Eyes on the Street: How Did This Happen?


A reader sends this shot, taken at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 24th Street this afternoon. We’re waiting to hear back from NYPD about whether anyone was hurt. Hopefully this will be one of the lucky cases where an out-of-control cab didn’t harm anyone. And really, in the middle of Manhattan, just a short walk from Penn Station, it all boils down to pure chance. I wonder how fast a car has to travel to flip over like this. Does Ray Kelly know?

  • Michelle

    I’m the reader who submitted this photo. In case it’s not obvious, the 2 vehicles involved are taxis. By my count that makes 3 high profile taxi crashes in the past few weeks, and I’m sure many more did not get the streetsblog treatment.

    I was with my two kids picking up my groceries when we came upon this scene. My little girl kept asking, “why is that taxi upside down?” And after our shopping when we piled into a cab to get home she made sure we were all buckled in.

    I view taxis as a necessary evil in the city. They are awfully convenient when you need one (I would have delivered my son in the 1 train had we not found a cab), but they also seem a menace when I’m in foot or bicycle.

    I’ve come to believe that if we could get the cab drivers to obey the traffic laws we’d be well on our way to taming the wild west culture if our streets.

  • Paul

    NYC cabs are ridiculously out of control. I despise them.

  • Moser

    Same here. It makes you wonder why NY State bothers with drivers licenses when any hare-brain or jack-ass can get one.

  • Ray

    Fleet owners should be responsible for driver behavior and poor driver behavior should be rewarded with the LOSS of a medallion.

    ALL cabs should be equipped with monitoring equipment (accelerometers?) that can track a vehicle’s motions. Excessive speed, constant lane changing, irratic breaking, continuous honking, idling with engine on, roaming without a fare.

    GPS is sophisticated enough to detect bike lane incursions, illegal turns and other common violations.

    If drivers don’t want to be monitored and held accountable, they should find another job. This tech should apply to all commercial vehicles in the city. (And soon thereafter to all private vehicles).

  • rlb

    It’s amazing how easy it would be to make it impossible to speed in any new car – using GPS and the fact that new cars are controlled by a computer – and how the chances of that ever happening are pretty much zero.

  • They’re prettymuch zero because the same technology that lets the government stop you from speeding also lets the government do everything else imaginable with your car.

    Stop making policy recommendations with horse-blinders on.

    Restrain the fight to reckless driving and red light cameras, where the only opposition seems to be (respectively) reckless drivers, and people who enjoy blowing red lights.

    These are easy and reasonable arguments, and won’t draw reasonable civil-libertarian counterarguments, from people who’d otherwise be your allies.

  • vnm

    This is why I try never to take a cab. I don’t want to financially support such a reckless industry.

  • Matt H

    The fare structure incentivizes speeding. That’s what needs to change.

  • Bob

    What Kaja said.

  • Michelle

    Matt H-

    Yours is the response I always hear to calls for cracking down on reckless cab drivers. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. These guys speed like maniacs to get to the next red light. They’re not getting more fares by doing so. Am I missing something?

  • beng722

    i guess this seems a bit strident but i NEVER take a cab unless it is an emergency. If the street-blogger community as a whole simply refused to take cabs there would be change, the same kind of change we’re witnessing in the city gov’t’s attitude towards bikes (so many wonderful new lanes) and public plazas. We have all sacrificed for so many great causes…why not make this sacrifice too? After all, if we’re taking cabs when we’re in a rush or when it feels convenient or when we have packages or when we’re out on the town we are only encouraging this reckless behavior. take a bus, ride a bike, take the subway, walk. It may not seem like an immediate impact is happening but you are reducing your carbon footprint, you are not participating in traffic madness, etc. etc. etc.

  • Matthew from Brooklyn

    Matt H is right. The fare structure – the ‘drop’ for picking up a new fare, and the per-mile charge, plus an extra charge for every minute in slow traffic – combine to produce exactly the behavior that Michelle observes: hurrying up to wait. Speeding up to catch a red is a simple case of fare-maximizing – they can sometimes earn more by doing that, and ‘sometimes’ is a magic word in a marginally profitable business. The $2 ‘drop’ (or is it more now?) at the beginning of the ride is plenty of incentive for the driver to get passengers where they want to go; the remainder should be a per-minute charge rather than a per-mile charge. That way they’re guaranteed a night’s wages as long they can find passengers.

    Improved Manhattan bus speeds would also go a long way to getting New Yorkers to kick the cab habit.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    In London the taxis and drivers always seem to be super high quality (and insanely expensive). Maybe I answer my own question in parenthesis there but what is London doing differently than NYC to produce first-class taxi rides?

  • NYC taxi fares
    London taxi fares

    Maybe the different rates encourage different speeds?

  • I can hear the punchline already… all together now…

    “….and the driver was not charged.”

  • jon

    on a related note, i saw this on the news tonight and am outraged…

    Drivers may get their speeding tickets thrown out

    the speed limit changed from 35 to 25 and people got caught speeding. now they are claiming that the speed limit that was posted was wrong and that all the speeding tickets should get thrown out. people are blaming the police saying they were “defrauded and entrapped”, “traffic laws are BS,” etc when in fact they disregarded the posted signs and chose to break the law and sped. katu news did an investigation to find fault with the police and defend the motorists law breaking.

    when you hear this, it is no surprise that the taxi flipped upside down while speeding or why the 2 NYC candidates are rabidly against anything that slows cars down or to share the road… it is entitled driver syndrome. traffic laws only apply to bikes and pedestrians but how dare a motorist get a ticket for driving 20 mph over the speed limit.

  • I saw it happen too! The cab was going fast right past me the next thing I see are the wheels up in the air UPSIDE DOWN!

    I have a killer photo…how can i post it?

  • PCO

    It is much harder to become a cab driver in London. New York seems to view cab driving as a basic economic opportunity for immigrants. More stringent testing and training is typically resisted by driver groups. It’s the opposite in London, where drivers are more of a guild. They must memorize over 300 routes and have a comprehensive “Knowledge” of London streets. This can take a year or more of study. As a result of this smaller, and more highly trained labor pool, London drivers can command higher fees and drive longer. More experienced drivers — in New York and London — are better drivers.

  • Fendergal

    Dollars to donuts, both of these drivers were on the phone and not even fully aware of what they were doing. There needs to be enforcement of the laws already on the books, namely drivers’ being on the phone. I’ve taken taxis on a semi-regular basis (taking my massage table to clients), and the vast majority of drivers I’ve ridden with are safe.

  • Josh

    The fare structures in NY and London are basically the same. There’s a drop charge ($2.50 in NY, not including night/peak surcharge; £2.20 in London, covering a variable amount of time/distance depending on peak status) and then a usage* charge ($0.40 per 1/5 mile or 60 seconds in stopped/slow traffic in NY; 20p per time/distance unit in London, with the size of the unit again depending on peak status). Either way it incentivizes a driver to get to the destination as fast as possible in order to pick up another fare. The difference is in the very high competency standard to become a London cab driver vs. low standard in NYC.

    * For lack of a better word

  • Geiger

    Jon – But there is no “claiming” the speed limit was incorrect. ODOT says it was. Seems fair to me that the tickets be thrown out. If the interstates were marked as 25mph rather than 65 for a short segment and there were a bunch of tickets handed out you would be mad too. Even more if you realized that it wasn’t supposed to be 25mph anyway and was supposed to be 65mph.

  • Marty,
    London taxi drivers have to demonstrate intimate knowledge of the inner city of London in a test known as “The Knowledges”. They basically have to memorize all streets within six miles of Charing Cross. Training takes three years, three quarters drop out, and brain scans show that areas associated with memory and navigation are enlarged in London cabbies.

    New York cabbies, on the other hand, barely know how to drive. The other day I had to give a driver directions to Washington Square Park, but at least he didn’t drive off in some random direction like some other drivers I’ve encountered. It’s a disgrace, but looking at the fare structure, I guess we get the cabbies we deserve.

  • Oops, typo: The London test is called “The Knowledge”.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Trish, You can uplaod it to Flickr and tag it “streetsblog”, or send it to tips [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

  • Shemp

    My experience is different than Fendergal’s. I avoid cabs generally because, as a cyclist, I find their driving practices hateful. But for the occasional LaGuardia trip or off-hours JFK flight, I use them. I almost always find that they have imported the driving habits of Islamabad or Moscow that give those places extreme traffic fatality/capita rates.

  • PCO

    What happened to the TLC trying out speed and red light cameras for cabs? Word was the TLC had the regulatory power to do this. Do they?

  • Three out of the four times I have been hit while biking it has been by a cab, but I think the all the generalizations about dangerous cab drivers in this string go a bit overboard. There are surely dangerous and discourteous cabbies out there, but there are also many, probably most, who drive within the speed limit and very cautiously. I have observed this many, many times while biking and from the inside of cabs. Many of them seem more afraid of a collision than the typical private motorist.



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