Stringer, Squadron, and Silver Call for Safer Chinatown Streets

064.jpgWill Silver follow through in Albany to make streets safer for his Chinatown constituents?

In response to the crash that killed two young children on a Chinatown sidewalk yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Daniel Squadron have released a nine-point plan to improve safety on the neighborhood’s streets. From Stringer’s press release:

The plan calls for "zero tolerance" traffic
enforcement; the banning of trucks and buses from traversing local
streets; more pedestrians safety measures such as bollards and speed
bumps; and a comprehensive traffic management plan to serve residents,
businesses and vehicles passing through the neighborhood.

This is a thorough plan that includes several politically daring ideas. It would alleviate the scourge of double-parking by properly pricing on-street spaces. It would expand sidewalks and accelerate the implementation of traffic-calming measures. It even calls for congestion pricing, among other traffic management techniques.

There’s always the temptation to be cynical — and some of the recommendations for community board input are tough to swallow in light of recent events — but this is a moment that should not go to waste. While it’s terrible that two children had to die to garner such attention, this horror story has nakedly exposed the systemic failures inherent in the way our streets are designed, managed, and policed. A galvanized Chinatown community backed by a handful of elected
officials is a start. More New Yorkers and advocates for safer streets
will have to keep up the pressure.

The first person to whom appeals should be directed has got to be
Shelly Silver. The Assembly Speaker who allowed congestion pricing to
die on his watch
now calls for that same policy to be adopted. He’s got
his name in Stringer’s press release and a nice direct quote
calling for "the city" to implement the whole nine-point plan.

There’s no doubt that the City Council, Mayor Bloomberg, and his deputies at NYPD and DOT need to follow through on this plan, and the fact that City Hall has not publicly responded to the tragedy is shameful. And don’t forget the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, led by 89-year-old Robert Morgenthau, which is sticking to its policy of granting negligent drivers carte blanche to kill and maim without consequence. But if the
Speaker is really committed to the safety and well-being of his
Chinatown constituents, much of the responsibility lies with him and
his caucus. There is a clear legislative agenda to be pursued: tougher state traffic laws, to start with. We’ll see if Shelly cares enough to carry the fight out of his PR office and into the statehouse.

  • Bollards seem kind of impractical on a large scale. It’s not like you can cost-effectively line every residential street with bollards, can you?

  • John, if the Europeans can do it — for example, several neighborhoods in Madrid — then we can do it.

  • JK

    The nine point plan includes quite a few good recommendations, though, noticeably, since Shelly signed on, it does not include a call for speed enforcement or red light enforcement cameras or revamping the vehicle and traffic laws — all things that as Speaker he can help advance.

  • Moser

    Europeans generally line streets with bollards to keep cars from parking on sidewalks

  • vnm

    Don’t forget, LOL, that Sheldon Silver said that he supported congestion pricing and would have voted for it. (He just failed to bring it for a vote, one must surmise, to spare his members from having to serve in a transparent government.)

  • so by “zero tolerance” to they really mean they plan to elimnate the loss of life in chinatown? I really hope so. They also need to extend that to the entire borough.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Moser,

    You’re absolutely right about the reason for bollards in European cities. However, the effect is to keep cars from parking *or* jumping up onto the sidewalk.

    The bollards make a strong visual statement as well that cars are not permitted on the sidewalk.

    Also in some streets in Madrid and Seville, there are retractable bollards that prevent any vehicles except those owned by password-equipped residents from entering. (I think they can also buzz delivery vehicles in). The streets where those exist are remarkably calm.

    Bollards in general, in my experience at least, create safety for pedestrians and keep cars from infringing on their space. They are by no means perfect, nor are they a magic bullet that will prevent every tragic crash. They are just part of a comprehensive approach.

  • rex

    Shelly! Shelly!
    He is our man.
    If he can’t do it,
    No one can!

    Gimmie an “S”!

    “S”!

    Gimmie an “H”!

    “H”!

    Gimmie an “E”!

    …….Oh shit, the “E” is stuck in committee. It must be Bloomberg’s fault.

  • Trucks nowadays really haven’t changed all that much in terms of design for the past 40 or 50 years. Whether they’re panel trucks, like FedEx or UPS uses, or vans, they have incredible bad visability and seem to account for a hunge number of fatalities in this city.

    The auto industry has come a long way in recent years making cars a lot safer for passengers. Why not use some of this technology to make trucks, particularly trucks used for local delivery in congested urban areas, safer for pedestrians too? Large high visibility windshields, not unlike the windsheilds we see on busses, would help eliminate blind spots and enable drivers to see pedestrians who are right in front of them. Higher end cars are equipped with rear view cameras. Why not have these in trucks, or better yet, have sensors that automatically stop the truck when it’s in reverse and detects an object (or person) within 18 inches of the rear bumper?

    Maybe delivery trucks, or all motor vehicles for that matter, should turn off automatically if sensors don’t detect an adult sized driver in the drivers seat. How many times have we heard about run-away vehicles or motor vehicles operated by small children? If we can have hybrid GPS enabled taxi cabs we certainly should be able to have better delivery trucks.

  • One more bollard comment. According to the Ch. 11 news, the deadly truck in Chinatown was stopped by a standpipe. If that hadn’t happened, the loss of life would have been even worse.

    Now, imagine that in addition to a standpipe several feet from the edge of the sidewalk, there had been several heavy bollards at the edge of the sidewalk. Things would have worked out quite differently.

  • notsmart

    Again, all this will do no good if people DO NOT TURN THEIR ENGINES OFF AND LEAVE THE VEHICLE. I know crime is down, but leaving a vehicle running and the driver walks awary?

  • Peter Flint

    I don’t know if there were parking meters on the street at the site of this accident, but it seems like the old mechanical meters provided a measure of protection too, by at least providing a visual cue to drivers not to pull onto the sidewalk.

    Seems like as more meters are removed and replaced with the Muni-meters that we may actually be opening up our sidewalks to more incursions by cars. Whatever happened to the idea of turning old meter posts into bike racks?

  • In a city with fast moving traffic and few dedicated locations(alleys etc..) for deliveries curbs and sidewalks represent an illusion of safety for pedestrians . If you’ve got cars going 30mph is a four inch curb going to stop it from getting onto the sidewalk? I’m sure DOT agrees because they put yellow bollards in front of all the new muni-meters. If sidewalks were truly safe then we wouldn’t need to protect our parking meters so vigorously.

  • And yet just a few days ago I saw a muni-meter that had been knocked to the ground along with its protective bollards. We’ve got to rein in traffic that passes near pedestrians.

  • Kaja

    Yes: space where pedestrians /don’t need to worry about cars/ is the key. Sidewalks are 99% car-free, but that 1% may kill you.

    Today walkin down Franklin with my dog an SUV did a three-point-turn onto the sidewalk about a yard from me. Using the sidewalk saved him from having to pull a five-pointer, I think.

    So he clears me by a yard, makes eye contact, waves thank-you when I spin around surprised; it’s not as if he’s about to hit me. But, man, big fukken SUV on my sidewalk, up over the curb like it wasn’t no thing.

    Just not okay.

  • Kaja

    Should mention bollards aren’t the answer, because they reassure drivers that they can’t kill peds no matter how fast they go.

    They invented the Jersey Barrier so that cars could go faster.

  • A major issue here is that the Chinatown van was idling.

    NYC has a routinely-ignored, 3-minute idling law already on the books. (Admin Code 24-163) Imagine a cop checking his watch; three minutes is unenforceable.

    NYC needs an enforceable (and enforced) one-minute idling law that targets all vehicles–including EMS vehicles not in the active service. The public needs education to know that the law is there and that they have a right to ask drivers to turn off.

    Here’s how you can help right now:

    Speak out for NYC Intro 2007-163, which restricts idling in school zones to one-minute. This is the first step toward citywide restriction.

    Jan. 26, 2009, 10 AM (250 Broadway, 16th fl.) is the final committee hearing. Come speak your mind!

    Jan. 28, 2009, 9:30 AM (City Hall steps) is the rally before the vote. Come hold a sign, wave a fiery stick, walk on your hands, speak up!

    Let our elected officials know that when it comes to the safety of our streets enough is enough. It is time to get smart and get tough. Idling is harmful to health and environment, wasteful and against the law. Now, we can add ‘dangerous to pedestrians.’

    The Chinatown tragedy might never have happen if the driver had simply turned the key.

  • Peter Flint

    With a fire hydrant right outside my bedroom window, I’m well aware of idling issues and regularly ask people to turn off their engines there. I’ve found most delivery drivers are pretty willing to turn them off. The limo and livery drivers watching tv late at night while waiting for their drunk clients however tend to be more rude and surly about it.

    A one minute limit in school zones would be a great step. Help support that resolution!

  • Great idea, Rebecca! I’m going to contact my councilmember and my son’s principal.

  • Kaja

    A one-minute idling law runs into legitimate reasons for idling, though.

    It’s sixteen degrees outside. I’m not moving my car until it’s warmed up a bit. Do you want me to get a ticket because I’m idling for a few to warm my engine up before pulling into stop-and-go traffic?

    I think it’s enough to enforce the laws already on the books. Isn’t it illegal to idle an unoccupied car? And certainly double-parking, the cops don’t give a rat’s ass.

  • in terms of the law and in terms of the culture we must put reckless drivers in the same category as drunk drivers. back in the day, drunk drivers were not held accountable; thanks to new laws they now are. reckless drivers– so long as they are sober and don’t leave the scene– are not held accountable when they kill or maim. Plenty of DA’s want to bring charges but they can’t because the way the law is now, a driver has to be shitfaced or committing two or more violations. if a driver breaks a traffic law and kills someone, 19 times out of 20 they walk.

  • Ian Turner

    Kaja,

    It seems to me that bollards actually slow down traffic, because they bring the curb level up to an altitude where drivers can see it. And bollards, unlike the invisible curb, in the same way as parked cars, send a message to drivers that if they go too far out of their lane, they will pay with their car. The damage of hitting a bollard is way more than that of hitting a Jersey barrier.

  • Kaja

    Yeah, Ian, maybe it could be done well. Say if DOT designed ’em with explicitly this purpose in mind:

    > Europeans generally line streets with bollards to keep cars from parking on sidewalks

    Maronite Catholic at Remsen on Henry fills the sidewalks and bike lanes with SUVs each Sunday, and they’re protected by cops who’ll ticket any resident who double parks to load (that’s me). It’s pretty offensive civilly let alone on fourteenth and first amendment grounds. I’d love it to be physically impossible.

    Anecdote: I dented my car’s right door parallel parking with no curb for reference. The sidewalk had sunk to level with the road, so no curb told me I had cut too far in, and up against an iron flowerbed.

  • Given that police cars are some of the worst idling offenders, good luck getting them to enforce an idling law, whether it’s one minute or three.

  • Respect the Past

    I’m not sure if bollards are necessarily the answer. Bollards also act as an impediment to pedestrian activity on the sidewalk.

    Despite the horrific nature of the Chinatown tragedy, I don’t believe that it represents the majority of situations involving pedestrian injuries and fatalities. I would tend to think that most injuries occur in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Therefore altering the streetscape to slow the original design speeds, decreasing lane width (and correspondingly increasing sidewalk width and adding bicycle lanes), and implementing parking policies that allow for daylighting would seem to have a greater impact on pedestrian safety than adding bollards.

    Any comments to the contrary would be appreciated because this is just something that I have to started to think about.

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