting people to ride the right way would be a boon to cycling because it would remove a thorn in the side of a very influential NYC neighborhood. As to speeding, I’m skeptical about using only speeding summonses as a surrogate for traffic enforcement, especially in super dense neighborhoods like the UES. The cops have to be very careful about high speed pursuits, and chasing down speeders usually involves at least two cops in cars or motorcycles or it has to be in a fairly wide open stretch of road.

  • NYCer

    If only there were a government agency of law enforcement personnel, let’s call them the “police,” that actually obeyed the orders and polices of the city’s civilian leadership, let’s call them the Mayor and City Council. Alas, I guess we’re out of luck.

  • jimmyd

    Bike safety became especially concerning for residents in the area after a woman was struck and seriously injured on First Avenue by a cyclist in June.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150902/upper-east-side/bike-collisions-down-on-upper-east-side-as-nypd-ramps-up-enforcement

    This didn’t make it into streetsblog’s coverage for a reason. A few years ago streetsblog read like it was about livable streets. Now it seems a lot more like it’s about promoting cycling, and attacking any suggestion that sometimes cyclists can’t do exactly what they want.

  • BBnet3000

    Bikes on sidewalks and menacing pedestrians in crosswalks have been a major complaint of the UES for decades, and the cops are supposed to be responsive to community concerns.

    Too bad these stings are never about people riding bikes who menace pedestrians. They go after people rolling red lights who are affecting no one else.

    Imagine if they did the same for jaywalking on the Upper East Side? They could write 20,000 tickets a day.

  • BBnet3000

    I was also surprised that they didn’t cover that story, but what would they achieve by indulging a huge conversation about one crash between someone and a bike and someone on foot when so many people are killed by cars in this city every year?

    The whole point here is that cyclist behavior improves as infrastructure improves and as cycling increases. It’s not even evident that this guy a) ran the light and b) knew he had clipped someone on foot. He certainly isn’t riding like he had just experienced a hard impact

  • qrt145

    Not sure if that counts as “coverage” in your book, but the story was linked to from “Today’s headlines”. Not every crash gets a full article, even when it involves a motorist hitting a vulnerable road user. Given that information about this crash was scant I’m not surprised it wasn’t covered in more detail.

  • Seereous

    “The whole point here is that cyclist behavior improves as infrastructure improves and as cycling increases.”

    Not in my experience. I do understand that more people are killed in car collisions, but on my daily walks I see way more bicyclists than motor vehicle drivers breaking the rules. That became worse in my neighborhood when the Grand Street protected bike lane was put in place because so many bicyclists on Grand St. ignore it and ride with the cars, or salmon on it. It became worse in my neighborhood when a citibibike station was placed in the midst of a pedestrian plaza in our tiny park, so the bicyclists ride up a pedestrian/handicap ramp to the sidewalk and ride the sidewalk to the kiosk (and leave the reverse way). It became worse in my neighborhood when the number of cyclists increased and thus the number of red-light runners and sidewalk riders and salmoning riders increased as well.

    Just the other day a bike rider stopped to scream at me for slowing down as I was crossing Broadway. He almost hit me because I stopped in the crosswalk, he whined. Of course, I had the right of way, was crossing on the green along with about 20 other pedestrians at the time, but he didn’t want to stop at the red…treating we pedestrians as predictable objects. And no it was not a matter of him turning into the croswalk, he was riding down Broadway. At the same spot, a friend of mine riding a bike was struck by a teenager tourist on a citibike who was rushing through a red light so as not to be left behind by his parents. My friend fell off the bike, sustaining mild but painful injuries and is still hurting from them a week later.

    So, yes, catching bad motor vehicle drivers should be the first priority, but that does not mean that bicyclist’s flouting the law should be ignored. Its a matter of safety and a matter of quality of life.

  • BBnet3000

    Fair enough as far bad behavior by people cycling, which I witness often too
    The problem is these cops aren’t going after bad actors who violate peoples right of way, they’re just writing tons of very high cost tickets for the cycling equivalent of the harmless so-called ‘jaywalking ” that almost everyone does while walking in New York. These blitzes have no connection with the bad behavior people complain about.

    Grand Street and the surrounding bike network are also not high quality, they’re a mess. I made a good faith effort to use the narrow, conflict ridden and oft-obstructed Grand Street lane for the last time recently. It’s far better for an experienced cyclist to take the general lane on Grand, which seriously undermines the value of bike infrastructure.

  • There was an 18% decrease in “bicycle related” wrecks, so there were 5 less than in an unspecified time period prior to the crackdown? Or was it 6?

    I ask because they played fast and loose with the numbers last year to back up the crackdown for last year, saying bike wrecks were up when in fact they had gone down. As reported on this blog.

  • Joe R.

    Police resources should be allocated to those things which are most statistically dangerous. Bicycles are pretty far down on that list. Maybe if in some hypothetical world NYC ever gets down to 1 or 2 murders per year, similar numbers of other violent crimes, then I might say going after cyclists has merit because they’re now one of the statistically more dangerous things. Obviously that will never happen.

    “Quality of life” policing brings us down a slippery slope. Now you’re punishing citizens just for things which bother other people, even if those things may no pose a threat. In other words, you’re letting how other people feel towards something dictate how police resources are allocated. Anyone with half a brain can tell you this is insane. The NYPD are a paramilitary organization trained to deal with violent criminals. Do we really want to turn them lose on the citizenry as as a kind of morality police?

    Agreed on the speeding. Cops chasing down speeders in the end will kill more people than the speeding itself. Also, speed alone shouldn’t be used as a surrogate for dangerous driving. We all know dangerous driving (and cycling) when we see it. If possible, that’s what the police need to go after.

  • Joe R.

    You do know that some people who saw the video concluded that the cyclist may not have even hit the woman? It looks to me like she may have crossed the bike lane to get to her car without looking for cyclists (as she is required by law to do), was startled when the cyclist passed her, then fell and hit her head. Or maybe she tripped on a pavement defect just as the cyclist happened to pass by. Of course, I still feel terrible for her. Her fault or not, this is a horrible thing to happen. But I don’t think the evidence is clear cut enough to pin the blame on the cyclist. The fact he rode away apparently unscathed tells me he didn’t hit anything. I’ve seen people become disoriented and fall when a bike or car passes close to them. It’s not common but it does happen. It may happen even when the car or bike passes at what most people will call a reasonably safe distance.

  • jimmyd

    Yes I saw that. I meant in this piece. It’s framed here as motorists hit pedestrians so police ignore them and crack down on cyclists. What local history there is of pedestrian cyclist crashes seems relevant to include.

    When a motorist hits a pedestrian who steps into the road the hive mind here asks what the motorist could have done to avoid the collision. One point most focus on is driving at an appropriate speed for conditions. When a cyclist hits someone the hive mind on streetsblog (as it did on after this collision) sounds like motorists screaming about the scourge of jaywalkers. Parking protected bike lanes aren’t appropriate for the fastest cyclists at all times. They require the cyclist to use judgement and pick an appropriate speed. Not every street is an appropriate place for motorists to drive at highway speeds. If there isn’t one between your origin and destination you have to drive slow. If there isn’t a bikeway that’s safe at high speeds between your origin and destination you have to slow down to an appropriate speed.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not sure if you’ll find a whole lot of calls here to hang a motorist out to dry if a jaywalker steps in their path from between two parked cars. It’s reasonable when you’re on a bike or in a motor vehicle to expect pedestrians in crosswalks, especially if they have the legal right-of-way. It’s less reasonable to expect them elsewhere.

    I have a big problem with your reasoning on speeds in parking protected bike lanes. The fastest cyclists are actually going about the speeds we’re asking drivers to slow down to. That’s 20 to 25 mph. If they can’t do those speeds on bike infrastructure, then we need to fix it so they can. Frankly, parking protected lanes are a horrible solution in places with heavy pedestrian traffic plus traffic signals every 250′. They only really work well when running next to a natural barrier like a river, highway, railway, cemetery or park. We should have put the avenue bike lanes either in tunnels under the street or viaducts over them. We instead came up with a half-assed misapplication of protected bike lanes which creates more problems than it solves. That’s why so many cyclists just ride in traffic lanes on the avenues. Obviously not a great solution, either.

  • qrt145

    Thank you, I misunderstood what you meant. If that crash was indeed one of the causes of this crackdown, then I agree it merits a mention here.

    I don’t know about a “hive mind”, but I do agree that some commenters are too quick to defend cyclists who hit pedestrians. But as for Streetblog’s editorial choices in general, I think that they don’t want to spend too much attention on the rare “man bites dog” story and prefer to focus on the bigger problem, which is motorists killing people. And I agree with that.

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